No announcement yet.

The Hauser Report: Queen Elizabeth II, Henry Cooper, and More

  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • The Hauser Report: Queen Elizabeth II, Henry Cooper, and More

    Click image for larger version

Name:	Hauser.PNG
Views:	38
Size:	387.8 KB
ID:	21964

    By Thomas Hauser

    Queen Elizabeth II wasn't a boxing fan. But she did something that no other British monarch ever did. She bestowed knighthood on a professional boxer. Now, as the world celebrates the Queen's life, it's worth recalling that moment.

    Henry Cooper was born in 1934 and retired from boxing in 1971 after a 17-year career that saw him compile a record of 40 wins, 14 losses, and 1 draw. He won the British and Commonwealth heavyweight titles in 1959 and held them for a record ten years. But he's best remembered in boxing circles for a left hook that landed flush on the jaw of 21-year-old Cassius Clay and almost derailed the course of history.

    When Cooper retired from the ring, he was the most beloved fighter in the history of British boxing. Later, he was instrumental in raising millions of pounds for various charities. When the National Health Service needed a spokesperson for a campaign to encourage people age 65 and older to get flu shots, it turned to Cooper. His message - "Get your jab in now!" - was seen in print ads and on television for weeks on end. Health care personnel reported people coming into clinics saying, "I want a Henry Cooper."

    In recognition of Cooper's contributions to society, Queen Elizabeth conferred knighthood upon him in 2000. He is the only professional boxer to be so honored.

    My relationship with Cooper began as an outgrowth of my work with Muhammad Ali and developed a life of its own. We met for the last time in London in 2001 and talked over tea for several hours.

    At age 66, Cooper still cut a striking figure with rugged features and an aura of decency about him. During our conversation, numerous admirers came over to pay respects. He had a kind word for each of them.

    Speaking about knighthood and meeting the Queen, Cooper recalled, "You think you've got all the honors you're going to get. And then this letter arrived in the mail. I saw the return address - Ten Downing Street, which is the office of the Prime Minister. I opened it up and the letter said, 'You are under consideration for knighthood. Will you accept?' I showed the missus. She couldn't believe it. We were sworn to secrecy for seven weeks. Then we went for the big event. You're allowed to bring three guests, so I took my wife, my youngest son, and my grandson, which was what my older son wanted. It was at Buckingham Palace and no one does ceremony like the British. They tell you the etiquette before you go. You kneel before the Queen and she touches you with a sword on your shoulder. There's a bit of small talk. The Queen said to me, 'You had a long career, didn't you, Mr. Cooper?' I told her, 'I did, ma'am; seventeen years.' Then she shook hands with me. And according to the etiquette, when the Queen shakes hands with you, you know it's over. You don't keep talking to her."

    Sir Henry Cooper died in 2011, two days shy of what would have been his 77th birthday. Now Queen Elizabeth II has joined him in whatever lies beyond.

    * * *

    On July 23, 2022, Baltimore Colts owner Jim Irsay paid $6.18 million for a piece of leather-and-base-metal listed by Heritage Auctions as "1970's Muhammad Ali WBC Heavyweight Championship Belt Earned in Victory over George Foreman in the 'Rumble in the Jungle.'"

    The item description that accompanied this listing read in part, "Here we present the foremost symbol of that glorious achievement, the WBC Heavyweight Championship belt earned for Muhammad Ali's victory over George Foreman in the fabled 'Rumble in the Jungle.' Two Muhammad Ali WBC belts are known to exist, one in a private museum collection unlikely to ever see the hobby's auction block. The only other known surviving Muhammad Ali Heavyweight Championship belt on Earth is presented here. Like many of the greatest relics of Muhammad Ali's career that circulate the hobby today, this belt derives from the famous Drew 'Bundini' Brown storage lockers, their contents entering the collecting community in 1988 after Brown's passing caused the bills to go unpaid."

    Now let's probe a bit.

    Ali defeated Foreman in 1974. The Heritage description concedes, "The WBC first awarded belts in 1976, the midpoint of Ali's Heavyweight reign." But Heritage goes on to state, "It is important to stress that Ali's WBC reign began in Zaire, the belt a retroactive symbol of that achievement, as well as of the entirety of the subsequent rule."

    In other words, the $6.18 million belt wasn't presented to Ali when he beat George Foreman. More likely, according to Craig Hamilton (the foremost boxing memorabilia dealer in the United States), it was presented to Ali around the time he beat Richard Dunn.

    The second WBC belt known to be given to Ali wound up with his father (Cassius Clay Sr) who sold it to a collector named Joel Platt. Platt has established an entity called The Sports Immortals Collection, a Sports Immortals Museum, and a related foundation. But he has kept an eye on the bottom line.

    More specifically, Platt has sold shares in his most valuable sports memorabilia through a company called Collectable. Shareholders can resell their shares on the secondary market. If Platt decides to sell an item outright (as he could with the Ali belt), each shareholder will receive a pro rata share of the proceeds.

    Contrary to the suggestion in the Heritage listing, Platt divided the Ali belt into 42,800 shares, kept 30,000 shares for himself, and sold the other 12,800 shares for $128,000. The total valuation of the belt at the time of this division and sale ($428,000) might seem low in light of the recent Heritage auction. But consider this history.

    The belt that came from Bundini's locker and was auctioned by Heritage on July 23, 2022, for $6.18 million was purchased two decades ago by a collector named Troy Kinunen. Kinunen sold it for $358,500 in a September 10, 2016, Heritage auction. It was then re-offered by Lelands in a September 27, 2017, auction and is listed as having sold for a mere $120,000.

    This is the belt that Jim Irsay bought from Heritage on July 23, 2022, for $6.18 million.

    And you thought that the price of digital currency was unstable.

    Thomas Hauser's email address is His most recent book – In the Inner Sanctum: Behind the Scenes at Big Fights – was just published by the University of Arkansas Press. In 2004, the Boxing Writers Association of America honored Hauser with the Nat Fleischer Award for career excellence in boxing journalism. In 2019, he was selected for boxing's highest honor - induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.