Michael Rosenthal

Haye, Khan pay tribute to Sir Henry

Britain's two most-successful and high-profile current titleholders, David Haye and Amir Khan, have led the chorus of tributes pouring in for Sir Henry Cooper, who died on Sunday age 76.

It is a measure of Cooper's ever-lasting impact on the sport that when he was producing his most famous punch of all — a left upper cut that floored the then-named Cassius Clay in 1963 — neither Haye or Khan were born.

Yet both have hailed Cooper, who was knighted in 2000, as an inspirational figure to every British fighter of the last 40 years and acknowledged the significant part he played in their own rise in the ring.

"Sir Henry would let you know his opinion — even if you didn't want to hear it!” said Haye, a reigning heavyweight titleholder. "He'd always be telling you, 'Keep those hands up,' or saying, 'You've got to go and fight the best out there.’”

"I believe the advice he gave me over the years worked out great for me because I am now the heavyweight champion of the world."

Those sentiments were echoed by Khan, the junior welterweight titleholder.

"Sir Henry had a lot of influence on my career and on most other British fighters' careers,” he said.  "We all remember him as great champion and also as a great role model for world and British boxing. He was just such a great face, both inside and outside the ring.To be able to speak with Sir Henry Cooper was just so good because of his great experience and the career he had.

"He had some big, big fights. I've watched the video of his Ali match, and what a fight that was. I don't think we’ve had another heavyweight like him since, and that's down to the way he carried himself and the respect he showed for everyone."

Despite his legendary reputation, Cooper, who twice lost to Muhammad Ali, never lifted the world heavyweight title. Instead, he had to settle for British, European and Commonwealth belts.

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