Sports News Without Access, Favor, Or Discretion

As keeper of Sports Illustrated's indispensable Vault, Andy Gray spends a lot of his time sifting through the sports photography of another time, when athletes wore short shorts and facial hair, and everyone looked vaguely uncomfortable. Here is one such photo.

Cassius Clay had two goals going into his 1966 fight with Henry Cooper. The first was to beat the Brit and retain his Heavyweight title. Second was to do so without opening a gash on Cooper's eyebrow, which had a tendency to drip blood like water coming from a faucet. After all, Clay was revolted by the sight of blood – his or anyone else's. Clay batted .500 on the night, beating Cooper by TKO in six rounds, but leaving his opponent a bloody mess. Edwin "Bud" Shrake describes the action:

In the sixth it happened. After Cooper connected with two lefts, Clay followed him into a corner, missed with a left hook, then slipped, lunged forward and clubbed a short, chopping right hand onto Cooper's left brow. The blood shot out at once. Cooper did not merely bleed, he gushed. The cut opened above and slightly to the side of the brow, near the small artery at the temple, and both fighters were immediately splashed with blood.

Clay looked stricken. Assuming the fight would be stopped, he began to retreat. But Smith had been warned not to intervene too quickly. Realizing he had very little time left in the ring, Cooper chased Clay frantically, swinging wild hooks, with the blood pouring into his eyes. At ringside Jarvis Astaire was yelling, "Stop the fight!" a shout that was rapidly taken up. To defend himself against the charging Cooper, Clay fired a few more punches, and the blood splattered onto ringside, but Clay had no stomach for what he was doing. Smith finally stopped the fight at 1:38 of the sixth round. Cooper had proved his courage and had fought very well. Predictably, however, his brows had done him in.


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