Former heavyweight fighter Henry Cooper, one of the most popular personalities in the history of British sports died yesterday at the age of 76. He was the first boxer to be knighted and was famous for almost knocking out a young Muhammad Ali when he was still known as the up-and-coming Cassius Clay in 1963.
Three years later, Cooper would be beaten to a bloodied pulp after he was stopped by Ali in a title fight in London. A photo of the blood spattered Cooper after that fight made him the poster-boy for old-time boxing and a good reason to never enter the ring.
There was some controversy on whether or not trainer Angelo Dundee used smelling salts to revive the staggering Clay between the fourth and fifth rounds. Clay went on to win in a 5th-round TKO while trailing on all scorecards.
In their 1966 title fight, Cooper was battered by the now World Champion Ali at London's Highbury Stadium. Ali stopped the bloodied Cooper in the 6th-round.
Ali once said Cooper's knockdown shot "hit him so hard that his ancestors in Africa felt it."
Cooper was a popular figure in Great Britain. He won the British, Commonwealth and European titles, but never the world crown.
His sixteen year boxing career ended with a controversial loss to fellow Brit Joe Bugner by a quarter of a point in 1971. It was claimed that Bugner's victory over the popular Cooper led British fans to never get behind the new champ. That's how beloved Cooper, the small heavyweight, was in his homeland.
Cooper finished his career with a pro record was 40 wins with 14 losses and one draw. He had 27 KO's.
In his later years, Cooper became disillusioned with boxing and what it had become. Queen Elizabeth II knighted the gentlemanly fighter in 2000.
"I am at a loss for words over the death of my friend, Henry Cooper," Ali said yesterday.