History | Jan 17 2018

‘Muhammad Ali did things nobody else could do’

In his own words Henry Cooper told Boxing News what it was like to face Muhammad Ali
Muhammad Ali
A heavyweight who fought like a welterweight The Courier Journal/USA Today Sports

THERE wasn’t another like [Muhammad Ali]. Before the first fight, he was all mouth and saying, “I’ll stop Cooper in five but if he gives me asthma I’ll stop him in four”, that kind of thing. It used to go in one ear and out the other! A lot of the Americans talked more to their opponent than the British fighters but I used to ignore them. He used to try and call me everything but I knew it was putting bums on seats. People would ask if he was upsetting me and I’d say, ‘Let him carry on! I’m on a percentage as well!’ Everyone was buying seats.

We’d read about him and seen him on film beforehand. He had fast hands and he was fast on his bleeding feet. He could move fast and in a lot of his fights he never knocked people out, what he did was hit them with a series of punches, six or seven punches at a time, all in about three or four seconds, and the referee had to jump in and stop it because he didn’t want the opponents to be injured.

I was still confident and I thought I had the style, which I did, that he didn’t like. I didn’t stand off him, I took the fight to him and you have to because he was six-foot three in them days and he had the long reach so if I stood off him and tried to box, he’d have poked my head off. So that’s why I had to trap him in corners and on the ropes to stop his mobility.