Tributes paid to boxing legend

IPSWICH/UK: Tributes from the town have today been paid to heavyweight boxing legend Sir Henry Cooper, who died at the age of 76.

The former English, Commonwealth and European champion fought 55 times and is revered for his 1963 knockdown of Cassius Clay.

London-born Cooper, who won the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award twice, died at his son’s house in Oxted, Surrey, last night.

The news of his death resulted in a wave of tributes from sporting figures in Ipswich and across the country.

Simon Clegg, chief executive of Ipswich Town Football Club, told The Evening Star: “I had the privilege of meeting Sir Henry on a couple of occasions at The BBC Sports Personality of the Year Awards, which he had won twice in 1967 and 1970.

“British sport has lost one of its true sporting icons – a gentleman and a legend.”

Michael Footer, an instructor at the Ipswich Self Defence Federation, added: “Sir Henry is the perfect example for a young boxer to look up to.”

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Alongside Frank Bruno, Tommy Farr and Lennox Lewis, Cooper is considered one of the great British heavyweights.

Britain’s world heavyweight champion David Haye used his Twitter feed to pay tribute to Cooper, who would have celebrated his 77th birthday on Tuesday.

“A true warrior and great human being. Rest in Peace,” Haye wrote.

Despite enjoying a hugely successful professional career, Cooper never won a world title and retired in 1971 after losing to Joe Bugner, a year after becoming the first person to be named BBC Sports Personality of the Year on two occasions – 1967 and 1970.

Cooper, who began boxing professionally in 1954, is best remembered for his two famous clashes with Clay – later known as Muhammad Ali – in the 1960s.

He floored the American in the fourth round with ‘Enry’s ‘Ammer – his trademark left hook – but Clay eventually won the 1963 non-title fight at Wembley.

Clay triumphed again when they boxed three years later but Cooper remained a favourite with the British public.

Following his retirement he pursued a successful career in television as a pundit and was also a published author. He was a popular captain on the BBC quiz show A Question of Sport.

n What are your memories of Sir Henry Cooper? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN.