By Terence Dooley
Billy Graham’s recent discussion of the 1970s heavyweight scene led to a conversation about the merits of Sir Henry Cooper and Jerry Quarry. Henry passed away on May 1st, just two days short of his 77th birthday, prompting Graham to ponder what might have been had both Cooper and fellow heavyweight Jerry Quarry campaigned in the modern day cruiserweight division.
“I loved watching Jerry when he was about 195lbs,” recalled Graham. “Imagine him in today’s cruiserweight division. He’d have dominated. To be honest with you, not many people would have beaten our own Sir Henry Cooper at cruiserweight, god rest his soul.”
Like many in British boxing, Graham was stunned when news of Sir Henry’s death hit the headlines last month. ‘The Preacher’ was quick to point out that the Londoner earned himself a huge amount of respect and goodwill during his 55-fight career, 40-14-1 (27).
Stating, “Henry Cooper was a gentleman. Henry wrote some nice things about me when Ricky [Hatton] and I split. He was always a great guy to meet. He’d have ruled the world at cruiserweight today. None of these current guys would have lived with him. Look how he acquitted himself over two fights with [Muhammad] Ali. Obviously he wasn’t in Ali’s league when you look at their historical standing but over two fights he did well against ‘The Greatest’.”
Indeed, Cooper famously floored Ali, then known as Cassius Clay, during their first encounter in 1963 when Cooper’s left hook, known as ‘Henry’s Hammer’, crashed onto Clay’s chin at the end of the fourth round.
Clay beat the count. His trainer, Angelo Dundee, bought a few seconds by pointing out a tear in the glove. The young American stopped Cooper in the next session and later successfully defend his world heavyweight crown with a sixth stanza TKO win over ‘Our Henry’ in 1966.
“If he had landed the left hook earlier, he’d have knocked Ali out in that first fight,” recalled Graham. “Ali admits that himself so that is good enough for me. Then Henry came into a second fight and did well until he got cut, he wasn’t winning but don’t forget who he was fighting. Everyone knew who Henry was, he was ultra-famous over here, making boxing even more popular than it had ever been – we’ll never see his like again.”
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