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You Tube Gold: Henry Cooper vs. Muhammad Ali

Cooper very nearly shocked the world.

Cooper And Clay
British Heavyweight champion Henry Cooper (1934 - 2011, left) with American boxer Cassius Clay (later Muhammad Ali) after their non-title fight at Wembley Stadium, London, 18th June 1963. Clay won the match by a technical knockout after Cooper sustained a cut under his left eye.
Photo by Central Press/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

In 1963, when Muhammad Ali was still known as Cassius Clay, he went to London to fight Henry Cooper.

As he tended to do, Ali mocked his opponent before the fight, saying that Cooper was ”a tramp, a bum, and a cripple not worth training for” and he clearly saw Cooper as a warm-up for Sonny Liston.

That didn't last long. As you’ll see here, Cooper, despite being shorter and lighter, came at Ali relentlessly and in the 4th, amazingly knocked Ali down and very nearly out of the ring.

It really is one of the more amazing punches in boxing history. We expect people recognized that Ali had enormous potential although a lot of people also thought he would get killed by Liston. Cooper nearly derailed Ali’s ascension and Ali knew it because after the fight he said this: “Cooper’s not a bum any more. I underestimated him. He’s the toughest fighter I ever met and the first to really drop me. He’s a real fighter.”