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Heroes provide knockout entertainment

PUBLISHED: 11:56 19 December 2001 | UPDATED: 11:04 03 March 2010

TWO giants of boxing and rugby joined forces to entertain a capacity crowd at a recent sporting dinner in Ipswich.

Sir Henry Cooper and Willie-John McBride were the big-name speakers at Archway Events' latest sell-out success at the County Hotel, Copdock.

By Mel Henderson

TWO giants of boxing and rugby joined forces to entertain a capacity crowd at a recent sporting dinner in Ipswich.

Sir Henry Cooper and Willie-John McBride were the big-name speakers at Archway Events' latest sell-out success at the County Hotel, Copdock.

Ring legend Sir Henry, British heavyweight champion for nearly 11 years, traced his career from its roots in London's Elephant & Castle area.

He agreed he was probably best remembered by fight fans for flooring Cassius Clay, who later changed his name to Muhammad Ali, at Wembley in 1963.

Clay was literally saved by the bell and Cooper failed again, this time with the world title on the line, three years later at Highbury.

But Sir Henry dodged the question of whether Ali was the greatest heavyweight of all time, instead naming him alongside Jack Johnson, Jack Dempsey, Joe Louis and Rocky Marciano in his top five.

McBride played 63 times for Ireland and 17 times for the British Lions.

He captained both and also managed the Lions on their New Zealand tour in 1983.

In a speech littered with amusing anecdotes, he surprised guests by revealing that he had only taken up rugby in his final year at school, aged 17.

Within four years McBride was playing for Ireland and the Lions.

He recalled with particular affection how he led the Lions when they rewrote the record books in South Africa in 1974, winning 21 successive games before drawing the fourth and final Test.

But McBride, who was only four when his father died, bemoaned a lot of the changes brought about by professionalism, sentiments that fell on many sympathetic ears.

Comic Aaron James raised the roof with a host of sporting impressions and a charity raffle raised £2,690 to be divided between Cancer Research and The Children's Society.


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