Sir Henry Cooper, the much-loved and admired boxer known for his legendary left hook which floored Cassius Clay in 1963, has died at his son’s home in Oxted, Surrey, two days before his 77th birthday.
Sports journalist and close friend Colin Hart said: “I’m not shocked he died, sadly, because I saw him deteriorate over the years as he got quite ill. He wasn’t the same after the death of his wife Albina who was not only his right hand but also his left hand. He died of a broken heart.” In recent years, he also lost his twin brother.
Cassius Clay went on to win that non-title fight at Wembley in 1963, but Sir Henry’s remarkable efforts endeared the British public then and their affections have remained cemented to this day.
Upon hearing of the loss of Sir Henry, Muhammad Ali (formerly known as Cassius Clay) said: ‘I am at a loss for
words over the death of my friend, Henry Cooper. I was not aware he was ill. 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.’
Although Sir Henry never beat Ali, he did go on to become the British, Commonwealth and European Heavyweight champion; was knighted in 2000 and was the first sportsman to win Sports Personality of the Year twice.
His career spanned almost 40 years, with 17 of them in the ring and 20 commentating.
Tributes have been flowing in from those in the boxing world:
Britain’s WBA world heavyweight champion David Haye commented: ‘A true warrior and a great human being has passed away. Rest in peace.’
Robert Smith, the general secretary of the British Boxing Board of Control, described Sir Henry as “one of the
sporting icons, not just for the boxing public but sport in general”.
Reigning WBA light-welterweight champion Amir Khan said: ‘Henry was known for one thing, and that was when he was inside the ring he was like an animal, but when he was outside the ring he had a lot of respect for his opponents and for his fans.’
Promoter Frank Warren said: ‘He transcended boxing, he was a true gentleman of sport and had a huge place in the public’s affection.
Sir Henry is survived by his two sons Henry Marco and John Pietro.
Please leave your tributes to Sir Henry.