Daily Archives: May 2, 2011

Henry Cooper

To my generation, Henry Cooper was a real working class hero whose unaffected manner belied his status as a great master of his craft. Possessing incredible courage and skill, he was prevented from becoming world champion only by prominent eyebrow ridges that made his skin cut easily there. Sensibilities change with the years, and I now dislike boxing. But nobody could doubt Henry Cooper’s nobility of spirit, or the genuine warmth and respect between him and Muhammad Ali.

There is a scene in the movie Royal Flash, where the camera is in the place of an opponent boxing Cooper. Anybody who doubts the real skill of the sport should watch that scene. The lightning speed of the moving head, the bewildering feints. Not all the Rocky movies together demonstrated the reality of the sport a fraction as well as that brief scene of Cooper.

I listened to Cooper’s final defeat against Joe Bugner on the radio with my grandfather in his back parlour. The decision was highly unpopular and probably dubious – there was talk of low punches. But Cooper bowed out with grace, and represents a time of innocence when a great champion would go on to invest his little earnings in a grocery shop. Bugner, who had the physique of a Greek God, was to disappoint in the rest of his career by not punching his weight. I seem to recall my grandfather told me that this was because he had once killed a man in the ring; which should be enough to end this thread of boxing romanticism.

They called Cooper “Our Enery” and he did feel like just one of us in a way that sporting superstars somehow don’t any more. His death seems a break with a better past.

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He Who Lives By the Sword

Osama Bin Laden had perpetrated many acts of violence. Blowback does not only affect states; Osama Bin Laden was killed by his former allies, those who used to support and arm him. Celebrations of someone’s death are always distatsteful, but Osama Bin Laden dealt in violent death and died a violent death. Of course, he who lives by the sword is a two-edged observation; it applies to Americans too, and I am afraid there will sadly be further violence in the short term.

There are questions to be asked about why Osama Bin Laden was killed rather than captured, when he would evidently be such a valuable intelligence asset. There are aspects of the official story which do not add up. I have seen the photo of his body on France 24, and plainly he was killed by a head shot; if you have to shoot someone you are trying to capture, you do not go for the head. Secondly we are told that he could not be captured because there was a fierce firefight of resistance at the house; but that no Americans were injured. So not that fierce, then. Aside from Osama Bin Laden, only two men and one woman were killed – so again, hardly a great pitched battle. The building was then torched, destrying the forensic evidence.

If Bin Laden did not kill himself, or get one of his own men to shoot him, it remains open to question why he was taken out with a headshot in a situation where resistance had been so ineffective that no American had been hurt.

It is yet another commentary on the state of Pakistan that Bin Laden was living in a large house in Abbottabad – which is by no means a backwater. It is also a major garrison town and the headquarters for military and intellligence operations in the Afghan frontier areas. (By chance, James Abbott, its founder, is one of the Great Game players I am currently studying). I simply do not believe that Bin Laden could live for years in a million dollar home in Abbottabad without significant parts of the Pakistani military and intelligence community knowing he was there.

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