Normally when British boxing legend Henry Cooper came to Manchester it was to fight at Belle Vue.
But in June 1972 it was different. Cooper arrived at Old Trafford to captain a team in the long-running BBC quiz show Question of Sport.
It was in the middle of the First Ashes Test between England and Australia – and Aussie cricketers Greg Chappell and Keith Stackpole lined up with ‘Our ‘Enry’.
Opposing them on the England side were cricketers Ray Illingworth and Geoff Boycott, captained by Manchester United midfielder Bobby Charlton.
As our archive image shows, the programme was actually recorded on the Old Trafford pitch. We’re not sure who won the quiz, but England triumphed in the Test match. They beat Australia by 89 runs.
Former British and Commonwealth heavyweight champion Cooper was no stranger to Manchester. He’d fought three times in the King’s Hall, Belle Vue, from 1956 to 1964.
His first visit, in September 1956, ended in an unexpected defeat by Sheffield heavyweight Peter Bates when the referee stopped the fight in the fifth round.
Cooper fared better in February 1962 when he beat American Wayne Bethea on points, but a biggest test came in February 1964 when he took the ring against Brian London.
The British and European titles were at stake, but Cooper triumphed by a technical knockout in the fifth round as London was deemed unable to carry on.
One of Cooper’s greatest bouts was against another famous boxing visitor to Manchester – the one and only Muhammad Ali.
The flamboyant former world heavyweight champion was in Stretford in October 1971 to promote Ovaltine in a local supermarket when the crowd went wild. He had to hide behind stacks of tins to avoid being trampled by over-eager fans!
Police were forced to move in and call off the event. Jokingly, Ali reckoned the experience was just as grueling as a world title fight!
It couldn’t have been as tough as fighting Cooper at Wembley Stadium in 1963. Ali was floored in the final seconds of the fourth round when he was caught by the British boxer’s trademark left hook, known as ‘Enry’s ‘Ammer’.
Trainer Angelo Dundee later admitted to opening a small tear in Ali’s gloves to delay the start of the next round. He demanded a fresh pair, but Ali fought on in the same gloves after repairs.
The delay was only around six or seven seconds, but Ali recovered enough to cut Cooper under the eye, forcing referee Tommy Little to stop the fight.
Dundee himself was a visitor to Manchester in November 1964 when he flew in to arrange fights for Ali in the UK. He was Ali’s cornerman from 1960 to 1981 and also trained world champions Sugar Ray Leonard and George Foreman.
World heavyweight boxing champion Ingemar Johansson landed at Manchester Airport in August 1958, just a month after taking the title off Floyd Patterson at New York’s Yankee Stadium.
Dubbed ‘the Hammer of Thor’, the Swede won 26 of his 28 bouts, including 17 knock-outs. His final fight was a win on points against Brian London in Stockholm in April 1963.
Another former world heavyweight champion to fly into Manchester on a promotional tour in October 1966 was Joe Louis.
Ranked as the best heavyweight of all time by the International Boxing Research Organisation, Louis made no less than 25 consecutive defences of his world title. He reigned supreme from 1937 to 1949.
In all, he had 69 professional fights, winning 52 by knock-out, with only three losses. Little wonder Ring Magazine rated him number one on their list of the 100 greatest punchers of all time.
Finally, Mexican boxer Manuel Ortiz made an unhappy visit to Belle Vue in January 1949 for a non-title fight against Blackpool boxer Ronnie Clayton. Our photo shows him looking sharp in training before the bout which he lost on points.
Ortiz was world champion from 1942 to 1947, defending the title 15 times before losing to Harold Dade in 1947.
He regained the title in a rematch the same year, but eventually lost it in 1950 to another regular Belle Vue visitor, South African boxer Vic Toweel.