Question over Lewisham memorial to Sir Henry Cooper
BOXING legend Sir Henry Cooper’s death has reignited the debate over whether a statue of him should be put up in Lewisham.
The Bellingham-born boxer, affectionately known as Our ‘Enry, passed away on May 1 aged 76.
Ward councillor Ron Stockbridge, who died in January, had led calls for a permanent statue or plaque to the boxer, a two-time winner of the BBC Sports Personality of the Year.
He said in 2009: “It’s only right and fitting that we should have a plaque in the area recognising his achievements and showing the kids of today that great people do come from Bellingham.”
Speaking after news of the boxer’s death, Mayor of Lewisham Sir Steve Bullock told News Shopper he was “open-minded” about the idea.
He said: “We’ll want to have a think about whether there are appropriate ways of marking his passing and his association with the borough.”
The mayor added: “He’s the kind of person who deserves a statue. I’ve got a completely open mind about whether that could be achieved.”
Cooper began boxing as an amateur in 1949 with the Eltham Amateur Boxing Club, winning 73 of 84 bouts before going on to become British, European and Commonwealth heavyweight champion.
He grew up in Farmstead Road, Bellingham, and went to Athelney Primary School in Athelney Street. The school says it hopes to plant a tree in memory of its former pupil in the coming weeks.
Sir Henry was perhaps best remembered for two famous clashes with Muhammad Ali in the 1960s In their first bout he floored Ali in the fourth round with his trademark left hook - dubbed 'Enry's Ammer' - though Ali eventually won the 1963 non-title fight at Wembley.
Speaking afterwards, Ali said Cooper "hit me so hard that my ancestors in Africa felt it”.
Tributes to Our ‘Enry
Muhammad Ali said: “It was always a pleasure being in Henry's company. I will miss my old friend. He was a great fighter and a gentleman.”
David Haye, the current WBA World Champion, wrote on Twitter: "One of Britain's greatest sports man Sir Henry Cooper passed away today. A true warrior and great human being. Rest in Peace."
Robert Smith, the general secretary of the British Boxing Board of Control, said Sir Henry was "one of the sporting icons, not just for the boxing public but sport in general".
Sir Steve Bullock said: “Despite his fame and honours he remained a very decent , ordinary bloke who never lost touch with his roots and cared about today's young people very deeply.”