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Boxing History: Cassius Clay vs. Henry Cooper

Why I Don’t Think Angelo Dundee Cheated

ali cooper Boxing History: Cassius Clay vs. Henry Cooper
Right up to the present day, Sir Henry Cooper claims that Cassius Clay got anywhere from one minute’s extra rest to a minute and a half extra after being felled by “’Enery’s “Ammer” in the first famous bout between the young Muhammad Ali and Henry Cooper. Usually, after Henry has finished making his claims, the T.V station he is on will then show us footage of Clay’s trip to the floor near the end of round four.

However, never do they seem to show film of the very moment Cooper speaks so passionately about. Without exception, at least on the television programmes Henry has been invited to be on in the U.K, as soon as the audience begins to cheer at the left hook and the knockdown it brings the camera switches back to present day and Henry’s beaming face. Why on earth do they never let the film roll and allow us all to see what Cooper claims to have happened with our own eyes?

We are supposed to believe that a badly shaken Clay remains slumped on his stool for as long as two and a half minutes or more while officials go in search for new boxing gloves. I’m sure every fan knows of the famous story that tells of the necessity for new gloves. Angelo Dundee, Ali’s corner-man, noticed a small tear in one of his fighter’s gloves and used this to his advantage when the hurtful knockdown came. He made the hole bigger and more noticeable and brought it to public attention. And then, according to Henry, an official made a desperate visit to the locker room area at the very back of a packed-out Wembley stadium in search of new gloves, thus the extra time Clay was to receive.

We are supposed to believe that a passionate and vocal crowd of Cooper’s most loyal fans sat in complete obedience as long seconds passed, each one further negating their hero’s chances of finishing off the loud-mouth Yank who had belittled him beforehand. There is just no way this fantasy version of events ever took place. There would have been a near riot if Cooper’s fans had been subject to the incredible frustration of having to watch their man’s greatest shot at glory being spoilt due to such a long break between rounds.

There is no doubt that Dundee worsened the tear in the glove but what happened immediately after is vastly different from what Cooper claims. What actually happened is this; Dundee tells of the need for new gloves, the referee then has a very brief word with another official at ringside who informs him that there are no more gloves. “Ok, then we’ll use these” says Angie and the action resumes.

The extra time Clay got? Six seconds. These are the facts and surely any interviewer on T.V, when having Cooper tell his story, could very easily prove to all that his recollections are wrong. But of course, such behaviour would be classed as bad form, embarrassing a British boxing legend in such a way. Indeed, Henry has probably told his story so many times he believes it himself now.

The bell rang for round five and Clay went out far more seriously than he had been previously that evening ,when he had clowned a lot and fought pretty much at his leisure so as to make good with his fifth round win prediction. Clay hadn’t got a prediction correct in quite some time and therefore wanted to do so against “This bum Cooper”. This is the only reason he got hit in the first place. That he carried Cooper as he did allowed the Brit more time and the overly cocky Clay paid the price in the fourth. If he’d been all business from the outset he would have despatched Cooper in around three rounds. Of this I am certain.

Cooper’s cuts poured like wine and the ref stopped the fight. There was no anger from the crowd at this time, nor was anyone talking about an extra long break that benefited Cassius Clay. This talk came later. Over the years the fight slipped into mythical status and this myth grew and grew. Amazingly, some people actually still buy into Cooper’s claims.

I had a very hard time finding a full copy of the June 1963 fight, with the break between rounds four and five intact. Upon watching it I saw , and timed, what happened. Six seconds, that’s all the extra time Clay got. There is nothing else to say. Cooper was beaten fair and square. Although to be absolutely fair, Angelo did break open some smelling salts under Clay’s nose in a bid to revive him and this was illegal. So yes, that may have helped his fighter somewhat. But absolutely everything else was on the level.

Some may ask just when exactly did the glove get torn? I have to admit to not knowing this. Some claim it was torn even before the first bell, others in the third round. There was a tear though and it came about quite accidentally, Angelo may well have noticed it before the knockdown, but with his guy winning without trouble then why bring it up? If the referee failed to spot it, tough luck. Hey, boxing’s a tough sport and if the tear helped to worsen Cooper’s cuts, then it’s the referee’s fault and his alone for not noticing the condition of the glove. Dundee was under no obligation to point it out.

As we know, there was a rematch and again Ali won. I could understand the long life of the mythological story from the first fight if Ali had avoided Cooper from then on, but this wasn’t the case. I’m just amazed that to this day, 2006, some people still believe Henry Cooper’s side of the story. As for Henry still telling the story; well, I suppose you cannot really blame him. It was after all his finest moment, knocking down “The Greatest”, even though at the time Ali was an underdeveloped youngster who was still some way from his peak years. Still, it was an achievement nonetheless, to put him on the floor, it’s just a shame Henry has to embellish his great moment with fantasy.

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