History | Premium | Jun 18 2019

My Night: Henry Cooper tells the story of his two-fight rivalry with Muhammad Ali

Henry Cooper knew it was bad news against Muhammad Ali when he felt his own warm blood against his skin
Muhammad Ali
Action Images

THERE wasn’t another like him. Before the first fight, he was all mouthing 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 had to because he was 6ft 3ins 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.