Monday 26 June 2017

Video: Cooper punched above weight in public affections

Muhammad Ali fights Henry Cooper at Wembley, London, in 1963
Muhammad Ali fights Henry Cooper at Wembley, London, in 1963

Brian Viner

Henry Cooper lived for 40 more years after his last fight, the heartbreaker and career-buster against Joe Bugner in the spring of 1971. That his enormous popularity endured for all four of those decades belied the fact that he was, at the highest level, a loser.

He fought only once for the world title, against Muhammad Ali at Highbury in 1966, and lost. But he lost graciously, as he did even when Bugner was judged to have outpointed him, in one of boxing's more dubious decisions. Cooper exemplified the plucky Englishman, magnanimous in defeat, and the public's affection for him survived the arrival of a new breed of sporting hero: the Englishman as obsessive winner.

Nevertheless, it always slightly bugged him that he was better remembered for coming second -- as he also did in 1963 when Ali was still Cassius Clay and a fight away from claiming Sonny Liston's world title -- than for his many victories.

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