In 1974, aged seven, I had my hair ruffled by the hand that punched Muhammad Ali to the ground. The owner of the hand towered above me. He was a jovial giant called Henry Cooper. His face bore the scars of more than 50 hard-fought bouts in the ring.
An anti-boxing campaigner, Baroness Summerskill, famously surveyed those pugilized features and asked: “Mr. Cooper, have you looked in the mirror lately and seen the state of your nose?”
“Boxing’s my excuse,” replied ’Enry in his broad cockney accent. “What’s yours?”
Standing there all those years ago, I was basking in the reflected aura of “The Greatest” — Muhammad Ali. Henry Cooper was someone who had gone toe to toe with the most famous boxer of all time, and almost won. In 1963, Cooper and Ali (then known as Cassius Clay) fought a blistering bout in London.
At the end of the fourth round, Cooper unleashed a left hook that knocked Ali off his feet. Ali was saved by the bell. He staggered to his corner, where his trainer, Angelo Dundee, is alleged to have tampered with Ali’s glove in order to buy more recovery time. In the next round, Cooper’s face started to bleed — a tendency to cut was his biggest weakness — and the fight was stopped. The contest is immortalized by an iconic photograph of Ali lying dazed against the ropes with Cooper standing above him.
Boxing makes its own mythology. At the same time that I was meeting Henry Cooper in Kenya, my childhood home, Muhammad Ali was preparing for the fight of his life on the other side of the African continent in Zaire. In what became known as the “Rumble in the Jungle,” Ali endured a battering from George Foreman before felling his opponent with a sudden blizzard of punches. It ranks as one of the all-time great moments in the history of world sport.
I celebrated that electrifying turnaround, and continued to idolize Ali. But now, looking back, the Rumble in the Jungle is also indicative of the tawdry side of boxing. The fight was promoted by ex-con Don King, and was funded to the tune of $10 million by Zaire’s tyrannical dictator, Mobutu Sese Seko. The long-term physical cost of Ali’s celebrated “rope-a-dope” tactics (in which he stood against the ropes and absorbed every punch that Foreman threw at him) is plain to see. Suffering from a form of Parkinson’s Disease caused by his career in the ring, Ali is now a shadow of his former self.
Boxing ought to be one of the purest of sports: two men, evenly matched, fighting honestly until the victor prevails. In reality, modern professional boxing has degenerated into a politicized quagmire of rival governing bodies (dozens of organizations claim ownership of the sport), cynically marketed fights in which the box-office value of the fighters is more important than their sporting prowess, and the stench of corruption.
Added to that, there is the alarming statistic that three-quarters of professional boxers who have had 20 or more fights end up with permanent brain damage.
Should boxing be banned? It’s probably only a matter of time. Already there are signs that the sport is in decline. There was a time when everyone could name the reigning heavyweight world champion. Can you name him now? (It’s a trick question. Thanks to the abundance of governing bodies, there are at least four: two Russians, a Ukrainian and an Uzbek).
“What do you want to be when you grow up, son?” Henry Cooper asked me.
“A boxer or a writer,” I told him.
“Stick to writing,” he advised.
It’s the best piece of advice I’ve ever been given.
Experience the best of Italy with the new 10-day City and Coast Getaway. Travelers begin their trip with a luxury stay at Sofitel Rome Villa Borghese before moving onto Abruzzo’s Castello Di Semivicoli.
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National Rum Day is right around the corner on Aug.16, meaning it’s time to start planning your celebration. Sandals Resorts, the all-inclusive Caribbean resort company, shares recipes from mixologists, allowing rum fans to celebrate as if they are staying on property.
Until Aug. 21, catch the museum premier of Bonnie Lautenberg: Art Meets Hollywood at Boca Raton Museum of Art. After learning one of the large-scale red paintings created by artist Lucio Fontana was the result of his viewing of the 1964 film Red Desert (directed by Michelangelo Antonioni), Lautenberg set out to discover other instances where filmmakers and artists knowingly — or perhaps unknowingly — had an effect on one another’s work.
United Airlines remains firmly committed toward sustainability in aviation. The latest development in its eco-conscious goals includes working with Oxy Low Carbon Ventures to commercialize the production of sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) with biotech firm Cemvita Factory. Cemvita looks to develop a revolutionary new way to produce SAF by using carbon dioxide and synthetic microbes. Additionally, United Airlines Ventures (UAV) recently announced an equity investment in Fulcrum, and United has invested more in SAF production than any other airline in the world.
Vacations providing travelers with opportunities to improve their mental and physical wellbeing continues to rise in demand as more and more hotels and resorts create offerings centered around wellbeing. ‘Alohilani Resort Waikiki Beach, a resort boasting programming paying homage to Hawai’i’s rich culture and heritage, recently debuted a variety of new offerings focused on cultural experiences and holistic wellness.
Red Rock Casino Resort and Spa in Summerlin, Las Vegas, recently announced plans to completely transform its dining space, entertainment offerings and gaming experiences with new additions. Currently underway, new concepts like the famed Thai restaurant Lotus of Siam and the new Greek restaurant Naxos Taverna will soon join the resort.
Global business travel is making its way back, even as the pandemic and other world events continue to challenge its return. In a recent poll from the Global Business Travel Association, more than four in five respondents (86 percent) from across the industry said they feel more optimistic than they did at the beginning of the year. Business travel bookings, the need to travel to do business and employee willingness to travel are all on the rise.
Scenic Group launched its Second Guest Sail Free offer on a variety of ocean and river cruises on both the Scenic and Emerald Cruises lines. This new offer applies to all Europe and Asia river cruise departures through June 30, 2023.