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banner Saturday, 1 December, 2001, 15:42 GMT
Henry hits back
Henry Cooper landed one of the most famous punches on boxing history in flooring Cassius Clay at Wembley in 1963
English boxing legend Henry Cooper joined BBC Sport Online to talk about his career and boxing's latest stories.

  • real 14k Click here to listen to Henry

    Before Lennox Lewis' rise through the ranks, Henry Cooper could lay claim to the title of Britain's greatest ever heavyweight.

    'Henry's Hammer', the left hook that floored a youthful Cassius Clay at Wembley in 1963, is the most famous punch in British boxing history.

    Henry is now a respected commentator on the sport, and with Lewis set to meet Mike Tyson next April, his views are more sought after than ever.

    Cooper joined BBC Sport Online to answer your e-mails.

  • real 14k Click here to listen to Henry

    Christopher D. Searle, United Kingdom

    How do you see Mercer v Tyson finishing? My opinion is that Mercer is tough as old boots and Tyson has been ill advised to choose him as an opponent. Thanks Henry - you are one of the greats!

    I think Tyson could beat Mercer, to be honest. Mercer's getting on a bit and has had some tough fights, so I think Tyson will take him.

    Colin McCosh, UK

    Who are your top three boxers of all time? Who really was the greatest?

    That's a tough one. I think the best pound for pound fighter in the modern game was Sugar Ray Robinson. Muhammad Ali would be another one because of what he did and what he has done since. He was, I suppose, the fastest moving heavyweight of all time and had great hand speed and great leg speed.

    The third one is difficult. We've had some great British fighters over the years - especially the likes of Ted "Kid" Lewis and Jackie "Kid" Berg. They were great fighters, so any one of those two.

    Mark Cox, England

    If it hadn't been for the bell you would have beaten Ali which is obviously an indication of your pedigree - but whom of any of the heavyweight world champions do you think you would have struggled to beat?

    The toughest people to fight are the sort of guys who come at you all the time and don't give you a rest - people like Rocky Marciano and Mike Tyson when he was in his prime.

    Joe Frazier was another, he was quite short, and if you were tall the only thing you'd be able to see was the top of his head. Jack Dempsey was another; he perhaps lacked a bit of finesse, but he was a pure fighter who just came at you all the time.

    Andy Dixon, England

    Could you please give us an insight as to what your daily training routine would be for a fight?

    I always tried to train away from home, because that was too comfortable. I had my brother living in with me and we would get up at quarter to four in the morning and run between six and seven miles every day, whatever the weather.

    The idea of training is to get plenty of rest periods in between training sessions, so we would get back from our run at, say half past six, and then go back to bed for a couple of hours.

    Then we'd get up at nine, have some breakfast and be in the gym for about half past one. You take a lot out of yourself if you're training properly, so you need proper rest periods. After the gym we'd get home in the evening, have our main meal of the day, and then go for a long walk to let that go down. We'd be in bed by about nine that evening ready for an early start the next day.

    Derek Cross, USA

    Do you in your own mind believe you beat Muhammad Ali when you put him down?

    No, because obviously I lost! But the great shame about that was that I caught him with that punch too late in the round. If I'd have caught him perhaps 20 seconds earlier I could have gone to him again and landed another punch.

    In those days I very seldom let somebody off the hook, so I could have finished him off. Unfortunately the bell went, and he was allowed extra time. He beat the count, but if I could got to him and landed another punch it would have been all over.

    Ali had tremendous powers of recovery, didn't he.

    Yes he did, he was only ever knocked down twice and that was by me and Joe Frazier. But he was always game and he had a good chin. Having said that, if he hadn't have had that extra 30 seconds at the end of the round I think I would have won.

    David Bishop, England

    The profile of traditional titles such as the British, Commonwealth and European seem to have become neglected in the last 10 years or so (Frank Bruno never fought for the British title for instance, neither did Chris Eubank and there are others) while there are now too many 'titles' invented by spurious organisations that seem to get preference by the TV networks. Is there anything that can be done to reverse this trend?

    There is if people want to do things to bring about a change. As you've said, people like Bruno and Eubank will never be in the British record books because they've never held their own national title.

    I would bring a rule in that stipulated any fighter who wanted to fight for a world title would have to be their country's national champion. There are five or six governing bodies in boxing now, and you've got fighters who have had about ten fights challenging for world titles.

    I think that's ridiculous because boxing is a trade and you've got do learn it. You don't do that in ten fights. The national title has become cheapened. No one wants to fight for it because there's not enough money involved in it.

    The current British Heavyweight champion is Danny Williams. How do you rate him?

    I've watched him on one or two occasions and he seems pretty confident. But I think it's a sign of the times that most other people who you put that question to wouldn't even know his name, and that's the great tragedy of what's happening in boxing today.

    John Ryan, USA

    Do you think you would be able to compete in today's heavyweight division given that your fighting weight was around 190 lbs. Surely the huge increase in average size of today's heavyweights would preclude a fighter like yourself, however skilful, from competing in the heavyweight division?

    I wouldn't be a heavyweight today, I would be a cruiserweight. When I was boxing there were eight weight categories, now there are 17. Today's heavyweights are like big battleships. They all bulk up and put on weight so they can absorb punches. When you bulk up like that you lose out on good boxing.

    Paul Stannard, USA

    I shook hands with you at my School's Summer fete (Canon Palmer in Seven Kings) back in 1972.You come from a time when professional sportsmen were humble , and behaved like gentlemen. I look at the heavyweight division now, and it just appears to be full of crooked promoters and foul-mouthed participants. If a punch isn't thrown at the news conference, everyone asks why! You were, and still are, the best boxer England ever had.

    I appreciate that compliment and I also understand his sentiments. Unfortunately, boxing has got so much hype surrounding it now, and most of it is on Sky TV. Sky buys the airtime and they have to fill that time out, so they want all these extra activities going on.

    When I was boxing you were in the ring in five or six minutes, you started the fight and that was that. Now, the boxers stand in a search light for five minutes before they even move, there are firework displays and laser beam shows, bands and singers - it takes them 30 minutes to start a fight! If you look the fights nowadays, there's too many one-sided encounters and they all end too quickly.

    We had one round fights in my day but not as many as you have now. We had better matchmakers then, and more fighters. Now, TV companies make fights.

    Darren Wood, England

    Do you think Naseem Hamed can comeback from defeat?

    We will now see how good the prince really is. If he comes back and starts winning again the we'll know he's got a lot of character, but if he gets beaten again and calls it a day we'll know he never had it in the first place. Fights like that can make or break a boxer and we'll see how good he really is now.

    Will Holmes, UK

    What has been the greatest fight you have ever witnessed and why?

    That's another tough one. The man I mentioned before, Sugar Ray Robinson, was a five-times world champion at both welterweight and middleweight. There were dozens of great fighters around at that time - the 1940s and 50s.

    There were also a lot of Lewis fights. He was my favourite - I used to watch him as a kid on the old films and hope that I could be even a quarter as good as him. He defended his title on 25 occasions, and that was in the days when there were dozens of good fighters around.

    Adam Nice, USA

    I heard it mentioned that you were very susceptible to cuts, and that you tried several techniques to "thicken" your skin. What were these, and did any of them work?

    None of them worked because the problem was with my bone structure. I have very prominent eye and cheek bones, and they just took the brunt of the punches. The only thing you can try to do, as I did on several occasions, is to try and toughen the skin.

    Doing that removes the oil and the suppleness, leaving it very brittle. Old time fighters used to "brine" their faces. I tried that once or twice and it just blew my face up like a balloon.

    Sanjeev, London

    Your last fight before your retirement was against Joe Bugner, and you weren't too happy with the result. How do you look back on that fight now?

    I still think I was unlucky and that I won the fight by half a point. They had me done as losing by a quarter of a point, which in those days was one round. I think I won it by half a point, or two rounds, but that's all water under the bridge now. I had a great career, and I don't dwell on things like that.

    Harry Gibb (referee in the Cooper v Bugner fight) passed away a short while ago, and it was rumoured that you didn't speak to him for a long time afterwards, so I wondered if that bought back memories.

    I didn't speak to him for years after the fight. I don't usually hold grudges, but I knew certain things that went on before the fight (that I don't want to speak about) and for those reasons I didn't speak to him until about six months before he died.

    I was at a big charity show, and a friend of mine who was the chairman said that if I shook hands with Harry Gibb he would donate 2000 pounds to charity and get 20 from each of the 600 people present. I agreed to that, shook his hand, and we raised a nice amount of money for charity.

    Henry Cooper
    Answers your e-mails
    See also:

    25 Nov 01 |  Boxing
    Tyson wants Lewis 'tomorrow'
    23 Nov 01 |  Boxing
    Foreman's attack on Tyson
    21 Nov 01 |  Boxing
    Lewis closes in on Tyson
    20 Nov 01 |  Boxing
    Tyson's warning to Lewis
    19 Nov 01 |  Boxing
    Bruno tips Tyson over Lewis
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