Boxing legend Sir Henry Cooper, a former British, Commonwealth and European heavyweight champion has died aged 76. He was just two days short of his 77th birthday.
Cooper was the first boxer to be knighted. Promoter Frank Warren told Sky Sports news, “he transcended boxing, he was a true gentleman of sport and had a huge place in the public affection”. Arguably his most famous fight was a non-title contest against a young Muhammad Ali in London in 1963. Cooper had floored Ali, then known as Cassius Clay, in the fourth round after unleashing “Enry’s ‘Ammer”, a crushing left hook.
Henry went on to lose the fight on cuts. This tendency to cut was a reoccurring difficulty in his career. Ali defeated Cooper again three years later, but the two fighters and shared a mutual affection and respect for one another.
After hearing of Coopers death, Ali said “I am at a loss for words over the death of my friend, Henry Cooper. I was not aware he was ill… I visited with him two summers ago during a brief visit to Windsor as part of the Equestrian Games being held there. He was in good humour and looked quite fit. Henry always had a smile for me; a warm and embracing smile. It was always a pleasure being in Henry’s company. I will miss my old friend. He was a great fighter and a gentleman. My family and I extend our heartfelt sympathies to his family and loved ones”.
Some modern day British Heavyweight champions were quick to offer their condolences. Lennox Lewis tweeted, “R.I.P. Sir Henry Cooper. Former British, Commonwealth and European Champion. My deepest condolences to the Cooper family”. David Haye said “One of Britain’s greatest sports man Sir Henry Cooper passed away today. A true warrior and great human being. Rest in Peace.”