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18th June 2020
By: BOXING GURU
Cassius Clay vs Henry Cooper
On this day in 1963, British champion Henry Cooper took on the young, undefeated up and comer Cassius Clay at Wembley stadium. Clay, who soon after changed his name to Muhammad Ali was promised a world title shot against the winner of Liston vs Patterson if he came through.
The British champion came out the blocks quickly, holding the center of the ring and connecting successfully with several left hooks which resulted in Ali walking back to his corner with a bloodied nose as the bell sounded.
The home crowd of 35,000 roared on their man as Cooper continued to be the aggressor in the second but Ali was beginning to land his accurate jab effectively, opening up a small cut underneath the Brit’s left eye.
Despite Cooper having more success in the third, Ali opened up a second and deeper cut over the left eye of Cooper. The tide appeared to be changing, Ali was looking more and more confident and began to taunt the Brit towards the end of the round.
Cooper responded, coming out in the 4th with even more intent, landing heavy blows with both hands to the face of the traveling American. Ali’s casual approach left him open and he was caught with a beautiful left hook that sent him flying into the ropes. Luckily for Ali, the ropes provided a cushioned landing, and just a few seconds after he hit the canvas, the bell sounded which prevented the opportunity for Cooper to try and finish the job.
It was clear the American was shaken up and confused during the interval. Fans witnessed him attempting to stand up from his stool well before the bell had sounded for the next round. If Cooper’s left hook had arrived 30 seconds earlier, history may have been so different for the ‘Greatest of All Time’.
Before the fight, Ali had predicted he would end the fight in the 5th, “It ain’t no jive, Henry Cooper will go in five!” – and like many of Ali’s predictions, that’s exactly what happened.
Ali switched up his style and went on the offensive. Seemingly recovered from the previous round, he honed his attacks on Cooper’s eye which opened up severely, forcing the referee to step in and stop the fight.
Ali went on to become the heavyweight champion of the world just 8 months later beating Sonny Liston as a heavy 7-1 underdog, and the rest is history.
FOR SALE – Oil painting by British portrait artist @JamieGreenArt of Clay vs Cooper 1963, with certificate of authenticity. Artwork created on a seat from the original Wembley stadium – contact us if interested.