Henry Cooper

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Sir

Henry Cooper

Henry Cooper 1969.jpg
Cooper circa 1969
Born(1934-05-03)3 May 1934
Died1 May 2011(2011-05-01) (aged 76)
Limpsfield, Surrey, England
Boxing career
Statistics
Nickname(s)Our 'Enry
Weight(s)Heavyweight
Height1.88 m (6 ft 2 in)
Reach75 in (190 cm)
StanceOrthodox
Boxing record
Total fights55
Wins40
Wins by KO27
Losses14
Draws1
No contests0

Sir Henry Cooper OBE KSG (3 May 1934 – 1 May 2011)[1] was a British heavyweight boxer. Cooper held the British, Commonwealth, and European heavyweight titles several times throughout his career, and unsuccessfully challenged Muhammad Ali for the world heavyweight championship in 1966.

Following his retirement from the sport, Cooper continued his career as a television and radio personality; he was the first (and is today one of four people) to twice win the public vote for BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award and is one of the boxers to be awarded a knighthood including Frank Bruno MBE one of the Orders of the British Empire.

Biography[edit]

Plaque showing former home of heavyweight boxing champion Henry Cooper at 120 Farmstead Road, Bellingham, London Borough of Lewisham

Cooper was born on 3 May 1934 in Lambeth, London[2][3] to Henry and Lily Cooper. With identical twin brother, George (1934–2010),[2] and elder brother Bern,[3] he grew up in a council house on Farmstead Road on the Bellingham Estate in South East London. During the Second World War they were evacuated to Lancing on the Sussex coast.[3]

Life was tough in the latter years of the Second World War, and London life especially brought many dangers during the blackout. Henry took up many jobs, including a paper round before school and made money out of recycling golf balls to the clubhouse on the Beckenham course. All three of the Cooper brothers excelled in sport, with George and Henry exercising talents particularly in football and also cricket.[4]

George Cooper, Henry's twin, who boxed as Jim Cooper, died on 11 April 2010 at the age of 75.[2]

Henry Cooper served his National Service in the Royal Army Ordnance Corps as Private #22486464,[5] where he was recruited for his boxing ability.[6]

Cooper died on 1 May 2011 at his son's house near the border of Limpsfield and Oxted, Surrey, after a long illness, 2 days before his 77th birthday.[1][3]

Boxing career[edit]

Style[edit]

Although Cooper was left-handed, he used the "orthodox" stance, with his left hand and foot forward, rather than the reversed "southpaw" stance more usually adopted by a left-handed boxer. Opponents were thus hit hardest with left handed punches which Cooper could throw from his front hand, closest to the opponent. At its most effective, the so-called left hook had an upward uppercut-like trajectory. A formidable left jab completed his attacking repertoire.[3][7] He generally tried to force the action in his bouts. After developing a left shoulder problem in the latter half of his career, Cooper adjusted to put more stress on right-handed punches which he had hitherto neglected.[7]

Early bouts[edit]

Cooper was affectionately known in the UK as "Our 'Enery". He started his boxing career in 1949, as an amateur with the Eltham Amateur Boxing Club, and won seventy-three of eighty-four contests. At the age of seventeen, he won the first of two ABA light-heavyweight titles and, before serving in the Army for his two years' National Service, represented Britain in the 1952 Olympics (outpointed in the second stage by Russian Anatoli Petrov). Henry and his twin brother, George (boxing under the name Jim Cooper) turned professional together under the management of Jim Wicks. Wicks never allowed his boxer to be the victim of a mis-match. When promoters were trying to match Cooper with Sonny Liston, Wicks said: "I would not allow 'Enery into the same room as him, let alone the same ring."[citation needed]

1952 Olympic results[edit]

Henry Cooper represented Great Britain as a light heavyweight boxer at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics. His results were: Round of 32-bye, Round of 16-lost to Anatoly Perov (Soviet Union) by decision, 1-2.

Henry was at one time the British, European and Commonwealth heavyweight champion. His early title challenges were unsuccessful, losing to Joe Bygraves for the Commonwealth belt (KO 9), Ingemar Johansson for the European belt (KO 5), and Joe Erskine (PTS 15) for the British and Commonwealth. He then won on points over contender Zora Folley, and took the British and Commonwealth belts from new champion Brian London, in a 15-round decision in January 1959. The winner of the fight was pencilled in to fight for Floyd Patterson's heavyweight title, but Cooper turned down the chance; London fought instead and was knocked out by Patterson in May 1959. Cooper continued to defend his British and Commonwealth belts against all comers, including Dick Richardson (KO 5), Joe Erskine (TKO 5 and TKO 12), Johnny Prescott (TKO 10), and Brian London again (PTS 15), although he lost a rematch with Folley by a second-round KO.[8]

Muhammad Ali[edit]

Muhammad Ali and Henry Cooper following their fight on 18 June 1963

Cooper twice fought Muhammad Ali (then known as Cassius Clay), firstly in a non-title fight in 1963 at Wembley Stadium, Wembley Park. Ali's mobility, fast reflexes, and unorthodox defensive tactic of pulling back from punches made him a frustratingly elusive opponent.[7] In the final seconds of the fourth round, Cooper felled Ali with an upward angled version of his trademark left hook, "Enry's 'Ammer".[7]

Ali stood up and started towards Angelo Dundee who guided him into the corner. At first Dundee talked and slapped Ali's legs, but after Ali misunderstood and tried to get off the stool, Dundee used smelling salts.[9] The use of smelling salts was prohibited in boxing, and their use would have led to disqualification if the offence had been caught, ceding victory to Cooper by default.[10] Dundee has since claimed to have opened a small tear in one of Ali's gloves and told the referee that his fighter needed a new pair of gloves, thus delaying the start of the 5th round. Cooper insisted that this delay lasted anywhere from three to five seconds according to the footage and that this did not deny him the chance to try to knock Ali out while he was still dazed.[11] Tapes of the fight show that Ali received only an extra six seconds, and the gloves were ultimately not replaced.[12][13][14] Cooper started the 5th round aggressively, attempting to make good on his advantage, but a recovered Ali effectively countered and Cooper was hit high on the face with a hard right which opened a severe cut under his eye. Referee Tommy Little was forced to stop the fight, and thus Ali defeated Cooper by technical knockout.[15]

After this fight, a spare pair of gloves was always required at ringside.[16] On the 40th anniversary of the fight, Ali telephoned Cooper to reminisce. In 1966 Cooper fought Ali, now world heavyweight champion, for a second time at Arsenal Stadium, Highbury.[17] However, Ali was now alert to the danger posed by Cooper's left and more cautious than he had been in the previous contest; he held Cooper in a vice-like grip during clinches, and when told to break leapt backward several feet.[7] Accumulated scar tissue around Cooper's eyes made him more vulnerable than in the previous meeting and a serious cut was opened by Ali, which led to the fight being stopped, Cooper again losing to Ali via technical knockout.[7]

Last fights[edit]

After the loss to Ali, Cooper fought former heavyweight champion Floyd Patterson, but was knocked out in the fourth round. After that, he went undefeated until the final fight of his career, and made more defences of his British and Commonwealth titles against Jack Bodell (TKO 2 and PTS 15) and Billy Walker (TKO 6). In 1968 Cooper added the European crown to his domestic titles with a win over Karl Mildenberger, and later made two successful defences of his title.

In his last fight, in May 1971, a 36-year-old Cooper faced 21-year-old Joe Bugner, one of the biggest heavyweights in the world at the time, for the British, European, and Commonwealth belts. Referee Harry Gibbs awarded the fight to Bugner by the now abolished quarter of a point margin. An audience mainly composed of Cooper fans did not appreciate the innately cautious Bugner, and the decision was booed with commentator Harry Carpenter asking, "And how, in the world, can you take away the man's three titles, like that?"[18] Cooper announced his retirement shortly afterwards. Cooper refused to speak to Gibbs for several years, but eventually agreed to shake his hand for charity six months before Gibbs died.[19]

Opinion on modern boxers[edit]

In Cooper's later years, he retired from commentary on the sport as he became "disillusioned with boxing", wanting "straight, hard and fast boxing that he was used to from his times."[20] While acknowledging that he was from a different era and would not be fighting as a heavyweight today, Cooper was nonetheless critical of the trend for heavyweights to bulk up as he thought it made for one-paced and less entertaining contests.[21] In his final year, he said that he did not "think boxing is as good as it was", naming Joe Calzaghe, Ricky Hatton, and Amir Khan as "the best of their era", but asserting that "if you match them up with the champions of thirty or forty years ago I don't think they're as good".[22]

Life outside boxing[edit]

In the 1960s Henry appeared in several public information films concerning road safety, promoting the use of zebra crossings: such as "The Story of Elsie Billing".[23].

After his retirement from boxing, Henry Cooper maintained a public profile with appearances in the BBC quiz show A Question of Sport and various advertisements, most famously in those for Brut aftershave.[21].He was also a frequent guest at charity fund-raising events.[24] He appeared as boxer John Gully in the 1975 film Royal Flash and in his latter years featured in a series of UK public service announcements urging vulnerable groups to go to their doctors for vaccination against influenza called Get your Jab in First![25]

Cooper had become a "Name" at Lloyd's of London, and in the 1990s he was reportedly one of those who suffered enormous personal losses because of the unlimited liability which a "Name" was then responsible for, and he was forced to sell his Lonsdale belts.[21] Subsequently, Cooper's popularity as an after dinner speaker provided a source of income, and he was in most respects a picture of contentment although becoming more subdued in the years following the death of his wife.[21][24]

Considering his long career, Cooper had suffered relatively little boxing-related damage to his health apart from "a bit of arthritis", remaining, in the words of one journalist, "the living manifestation of an age of tuxedos in ringside seats, Harry Carpenter commentaries, sponge buckets and 'seconds out'".[22] He lived in Hildenborough, Kent, and he was the president of Nizels Golf Club in the town until his death.[1][21]

Cooper was married to Albina Genepri,[26] an Italian Catholic,[26] from 1960 until her death from a heart attack aged 71 in 2008.[3] He converted to her faith.[26] He was survived by their sons, Henry Marco and John Pietro,[3] and two grandchildren.[22] He left £747,098.[citation needed] In an interview published a few days after her death, Cooper described Albina, who "hated" his sport, as "an ideal wife for a boxer", never grumbling about his long absences before big fights and inviting journalists in for tea while they waited for Cooper to get out of bed the morning after bouts.[22] They featured in an early 1970's advert for Bisto Gravy.

Awards and honours[edit]

Cooper was the first to win the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award twice (in 1967 and 1970) and one of only four two-time winners in the award's history (the others being Nigel Mansell in 1986 and 1992, Damon Hill in 1994 and 1996, and Andy Murray in 2013, 2015, and 2016). Cooper was given the award in 1967 for going unbeaten throughout the year. His second award came in 1970, when Cooper had become the British, Commonwealth, and European heavyweight champion. He is the only British boxer to win three Lonsdale Belts outright.

Cooper was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1969, awarded a Papal Knighthood in 1978, and was knighted in 2000. He is also celebrated as one of the great Londoners in the "London Song" by Ray Davies on his 1998 album The Storyteller.[26][27][28] He was the subject of This Is Your Life in 1970 when he was surprised by Eamonn Andrews at Thames Television's Euston Road Studios.[29]

Professional boxing record[edit]

Professional record summary
55 fights 40 wins 14 losses
By knockout 25 7
By decision 13 6
By disqualification 2 1
Draws 1
No. Result Record Opponent Type Round, time Date Location Notes
55 Loss 40–14–1 United Kingdom Joe Bugner PTS 15 16 Mar 1971 United Kingdom Empire Pool, London, England Lost British, Commonwealth, and European heavyweight titles
54 Win 40–13–1 Spain Jose Manuel Urtain TKO 9 (15) 10 Nov 1970 United Kingdom Empire Pool, London, England Retained European heavyweight title
53 Win 39–13–1 United Kingdom Jack Bodell PTS 15 24 Mar 1970 United Kingdom Empire Pool, London, England Retained British and Commonwealth heavyweight titles
52 Win 38–13–1 Italy Piero Tomasoni KO 5 (15) 13 Mar 1969 Italy Palazzetto dello Sport, Rome, Italy Retained European heavyweight title
51 Win 37–13–1 Germany Karl Mildenberger DQ 8 (15) 18 Sep 1968 United Kingdom Empire Pool, London, England Won European heavyweight title
50 Win 36–13–1 United Kingdom Billy Walker KO 6 (15) 7 Nov 1967 United Kingdom Empire Pool, London, England Retained British and Commonwealth heavyweight titles
49 Win 35–13–1 United Kingdom Jack Bodell TKO 2 (15), 2:18 13 Jun 1967 United Kingdom Molineux Stadium, Wolverhampton, England Retained British and Commonwealth heavyweight titles
48 Win 34–13–1 United States Boston Jacobs PTS 10 17 Apr 1967 United Kingdom De Montfort Hall, Leicester, England
47 Loss 33–13–1 United States Floyd Patterson KO 4 (10), 2:10 20 Sep 1966 United Kingdom Empire Pool, London, England
46 Loss 33–12–1 United States Muhammad Ali TKO 6 (15), 1:38 21 May 1966 United Kingdom Arsenal Stadium, London, England For WBA, WBC, The Ring, and lineal heavyweight titles
45 Win 33–11–1 United States Jefferson Davis KO 1 (10), 1:40 16 Feb 1966 United Kingdom Wolverhampton Civic Hall, Wolverhampton, England
44 Win 32–11–1 United States Hubert Hilton TKO 2 (10), 1:20 25 Jan 1966 United Kingdom London Olympia, London, England
43 Loss 31–11–1 United States Amos Johnson PTS 10 19 Oct 1965 United Kingdom Empire Pool, London, England
42 Win 31–10–1 United Kingdom Johnny Prescott RTD 10 (15), 2:34 15 Jun 1965 United Kingdom St Andrews Stadium, Birmingham, England Retained British and Commonwealth heavyweight titles
41 Win 30–10–1 United States Matthew Johnson KO 1 (10), 2:34 20 Apr 1965 United Kingdom Wolverhampton Civic Hall, Wolverhampton, England
40 Win 29–10–1 United States Dick Wipperman TKO 5 (10) 12 Jan 1965 United Kingdom Royal Albert Hall, London, England
39 Loss 28–10–1 United States Roger Rischer PTS 10 16 Nov 1964 United Kingdom Royal Albert Hall, London, England
38 Win 28–9–1 United Kingdom Brian London PTS 15 24 Feb 1964 United Kingdom King's Hall, Manchester, England Retained British and Commonwealth heavyweight titles;
Won vacant European heavyweight title
37 Loss 27–9–1 United States Muhammad Ali KO 5 (10), 2:15 18 Jun 1963 United Kingdom Wembley Stadium, London, England
36 Win 27–8–1 United Kingdom Dick Richardson KO 5 (15) 26 Mar 1963 United Kingdom Empire Pool, London, England Retained British and Commonwealth heavyweight titles
35 Win 26–8–1 United Kingdom Joe Erskine TKO 9 (15) 2 Apr 1962 United Kingdom Nottingham Ice Stadium, Nottingham, England Retained British and Commonwealth heavyweight titles
34 Win 25–8–1 United States Wayne Bethea PTS 10 26 Feb 1962 United Kingdom King's Hall, Manchester, England
33 Win 24–8–1 United States Tony Hughes RTD 5 (10) 23 Jan 1962 United Kingdom Empire Pool, London, England
32 Loss 23–8–1 United States Zora Folley KO 2 (10), 1:06 5 Dec 1961 United Kingdom Empire Pool, London, England
31 Win 23–7–1 United Kingdom Joe Erskine TKO 5 (15) 21 Mar 1961 United Kingdom Empire Pool, London, England Retained British and Commonwealth heavyweight titles
30 Win 22–7–1 Argentina Alex Miteff PTS 10 6 Dec 1960 United Kingdom Empire Pool, London, England
29 Win 21–7–1 United States Roy Harris PTS 10 13 Sep 1960 United Kingdom Empire Pool, London, England
28 Win 20–7–1 United Kingdom Joe Erskine TKO 12 (15) 17 Nov 1959 United Kingdom Earls Court Arena, London, England Retained British and Commonwealth heavyweight titles
27 Win 19–7–1 South Africa Gawie de Klerk TKO 5 (15) 26 Aug 1959 United Kingdom Coney Beach Pleasure Park, Bridgend, Wales Retained Commonwealth heavyweight title
26 Win 18–7–1 United Kingdom Brian London PTS 15 12 Jan 1959 United Kingdom Earls Court Arena, London, England Won British and Commonwealth heavyweight titles
25 Win 17–7–1 United States Zora Folley PTS 10 14 Oct 1958 United Kingdom Empire Pool, London, England
24 Win 16–7–1 United Kingdom Dick Richardson TKO 5 (10) 3 Sep 1958 United Kingdom Coney Beach Pleasure Park, Bridgend, Wales
23 Loss 15–7–1 Germany Erich Schoppner DQ 6 (10) 19 Apr 1958 Germany Festhalle Frankfurt, Frankfurt, Germany
22 Draw 15–6–1 Germany Heinz Neuhaus PTS 10 11 Jan 1958 Germany Westfalenhallen, Dortmund, Germany
21 Win 15–6 Germany Hans Kalbfell PTS 10 16 Nov 1957 Germany Westfalenhallen, Dortmund, Germany
20 Loss 14–6 United Kingdom Joe Erskine PTS 15 17 Sep 1957 United Kingdom Harringay Arena, London, England For British and Commonwealth heavyweight titles
19 Loss 14–5 Sweden Ingemar Johansson KO 5 (15), 2:57 19 May 1957 Sweden Johanneshovs Isstadion, Stockholm, Sweden For European heavyweight title
18 Loss 14–4 United Kingdom Joe Bygraves KO 9 (15) 19 Feb 1957 United Kingdom Earls Court Arena, London, England For Commonwealth heavyweight title
17 Loss 14–3 United Kingdom Peter Bates TKO 5 (10), 1:01 7 Sep 1956 United Kingdom Belle Vue Zoological Gardens, Manchester, England
16 Win 14–2 Italy Giannino Orlando Luise TKO 7 (10) 26 Jun 1956 United Kingdom Empire Pool, London, England
15 Win 13–2 United Kingdom Brian London TKO 1 (10) 1 May 1956 United Kingdom Empress Hall, Earl's Court, London, England
14 Win 12–2 France Maurice Mols TKO 4 (10) 28 Feb 1956 United Kingdom Royal Albert Hall, London, England
13 Loss 11–2 United Kingdom Joe Erskine PTS 10 15 Nov 1955 United Kingdom Harringay Arena, London, England
12 Win 11–1 Italy Uber Bacilieri KO 7 (10) 13 Sep 1955 United Kingdom White City Stadium, London, England
11 Win 10–0 United Kingdom Ron Harman TKO 7 (8) 6 Jun 1955 United Kingdom Nottingham Ice Stadium, Nottingham, England
10 Loss 9–1 Italy Uber Bacilieri TKO 5 (8) 26 Apr 1955 United Kingdom Harringay Arena, London, England
9 Win 9–0 United Kingdom Joe Bygraves PTS 8 18 Apr 1955 United Kingdom Manor Place Baths, London, England
8 Win 8–0 United Kingdom Joe Crickmar TKO 5 (8) 29 Mar 1955 United Kingdom Earls Court Arena, London, England
7 Win 7–0 United Kingdom Hugh Ferns DQ 2 (6) 8 Mar 1955 United Kingdom Earls Court Arena, London, England
6 Win 6–0 United Kingdom Cliff Purnell PTS 6 8 Feb 1955 United Kingdom Harringay Arena, London, England
5 Win 5–0 South Africa Colin Strauch TKO 1 (6) 27 Jan 1955 United Kingdom Royal Albert Hall, London, England
4 Win 4–0 United Kingdom Denny Ball KO 3 (6) 7 Dec 1954 United Kingdom Harringay Arena, London, England
3 Win 3–0 Croatia Eddie Keith TKO 1 (6) 23 Nov 1954 United Kingdom Manor Place Baths, London, England
2 Win 2–0 United Kingdom Dinny Powell TKO 4 (6) 19 Oct 1954 United Kingdom Harringay Arena, London, England
1 Win 1–0 United Kingdom Harry Painter KO 1 (6) 14 Sep 1954 United Kingdom Harringay Arena, London, England

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "British boxing legend Sir Henry Cooper dies aged 76". BBC Sport. 2 May 2011. Retrieved 2 May 2011.
  2. ^ a b c "George Cooper". The Daily Telegraph. 18 April 2010.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Samuel, John (1 May 2011). "Sir Henry Cooper obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 May 2011.
  4. ^ Edwards, Robert. Henry Cooper: The Authorised Biography Of Britain's Greatest Boxing Hero. Helter Skelter. pp. 51–58. ISBN 0-563-48831-X.
  5. ^ Interview with Henry Cooper, 'Lads' Army' television show, Series 1 (2001)
  6. ^ "'How I knuckled down to National Service': Sir Henry Cooper". Legion. Royal British Legion. Archived from the original on 25 July 2011.
  7. ^ a b c d e f Edwards, Robert. Henry Cooper: The Authorised Biography Of Britain's Greatest Boxing Hero. Helter Skelter. ISBN 0-563-48831-X.
  8. ^ Lewis, Mike (29 January 2006). "Harrison out to prove his manager wrong". The Daily Telegraph.
  9. ^ Cassius Expects Hard. The Palm Beach Times. 19 May 1966
  10. ^ Stephen Brunt (2002). Facing Ali. The Lyons Press. p. 38.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  11. ^ McDonald, Charlotte (13 February 2012). "Counting down the Cooper-Ali fight" – via www.bbc.co.uk.
  12. ^ "The Time Tunnel: Remembering Cassius Clay- Henry Cooper". East Side Boxing. 14 November 2002. Archived from the original on 17 December 2003.
  13. ^ "Boxing History: Cassius Clay vs. Henry Cooper". Saddo Boxing. 8 June 2006.
  14. ^ "Sir Henry Cooper". BBC Sport. 1 October 2000.
  15. ^ Matthew Taylor (January 2015). "Cooper, Sir Henry (1934–2011)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/103746. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  16. ^ "Clay v Cooper – The Final Word On The Torn Glove Story". East Side Boxing. 17 March 2006. Archived from the original on 20 March 2008.
  17. ^ "Cooper and Ali's world title fight". Arsenal F.C. Archived from the original on 20 October 2011.
  18. ^ "He Didn't Do So Bad". Boxing Monthly. August 1999. Archived from the original on 20 June 2012.
  19. ^ "Henry hits back". BBC Sport. 1 December 2001. Retrieved 4 May 2011.
  20. ^ "BBC Sport – Tributes pour in for British boxer Henry Cooper". BBC News. 2 May 2011. Retrieved 2 May 2011.
  21. ^ a b c d e "Brian Viner on Henry Cooper". The Independent. 3 May 2011. Retrieved 4 May 2011.
  22. ^ a b c d McEntee, John (June 2011). "Still With Us – Henry Cooper". The Oldie.
  23. ^ The Story of Elsie Billing, rebroadcast, Talking Pictures TV 20 May 2020
  24. ^ a b Lynam, Des (5 May 2011). "Des Lynam: My friend Sir Henry Cooper was modest to a fault". The Daily Telegraph.
  25. ^ "Henry Cooper launches flu offensive". BBC News. 21 September 2000.
  26. ^ a b c d "Sir Henry Cooper". The Daily Telegraph. 3 May 2011. Retrieved 3 May 2011.
  27. ^ "New Years Honours List – United Kingdom". The London Gazette (55710): 1. 30 December 1999.
  28. ^ "People's champions knighted". BBC Sport. 31 December 1999. Retrieved 4 May 2010.
  29. ^ "BBC Sports Personality of the Year 2016: Andy Murray wins for a record third time". 18 December 2016 – via www.bbc.co.uk.

External links[edit]

Achievements
Preceded by
Brian London
Commonwealth Heavyweight Champion
12 January 1959 – 13 March 1971
Succeeded by
Joe Bugner
Preceded by
Jack Bodell
British Heavyweight Champion
24 March 1970 – 13 March 1971
Preceded by
Jose Manuel Urtain
European Heavyweight Champion
10 November 1970 – 13 March 1971
Awards
Preceded by
Bobby Moore
BBC Sports Personality of the Year
1967
Succeeded by
David Hemery
Preceded by
Ann Jones
BBC Sports Personality of the Year
1970
Succeeded by
The Princess Anne