He's the toughest fighter I ever met - The night Henry Cooper humbled Cassius Clay

The first fight between the pair is regarded as one of the most controversial results in heavyweight history.

Arguably the most influential athletes of all-time, Muhammad Ali's name will live on forever.

Winning gold at the 1960 Games, becoming the only three time lineal heavyweight champion - his first reign being after he defeated Sonny Liston - and named the Ring Magazine Fighter of the Year on six occasions, Ali's accomplishments are like no other.

Bigger achievements of Ali's were outside the ring; protesting against the Vietnam War and refusing to serve for his country due to his religious beliefs; leading civil right movements for African Americans and a main supporter for racial integration.

Ali, the creator of trash-talk, was pivotal to progression in society made in the 20th Century.

The American - known as Cassius Clay in his early days - turned professional in the same year he won gold at the Olympics in Rome.

The ambition of Clay was clear - to become heavyweight champion although one man stood in his way of challenging Sonny Liston for that status and it was Britain's Henry Cooper in 1963.

"You need a King - I am King"

Prior to their grudge match in London, England, a young, brash and undefeated Clay was understandably the overwhelming favorite to topple Cooper.

His aim was to make easy work of Cooper at Wembley Stadium before turning his attention to heavy-hitting machine Sonny Liston.

"You've got a Queen. You need a King. I am King," said Clay at the weigh-in, who added "it ain't no jive, Henry Cooper will go in five."

Cooper, boxing's ultimate gentleman, was renowned for beginning fights as a slow-starter but gave Clay the biggest fright of his life in the fourth with an almighty left hook to slam Clay into the ropes and canvas.

Cooper - later awarded a knighthood in 2000 - had delivered his trademark left hook, 'Enry's 'Ammer'. Four seconds into the count, Clay got saved by the bell before being assisted to his corner by Angelo Dundee - something considered illegal.

The trainer then violated another rule by giving Clay, completely unaware of his surroundings, smelling salts after slapping his legs had no response from the heavyweight.

If Dundee had been caught, it would have been a famous upset victory for Cooper via disqualification. The controversy didn't end there.

A tear to one of Ali's gloves, noticed by Dundee, was the next issue the trainer complained about. After a quick glance into the torn glove, referee Tommy Little dismissed Dundee's demand for a change of gloves and ordered the pair to commence battle in the fifth.

Clay avoids upset in the English capital

While it was all wrong in every way, one must applaud Dundee for his innovative thinking in helping his man gain an extra six seconds of recovery before resuming in the bout.

The fifth-round was all she wrote despite the initial aggression from Cooper at the start.

The referee halted the fight with Cooper's left eye bloodied, bruised and battered in a pre-fight prediction from Clay. He did, however, earn the respect of a complimentary Clay.

"Cooper's not a bum any more. I underestimated him. He's the toughest fighter I ever met and the first to really drop me. He's a real fighter," he said.

Latest news