HT This Day: May 23, 1966 -- Cassius Clay retains world heavyweight boxing title | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

HT This Day: May 23, 1966 -- Cassius Clay retains world heavyweight boxing title

May 22, 2024 04:51 PM IST

Champion Cassius Clay had a mixed reception and there was some slight booing from the crowd as he was shepherded to the ringside. The crowd chanted: “Henry, Henry”

London: Cassius Clay retained his world heavyweight boxing title championship when he stopped Britain’s champion, Henry Cooper, in the sixth round of their 15-round contest tonight.

HT This Day: May 23, 1966 -- Cassius Clay retains world heavyweight boxing title (HT)
HT This Day: May 23, 1966 -- Cassius Clay retains world heavyweight boxing title (HT)

After battling gamely for five rounds, a right caught him by his left eye and blood immediately gushed out. Within a few seconds his face and body were a crimson mass and it was obvious that the fight would be stopped.

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Scottish referee George Smith, handling his first world championship bout, first took a quick look and allowed Cooper to box on. This was the signal for Clay to lean on relentlessly, with his cutting, stinging attacks, as he kept Cooper on the run.

Cooper battled on pluckily, forced Clay off, and tried to get grips.

But Clay was too quick and before he could do any more damage the referee stopped the fight after 1 min. 38 sec. of the sixth round.

This was the signal for a pandemonium, within seconds the ring was crowded with photographers and well-wishers, and it was some time before a squad of police could control the situation.

After the first couple of rounds Clay danced around the ring with his hands held low, taunting Cooper to “come and hit me.”

This Cooper did and, as is usual with Clay. It might have been a dreary fight if Cooper had not kept going forward doing his best to land his much vaunted left hook. At one time Clay was back-pedalling so much that an onlooker shouted. “Give him a bicycle.”

But these were probably Clay’s correct tactics since he obviously wanted to down Cooper who conceded him eight years in age.

The night was fine and cool though black clouds scurrying cross the sky brought a threat of rain.

There was the usual large number of celebrities from all walks of life among the ringside spectators. Boxing was represented by former champions Rocky Marciano and Ingmar Johannson. It was also reported that Sonny Liston and Joe Louis were present.

Happy omen

Television cameras perched on a scaffolded platform in front of one of the two stands lining the sides of the ground. They were piping the fight to the United States and Canada by the Early Bird satellite.

Although millions were expected to see the fight “live,” only about 100,000 were able to watch it in Britain in addition to those in the stadium, there were 10,000 viewers on pay TV and 50,000 in 16 closed-circuit cinemas in England, Scotland and Wales.

It was probably regarded by the Clay camp as a happy omen when sparring partner Jimmy Ellis of Louisville, Kentucky, stopped Lewene Waqa, heavyweight champion of the South Sea Islands in the first round of a preliminary bout. Ellis was out-punching his man and after two minutes and 50 seconds referee Harry Gibbs stopped the fight because Waqa had sustained a damaged left eye.

Champion Cassius Clay had a mixed reception and there was some slight booing from the crowd as he was shepherded to the ringside. The crowd chanted: “Henry, Henry.”

Henry Cooper looked a little tense and pale as he skipped about in his corner. Clay was his usual calm self.

After the national anthem the glove-fitting ceremony continued and eventually the stage was set for the fight.

Clay, weighing 14 st 5 1/2 lb. had a weight advantage of 13 1/2 lb over Cooper who was 13 st 6 Ib.

Round 1: Cooper was first into action when the fight got under way 15 minutes late. He pushed out two left Jabs against the lively Clay chased him round the ring and landed a solid left to the body on the ropes.

Clay, dancing round the ring in inimitable fashion, with hands held low, suddenly rushed forward and caught Cooper on top of the head with a right.

Clay made good use of his long reach, to poke out snaking lefts to Cooper’s head. He was much faster than Cooper, who was conceding eight years, and just before the end of the round he leapt in with a left and right to the head which must have stung.

Round II: After a fairly even first round Cooper forced Clay to the corner and landed a hard right cross to the head.

Clay continued to dance around the ring but Cooper stalked him relentlessly, biding his time.

Clay’s speed caused Cooper to miss a lot, but it was obvious that Clay had the greatest respect when Cooper got in close, as he held on grimly.

Round III: Immediately after the start of the third round Scottish referee George Smith warned the boxers to break immediately when ordered. Cooper continued to box confidently and once when he got to close quarters Clay provoked a warning about pulling his man and punching.

Usual histrionics

After being caught by a right to the head. Clay was urged from his corner to “keep him busy.”

There were the usual histrionics by Clay but Cooper always had to be wary of those lightning punches.

Towards the end of the round Clay opened up with his big guns, landing rather easily with lefts and rights. but Cooper stood his ground, still giving punch for punch.

Round V: Cooper was still having difficulty in keeping up with Clay, and in trying to go forward, he got some of Clay’s jabs, but he was not deterred as he again got inside and pulled away to Clay’s body.

A left jab to the face and a right to the body followed.

With his usual wide open style Clay was sometimes an easy target.

Clay pushed out two rapid lefts to Cooper’s face, but took a solid right to the head in return.

Round VI: Shortly after the start of the sixth round Clay caught Cooper with a right to the side of the head and blood spurted from a cut on the side of the left eye. Within a few seconds Cooper’s face was a gory mess and the blood covered his body as though with crimson paint. The referee stopped the fight in the sixth round and Clay retained his title.

After a first cursory glance the referee allowed Cooper to box on. Cooper fought back bravely, chasing Clay across the ring out. It was obvious the fight could not continue and the referee had no option but to stop it.

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