James Lawton: Cooper was a contender – Haye has never met one

Even on the apparently foolproof ground of a dedication to the brave and conspicuously decent Cooper, Haye manages to produce a churning in the stomach

David Haye says he will make his fight with Wladimir Klitschko a tribute to the late Sir Henry Cooper. A piece of hype, no doubt, but immeasurably less offensive than some of his material last time out when he was preparing to meet Audley Harrison and likened arguably the most egregious collision in the history of heavyweight title boxing to a gang rape.

He also said he would violate the fighter who had not so long before been beaten by a Belfast taxi driver.

Within the ropes, of course, the most significant violation, inevitably, was to the memory of heavyweights who fought contests which were not the outrageous insult to the fight public that each one of Haye's forays into the division have so shamelessly represented.

But then even on the apparently foolproof ground of a dedication to the brave and conspicuously decent Cooper, Haye manages to produce a familiar churning in the stomach. He points out that Cooper never won a world title and that this invests even more value in his dedicating of the Hamburg fight to the man whose brilliant left hook reduced the then Cassius Clay to such disarray he needed more than the statutory minute's break to recover and retrieve the most dazzling, burgeoning aura in the history of the ring.

No, Cooper never won the world title but he fought for it when it meant more than a series of fights which in Cooper's day would have had the essential appeal of a mugging down some dark alley. The Harrison fight was an abomination, an event so shameless that the most remarkable aspect was the willingness of the British boxing board to waive its right to withhold the loser's purse.

Cooper wasn't big enough, good enough or in possession of the right skin tissue and bone structure to win a title owned in those days by such successors to Rocky Marciano as Floyd Patterson, Sonny Liston and the Muhammad Ali who put aside his slave name Cassius when he disposed of the menacing Liston.

Cooper's colourful, knowing manager Jim "The Bishop" Wicks said he thought too much of "Enery" to put him in with the menacing Liston, but Cooper fought Ali twice, beat the American top-liner Zora Folley, before a brutal denouement in their second fight, and was beaten by Patterson when the former champion was coming down from the top of the hill.

Such is the thumbnail sketch of a man beloved of the British boxing fans, a man of unfailing charm and dignity who knew his limitations but was never afraid to go to the very edge of them.

Now Haye says he expects to be joined in spirit as he attempts to do again something beyond the reach of the fallen national hero. Haye makes his connection, and his gesture, on the back of four heavyweight fights which in Cooper's day would have brought nothing but the deepest reproach.

The first of them was against the ageing Monte Barrett and was the American's fourth of six defeats in nine fights. Then there was the giant Nikolai Valuev, whose inability, or perhaps it was disinclination, to throw a serious punch was accompanied by an immobility that would have made an elephant look blessedly adroit.

Next came John Ruiz, who looked bad a decade earlier when labouring against an Evander Holyfield whose mere presence in the ring had become a matter for widespread alarm. Harrison has already been discussed.

It is some credit to Haye that eventually he agreed to fight the 35-year-old Klitschko, a rare, serious heavyweight in these deeply diminished days. A tribute to Cooper which had a vestige of meaning would, it is hard not to believe, have properly awaited the outcome of this interesting development in the heavyweight career of David Haye.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Direct Mail Machine Operative

£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity for an i...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Accounts Executive

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity for the ...

Recruitment Genius: Team Administrator / Secretary - South East

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time Administrator/Secreta...

Recruitment Genius: Parts Advisor

£16500 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the leading Mercedes-Ben...

Day In a Page

Why the cost of parenting has become so expensive

Why the cost of parenting has become so expensive

Today's pre-school child costs £35,000, according to Aviva. And that's but the tip of an iceberg, says DJ Taylor
Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US