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1966: Cooper loses to world champ Clay

American Cassius Clay has beaten Britain's Henry Cooper in the sixth round of a fight in London to retain the world heavyweight championship.

Cooper's hopes of bringing the title back to the UK were dashed one minute and 38 seconds into the sixth round when the referee stopped the fight - a deep gash over his left eye forced him to concede victory to 24-year-old Clay.


"There were two right-hand punches but it was his head that did the damage"

Jim Wicks, Henry Cooper's Manager

About 40,000 spectators watched at the Arsenal football ground in Highbury, north London as Cooper, aged 32, fought bravely with his big left hooks to battle against Clay's quick footwork and fast punches.

After the fight Cooper was sent to Guys Hospital where he had 12 stitches for the cut that dashed his hopes of world victory.

His manager Jim Wicks, said Clay had butted Cooper with his head and should be disqualified.

Clay, a committed Muslim, has recently changed his name to Mohammed Ali.

'I am the greatest!'

The 1960 Olympic champion, famed for proclaiming "I am the greatest!", took the heavyweight title from Sonny Liston in 1964.

He was left unmarked by the fight apart from some swelling on the cheekbone under his left eye - the result of one of Cooper's best punches.

After his win, he went to Cooper's dressing room to see him and said: "I hate to spill blood. It's against my religion."

His manager and "spiritual adviser" Herbert Muhammed said Clay should be proud of his performance.

"It was a wonderful punch," he said. "The same one that broke Liston. It's terrible to see a man destroyed like that. I think the referee should have stopped the fight before."

In Context
Slow motion footage of the fight later showed Mohammed Ali had won the fight legitimately and not from a clash of heads.

The following year, he lost his boxing licence in the US after he refused to be drafted into the army on religious grounds.

In 1970 Mohammed Ali won back his right to box at the Supreme Court. But in 1971 he was beaten by Joe Frazier.

He took back the title of world champion in 1974 in a famous fight against George Forman in Zaire known as the "rumble in the jungle". He lost it again briefly to Leon Spinks in 1978 and then won it back the same year to become the only boxer to win the title three times.

During the mid-1980s he contracted Parkinson's disease as a result of blows to the brain.

He was voted BBC Sporting Personality of the Century in 1999.

Henry Cooper retired in 1971, became a TV commentator and was knighted in 1999.


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