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Henry Cooper was class in and out of the ring

It's only in very recent years that Henry Cooper drifted out of public awareness, largely because of his age and the effect the deaths of his twin brother George and his wife Albina had on the great man.

But that's not to say that his death at the weekend won't have been felt in the great majority of homes across the UK.

Cooper was among the top five boxers in any division produced by Britain since the war - even setting aside his British, European and Commonwealth titles, this is a man who twice stepped into the ring with Muhammad Ali, the greatest boxer of them all, at his peak. But much, much more than that, Cooper epitomised the British working class gentleman. Decent, honourable, fair, modest, gentle, loyal, courageous - insert your own adjective here.

He elevated the condition of being a boxer to a level of respectability hitherto unknown here, through his personality bringing the sport into the mainstream of television and public awareness and the media generally especially after his retirement from the ring.

Our Enry and the equally legendary 'Enry's 'Ammer' - his prodigious left hook - passed into the hearts of the public with an ease that remains the standard for the acceptance of a sporting hero. Some like Bobby Moore, Bobby Robson and Frank Bruno travelled the same road but it was a route blazed first by Cooper.

In today's world of Johnny Come Lately cash and sex-obsessed sportsmen, where sportsmanship seems a weakness, Cooper stood for all the old values. The sad, self-defeating, unwise and usually unprofitable standards of maintaining your dignity and self-respect above all else.

Funnily enough, that's what'll keep his name immortal.

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