Fight of the day: Henry Cooper vs Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali), 8th June 1963
A straight up and down battler, Henry Cooper had a superb jab and left hook; but not much else. He was given virtually no chance to have any effect on Cassius Clay and was a 4-1 underdog.
Clay said himself that Cooper was “a tramp, a bum, and a cripple not worth training for.” At the weigh-in, Clay said, “You got a Queen, you need a King. I am King!” and proceeded to enter the ring wearing a purple and Gold Crown.
Round one saw Cooper manage to disrupt the rhythmic flow of Clay with his stiff jab and followed it up with the left hook which earned him respect early. Closing the distance with this double jab/ hook combination, Cooper went on to rough up the American on the inside. Young Cassius throwing looks at the referee as if to ask, “Is this legal?” As Cooper roughhoused him. This was Clay’s first coarse fight.
Round two Cooper again tried to abuse the American. In this round, however, Clay was more composed and utilised his own jab.
The third saw Clay moving beautifully as Cooper hounded him. Clay opened a large gash on the cut-prone Coopers left eyebrow with a slicing right hand. Clay went on to dominate the round.
With seconds remaining at the end of the fourth, Cooper unleashed a savage left hook, “Enry’s ‘Ammer”. The punch landed bang on Clay’s jaw and he collapsed onto the ropes. Clay got back on his feet at 4 as the bell sounded.
What happened next became ring folklore. Clay was in a bad way and was helped to his stool by trainer Angelo Dundee.
Dundee called the referee over to the corner and told him Clay had a torn right glove. Some have accused Dundee of tearing the glove to get Clay more time to clear his head, but the films of the fight prove that the glove had been split in the fourth round.
At the beginning of round five, Clay came out furious, sitting down on his punches for nasty intent. Now the aggressor, Clay was dealing damage all over the Brits face as blood flowed freely from Coopers eyebrow.
Referee Tommy Little had no option but to stop the fight due to the horror show on Coopers face. Clay’s prediction of a fifth-round win had come to fruition. But enough had been achieved by ‘enry to warrant a rematch. This rematch had its own perils for the now legendary Muhammad Ali in 1966.