By Calvin Palmer
They say things come in threes and in the past two days the grim reaper has cut down three legends.
Sir Henry Cooper was a gentleman among boxers and affectionately referred to as Our ‘Enery. I can still recall that famous fight in 1963 when he caught Muhammad Ali — Cassius Clay as he then was – with a fearsome left hook and dumped Clay unceremoniously on the canvas. Clay’s look was one of disbelief and incomprehension. It was the first time Clay had been knocked down in a fight but fortunately the bell saved him.
What would have happened if Henry had landed that punch 10 seconds earlier? It has been a talking point for decades. Would Clay have beaten the count? Even if he had, would Henry have moved in for the kill and knocked him down again to claim victory?
Sport throws up these kinds of speculations but the record books show that Clay won the fight. Henry’s weakness was that he cut easily around his eyes. Clay exploited it to the full and the referee stopped the fight with blood pouring from Henry’s face.
Henry was probably one of the last few boxers who epitomized the nobility once attributed to boxing. He conducted himself with dignity throughout his life.
And in an age when sporting heroes were not cocooned away from the rest of society with a millionaire lifestyle, Henry had the comforts of a man who had a made a bit but kept in touch with his roots. As with many heroes of that era, he was a modest man and that modesty won him the respect of a nation.
Ted Lowe was the commentator who brought the common man’s game of snooker to a wider audience, first with the BBC TV’s Pot Black and then his commentaries on the World Snooker Championships.
In 1985, 18.5 million viewers heard Ted’s commentary as Dennis Taylor beat Steve Davis on the last black in the final at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield.
His soft spoken voice was the perfect accompaniment to the reverential atmosphere in which the game of snooker is played, pierced only by the sound of the cue striking the cue ball and the chink as it hits a red, followed by a clunk as it disappears in a pocket.
Ted was famous for the gaffe — “And for those of you who are watching in black and white, the pink is next to the green”.
And yes, I was one of the viewers who watched it in black and white.
Finally, Professor Richard Holmes died after a long illness. Holmes combined a passion for his subject with his wide knowledge. He made military history come alive with his TV series War Walks, which covered the battlefields of Europe.
I watched his documentary on the American Revolution – Redcoats and Rebels — on American television. To anyone who finds history boring, I suggest they watch this series. It is compulsive viewing and Holmes’ enthusiasm is infectious.
Holmes sought to describe battles from the point of view of the ordinary soldier trying to implement the strategy and tactics of the generals in command. His goal was never to glorify war but rather to bring home its horrors and the sacrifices men made for their cause.
Three good Englishmen through and through are no more but each in their own way helped enrich my life and the lives of countless others.
Thank you, gentlemen.