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By George Reed
Sir Henry left a unique legacy
When Sir Henry Cooper died of heart failure on April 30th Britain lost the most popular heavyweight ever to climb into a ring.


Sir Henry left a unique legacy

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25.05.2011 -  Even a few years after he retired from the boxing game he was still as popular, and became famous all over again with his  TV adverts. He even made one for the government reminding the elderly to get their flu jabs before the winter set in.
For those of us of a certain age, Sir Henry, who was two days short of his 77th birthday when he passed away, was a national treasure.  During a time when being the heavyweight champion of Britain really meant something special, Henry ruled the roost for almost 12 years, from 1959 to 1971, a remarkable record that will never be broken.  Our 'Enery, as he was called, was loved by millions of people in Britain, not only boxing fans but also non-boxing fans who didnt know a right cross from an uppercut, ordinary men and women in the street and children, eminent politicians, the entire population of Eton College, the Royal familywe were all his fans because of his courage, his skill, his modesty and his humour.  Besides holding the British title for so long, Henry also won the European and Commonwealth heavyweight championships and became the first boxer in history to win three Lonsdale belts outright, a feat that cant be equalled due to the rules now which state that no boxer can hold more than one at a time.
Henry Cooper may never have won the world heavyweight title, but his 1963 fight against Cassius Clay (later Muhammad Ali) will go down in ring history as on that never-to-be forgotten rainy June evening at Wembley Stadium, Coopers fabled left hook, 'Enerys 'ammer as the fans called it, put Clay on the deck for the first time in his career. He would have certainly been counted out if he hadnt been saved by the bell.  Clay was shaken, badly shaken, as he was led back to his corner.
Over the years various stories have been told of the goings on in Clays corner between that 4th and 5th round and the involvement of Clays famous trainer Angelo Dundee and Clays split glove which gave  him time to recover.
Ive had the pleasure of meeting and chatting over a drink with the legendary trainer on a couple of occasions, in Blightys nightclub in Farnworth in the 60s and the Boxing Hall of Fame in New York a few years ago.  It was certainly interesting talking to the man who was involved with Muhammad Ali throughout his career, but its only recently that the famous veteran trainer admitted what really happened regarding that glove.  Angelo has stated that before the fight as Clay was warming up he noticed a small split along the seam of one of his gloves and thinking it may come in handy during the fight he told Clay to keep his hands down for the first couple of rounds so that the ref wouldnt notice.  During the rest period after Clay had been knocked down, and he was slumped on his stool like a sack of potatoes looking like he was out of it, Angelo stuck his finger in the split to make it bigger and to buy time he yelled at the referee to come over and examine the glove demanding a new pair. He was told after a while that there was no second pair of gloves to be found but after that short time Clay was back to life, so Angelo told the ref not to worry as they would use the ones he still had on. The ruse worked and when Cooper had his left eye badly cut in the next round, the fight was stopped in Clays favour.
Sir Henry Cooper was the only boxer to receive a knighthood and was as much a national icon as a sporting hero.  British boxing will be a far sadder place for his passing.



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