A beloved British heavyweight boxer of the post-war era, the late Sir Henry Cooper will always be best remembered for a signature left hook, a.k.a. ”Enry’s ‘ammer”, that knocked down 21-year-old Cassius Clay in the fourth round of a non-title fight at Wembley Stadium on June 18, 1963. Clay won by technical knockout in the fifth round, having opened a nasty, two-inch cut over Cooper’s right eye. In his next fight, at the Convention Center, Miami Beach on February 25, 1964, Clay – soon to become Muhammad Ali – defeated Sonny Liston to become World Boxing Association (WBA) and World Boxing Council (WBC) world heavyweight champion.
Cooper fought Clay again, for the WBC world heavyweight title, at Arsenal Football Stadium, Highbury on May 21, 1966, but was stopped in the sixth round, with another grisly cut, which later required sixteen stitches, over his left eye. That would be the first and last time that Cooper would contest a world title, but it should not be forgotten that he held British Boxing Board of Control (BBBoC) British heavyweight and Commonwealth Boxing Council heavyweight titles for twelve years and the European Boxing Union (EBU) European heavyweight title for three.
Cooper had already made the decision to retire before his last fight, against 21-year-old Joe Bugner at the Empire Pool, Wembley on March 16, 1971, for the British, Commonwealth and European titles. In any event, Cooper suffered a controversial points defeat, with referee Harry Gibbs scoring the contest 73¾- 73½ in favour of Bugner, handing victory to the challenger by just a quarter of a point. Quoted on the front page of the ‘Daily Mirror’, Cooper said, I thought it was a bad decision. I am only sorry it had to finish like this.’ At the time of his retirement, ‘Our ‘enry’, as he was known, had a career record of 55-40-14-1, including 27 knockouts. In 2000, he was knighted for his services to sport and charity and remains the only British boxer to receive such a honour.