Golden moment

It's 50 years since Henry Cooper floored the then Cassius Clay with 'Enry's 'Ammer. We recall a famous night and speak to Arthur Walsh who played a small part in boxing history.

Last Updated: 18/06/13 11:32am

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Thirty-five thousand fans paid ticket prices ranging from 12/6 to £6.60 for the privilege of witnessing Henry Cooper's challenge to the precocious Cassius Clay at Wembley Stadium.

But the fans also got 10 more fights for their money, with a number of relatively unsung undercard fighters unwittingly writing their own names in history by appearing on the famous card.

The first fighter to take the ring was a Haslingden heavyweight called Arthur Walsh - billed as Steve Walsh due to a promotional error - who was taking on Londoner Al Roye as part of a £1000 tournament sponsored by Boxing News.

Walsh said: "I didn't really get the chance to feel like I was playing my part in history. I was the first fight so I was really too tied up in my own thing.

"Of course we were all looking forward to finding out how the fight went. You could sense the anticipation at the weigh-in where there were thousands of people present and all surrounding him.

"Clay had been his usual self, yapping away to everyone, and they all loved it. He seemed like a nice man. Of course nobody gave Henry the slightest chance - they all thought Clay was a certain winner.

"I was back in the dressing room when they fought. I heard this almighty roar, and saw that Cooper had knocked Clay on his arse. Of course we know what happened next. It gives me some pride that I was part of that night."

Walsh lost a three-round points verdict to Roye, but returned later that same night for his second bout, which he won on points against a Leicester heavyweight called Mick Basten.

Walsh fought three more times in his career, finishing in 1964 with a record of nine wins and nine defeats. He went on to play a big part in the running of the Sharples Amateur Boxing Club close to his home.

Cooper and Clay would meet again in a rematch in 1966. But in the immediate aftermath of their first meeting, their fortunes would dramatically diverge. His victory over Cooper earned Clay a straight shot at reigning world heavyweight champion Sonny Liston, while Cooper was forced to rebuild on the domestic scene.

Cassius Clay (now Muhammad Ali), world heavyweight champion, is floored by British boxer heavyweight champion Henry Cooper during their fight at Wembley

It could all have been so different had Clay not gained the time to recover from the fifth round blow from the Londoner.

As The Times from June 18, 1963 recalled: "The gods of sport played cruelly with Henry Cooper, heavyweight champion of Britain and the Empire, at the Empire Stadium, Wembley, last night. They taunted him and 50,000 chauvinistic spectators with the hope of victory for 12 minutes' exciting boxing and then they turned down their thumbs. Cooper, his face a mask of blood from an injury by his left eye, was sent to his corner after 1min, 15 sec of the fifth round.

"Cooper lost through injuries by his fragile eyebrows, as so many of us had expected, but before he left the ring, his head swathed in towels, he had given quite the best performance of his career and sent home many experienced American observers conscious that here was no hollow British champion and here was no invincible Cassius Clay.

"Even many minutes after the gladiators had left the great oval, amid boos and cheers, we have to force ourselves to believe that we saw Clay flat on his broad back at the end of the fourth round, but to Cooper's everlasting glory, it had happened. A perfectly timed left hook caught the American with his hands low once too often and Clay went stumbling back to the ropes directly above me. His back bounced on to the ropes and then he came down first on the seat of his trunks and then on his back with his head resting against the bottom rope.

"He hit him about two seconds before the end of the round with a left hook.. Clay took one shot too many, and he still doesn't know where he is."
Harry Carpenter on Henry Cooper's left hook Quotes of the week

"The picture seemed framed for ever. There lay Clay and above him crouched the referee beginning to toll off the seconds. Cooper was in the background, eyes staring out from a face that was a mixture of white, taut skin and smears of blood. But it all turned to mirage as the timekeeper clanged the bell and Clay lumbered to his feet towards the shelter of his corner.

"In cold fact the referee had counted only one when the bell brought the end of the round. But the referee, Mr T. Little, ignoring the wave of cheering that burst around the ring, rightly continued his count up to four before Clay was on his feet again. But however short this high point of excitement for Britain there should be no doubt that Clay was caught and dazed by a good punch. Dazed enough, we can always hope, for Cooper to have taken more advantage of the situation if there had been more time to do so."

WHAT THEY SAID

CASSIUS CLAY:

"Henry Cooper is nothing to me! If this bum goes over five rounds, I won't return to the United States for 30 days, and that's final! I'm not even worried about this big bum. Cooper will only be a warm-up until I get to that big ugly bear, Sonny Liston!"

Henry Cooper is told in the fifth round that his fight against Cassius Clay is over

HENRY COOPER:

"We've got a little plan to deal with Mr Clay. We're supposed to be slow at the start. But we can adjust - we'll be ready to deal with Clay's speed. Clay is fast with fast hands. He's unbeaten, so he must be good. But he isn't invincible."

CLAY:

"Cooper may be ready for speed, but he ain't going to be ready for me - I'm the fastest heavyweight in the world - like greased lightning. I'm going to take him out."

ARTHUR WALSH:

"I was back in the dressing room. I had fought first on. I didn't think Cooper stood a chance. Then I heard this almighty roar, and looked out and saw that Cooper had knocked Clay on his arse."

HARRY CARPENTER, COMMENTATOR:

"And Clay is over... right on the bell, the bell has sounded.. he's up at about three.. that was the end of the fourth round and he hit him about two seconds before the end of the round with a left hook.. Clay took one shot too many, and he still doesn't know where he is.."

COOPER:

"I thought that was it. He was in a lot of trouble, his pupils had gone inside his head. Then Ali went back to his corner with his trainer, Angelo Dundee. He said he had torn one of his gloves. That gave him a minute to recover, which for a fit person, is time enough."

"They accused me of cutting the gloves. Can you imagine me doing something like that? There was a rip in the gloves. All I did was make it a little bigger."
Angelo Dundee Quotes of the week

CARPENTER:

"And something extraordinary has happened because referee Tommy Little has gone over to the timekeeper to ask something.. Tommy Little has gone to Clay's corner now to talk to them.. and I think Clay has got a torn glove.."

STAN COURTNEY, TIMEKEEPER:

"At no time was I instructed to stop my watch to allow for the refitting of the gloves. Therefore I waited until I got the signal from referee Little to ring the bell. When I did so, my watch showed that the interval between rounds had in fact been 1:40."

COOPER:

"People always ask me if I'm bitter about that split glove back in '63 but I see it now as just part of the game. I hope my trainer would've done the same for me in similar circumstances."

ANGELO DUNDEE, CLAY'S TRAINER:

"They accused me of cutting the gloves. Can you imagine me doing something like that? There was a rip in the gloves. All I did was make it a little bigger. They're hunting around for gloves and I'm buying my man time."

COOPER:

"I couldn't see from the eye. Everything was blurred and I have no complaints about it being stopped. But for the damage to my eye, I think I would have won. Clay developed quite a respect for me in those five rounds."

CLAY:

"Cooper is the best fighter I ever met. He's really a great fighter and you can't take anything away from him. He shook me every time he hit me."

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