HENRY Cooper changed my life.
Well, Henry Cooper and my Dad.
As a sports-mad kid, one of the highlights of living was watching midweek sport on TV. Black and white and grainy, it had a thrill all of its own.
Carpenter and Alan Weeks, Bough and Eamonn Andrews would bring us Tottenham and Manchester United in the Cup Winners Cup plus Billy Walker, Johnny Prescott and Henry Cooper in the ring.
But eight-year-olds and 11.30 bedtimes don’t mix. So I would go to bed early, then my Dad would wake me to see the action, as no doubt countless other dads did.
Bleary eyed and yawning, I would watch Dyson, Greaves and Blanchflower under dodgy floodlights in Madrid, Law, Herd and Connelly in front of seething crowds at Old Trafford.
One of these nights Henry was fighting Cassius Clay, later to be Muhammad Ali.
Clay was loud and crazy and arrived in the ring in ermine robes and a crown. To us it was the most ridiculous sight, in complete contrast to Henry’s modest East End manner.
We wanted Cooper to knock the daylights out of him.
And he almost did with a left hook delivered with such speed and ferocity Ali still doesn’t know where it came from.
He was out but for the bell and smart delaying tactics by Angelo Dundee.
Clay recovered and went on to win.
Heartbreaking, but I can still recall the magic of those nights 50 years on.
Thanks Dad and thanks Henry for lessons learned in sport, hope and life.