The late Sir Henry Cooper was undoubtedly one of the most well-known and best loved British sporting personalities of the last century. Affectionately known as 'Our "Enry', the London born fighter's career spanned two decades with an impressive record of 40/14/1, with 27 KO victories. Cooper's decisive stopping power in his left hook earned its own sobriquet of 'Enry's Ammer', which was most famously showcased against a 24 year old Cassius Clay (later Mohammed Ali) at Wembley in 1963 when Henry's upward angled left knocked the young Clay down like he had never been before. Through a series of events, still hotly debated today, Clay was eventually awarded a TKO win after the referee stopped the fight owing to Cooper's cut brow, an issue that was to continually dog his fights. The sheer power of Cooper was acknowledged by Ali with his oft quoted comment, 'He hit my so hard, my ancestors in Africa felt it.' Indeed, at their second meeting, this time for the world heavy weight title in 1966, eventually also awarded to Ali, the fighter was visibly wary of Cooper's power, forgoing some of his trademark footwork and open guard position in favour of a more considered and tight defence, as well as smothering him in the clinch and darting back quickly when separated by the referee.
Though his left hook is often the focus of any discussion about his fights, it was Cooper's natural style and skill that lead him to such a remarkable career. A natural left hander, Cooper eschewed the typical southpaw stance and fought orthodox with a particularly impressive and often, to the shock of his opponents, surprising ability to throw a left hook off a left jab, as opposed to the traditional method of setting up a hook from the alternate hand. Though renowned for his dominant left style, Cooper proved himself an adaptive fighter, for example when he began suffering problems in his left shoulder he incorporated more right hand punches to take away some of the strain from his left.
Particularly light as for a heavyweight, Cooper favoured the classical boxing formula of strong footwork and timed shots. A showman and great believer in providing an entertaining fight, Henry Cooper often pushed the pace of the fight, a style that won over the British public.
Apart from his prowess in the ring, Henry Cooper was noted for his gentlemanly persona, constantly showing his opponents the upmost respect, abiding by the rules, rarely holding grudge or speaking badly of anyone. Indeed, he was a beloved people's champion, noted for his openness and approachability, famously never knowingly turning down a request for an autograph.
Cooper's list of accolades and professional legacy perhaps best sum up his impressive career, one of only three individuals to be awarded the BBC's sports personality of the year award twice, the only boxer ever to be knighted, recipient of a papal knighthood and an OBE, holder of the European and Commonwealth/Empire titles for prolonged periods, and the only fighter to ever win three Lonsdale belts outright for three successive British heavyweight title victories and defences.