Henry Cooper

Henry Cooper In His Own Words
  • Henry Cooper In His Own Words

  • A fascinating chance to hear legendary boxer Henry Cooper talk about his life and career, in a selection of interviews taken from the BBC radio and TV archive. The interviews are: Desert Island Discs, BBC Radio 4 (first broadcast 16 May 1966, featuring Roy Plomley); Parkinson , BBC One (first broadcast 19 October 1974, featuring Michael Parkinson); Parkinson, BBC One (first broadcast 24 October 1979, featuring Michael Parkinson, Benny Green); Maestro, BBC Radio 4 (first broadcast 11 June 1984, featuring Frank Keating, Jim Wicks) and Myself When Young, BBC Radio 4 (first broadcast 3 April 1991, featuring Claire Rayner).

Henry Cooper was a heavyweight boxing champion, best known for his knockdown of Muhammad Ali. He was born, with identical twin brother George, in south-east London in 1934. Both twins subsequently became boxers, with George boxing under the professional name Jim Cooper, and both turned professional at the same time under the same manager, Jim Wicks. Henry boxed for Britain in the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, but lost to the Russian Anatoli Petrov. In 1958, he beat Zora Folley, who was ranked third in the world, and the following year he beat Brian London to win his first British and Commonwealth belts. He won his first Lonsdale belt in 1961. His first, celebrated fight against Muhammad Ali came in 1963. Ali was then known as Cassius Clay, and Clay had never been knocked down before he met Cooper. Then, at the end of the fourth round, Henry’s famous left hook – ‘Enry’s Ammer’ – felled him. However, Clay was saved by the bell, and his trainer delayed the start of the next round, claiming that his glove was torn and he needed a new one. Clay went on to win the fight, and a return bout three years later, but he always respected Cooper. Henry Cooper retired in 1971, having triumphed in 40 of his 55 fights, won three Lonsdale belts for successive British heavyweight title victories and held the European and Commonwealth belts. Post-retirement, he commented on boxing matches, chaired a team on the BBC’s A Question of Sport for three years, advertised aftershave and flu jabs and was an enthusiastic fund-raiser for charity. He became a prolific after-dinner speaker after losing a large part of his savings in the Lloyds of London collapse (he also had to sell his Lonsdale belts). He was named BBC Sports Personality of the Year twice (in 1967 and 1970), was awarded an OBE in 1969 and knighted in 2000. Henry Cooper died in 2011, aged 76.