As part of our campaign to honour Sir Henry Cooper in Lewisham, MARK CHANDLER and KELLY SMALE look at the boxing club where he learned the ropes.

THOSE who trained him years ago may be long gone, but the influence of Sir Henry is still strong in this corner of south-east London.

Sir Henry left school at 15 and, along with twin brother George, joined the Eltham and District Amateur Boxing Club.

In his later life, the boxer remembered Eltham as providing a brutal education, leaving him battered by schoolboys a stone lighter.

But it was that ring where, under the guidance of trainer George Page, the teenager learned the discipline needed to master the sport.

Ryan Barrett, who now helps run the Bexley Road club with dad Steve, said: “He was a top class man.

“He should be remembered for everything he did in the boxing world.

“He fought all the best fighters around. He was good for the sport and the community.”

News Shopper: The boxing club Mr Barrett agreed that a statue would provide a fitting tribute, saying:“For kids to look up to, why not someone who boxed at the highest level?

“There are not many people who can say they achieved what he had.”

Sir Henry reached a turning point in 1951 when he beat national police champ PC Trevillion in four rounds. By the time he left the club, Cooper had won 73 out of 84 amateur bouts.

There may only be a few photos in the gym of its most famous member, but Mr Barrett said the tradition is still being kept alive with around 40 fighters of all ages on its books.

He said: “The club is very good and very healthy. We have had a lot of champions over recent years.

“Kids of all shapes, sizes, colours, ages and backgrounds come here.

“Some of them could be causing trouble on the streets but they are here three of four times a week instead.”

Classic Cooper

Cooper’s first battle against Cassius Clay in 1963 is regarded as the classic fight of his career.

Only 21 but already with an astonishing ego, Clay had promised the non-title fight at Wembley Stadium would be “an annihilation”, calling Cooper a “bum”, and wearing a crown into the ring.

Cooper responded by flying out his corner when the fight began and catching Clay with two mighty lefts.

But it was the fourth round that has gone into legend, as the Brit launched ‘Enry’s ‘Ammer - his signature left hook - sending Clay sprawling backwards through the ropes.

The round ended but, thanks to smelling salts and extra time to deal with a torn glove, Clay was able to recover.

Cooper was then left bloody and battered as Clay worked on the Brit’s cut eye. The fight was stopped in the fifth round.

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