If you simply looked at the Boxrec.com entries, this first bout against Henry Cooper would not seem to warrant inclusion: Ali won by TKO in five, just as he had in fact predicted he would.
However, those familiar with Ali's career will expect to see it here. This is the night that could have ended it all before it had even begun.
Cooper was a tough, skilled veteran of the European boxing scene, holding the British, Common Wealth and European titles. He had a very effective left hook, as he demonstrated to the entire world on this night against Ali.
Ali cut Cooper early, but a possible lack of respect for the talent of the smaller Brit got him in trouble in the fourth. Battling gamely through the quicker of Ali's flurries, Cooper began to lock on target with his left hook. At the round's closing bell, Cooper struck pay dirt and knocked Ali senseless.
Ali went down hard and was fortunate to have the ropes catch him. If not for that, his head would quite likely have struck the canvas hard, putting him out cold.
Ali managed to get to his feet, but as can be seen in this video his corner illegally guided him the full way to his stool.
Ali's corner worked furiously to bring him back around. Angelo Dundee has admitted to having used smelling salts, a violation of British rules, and to having cut Ali's glove deliberately, to buy a few more precious seconds while he wrapped it with tape.
By the time the ref had called time back, Ali was once more ready to go and the shock of what Cooper had done to him caused him to focus in with deadly intensity. He unleashed a string of punches to Cooper's already cut eye, shredding the skin around it.
The fight ended in five, just as Ali had predicted it would.