In fact, he was a big softie.’ Cooper was also immensely private.None of the tributes paid to him last week told the passionate, personal story that underpinned the great sportsman’s life – that of his great love for Albina, his shy Italian wife.Sir Henry, whose death last Sunday at the age of 76 unleashed a torrent of tender tributes for the best-loved of all British boxers, exemplified the plucky Englishman, gracious in victory, philosophical in defeat.His name was synonymous with integrity, decency and honesty.‘He even carried her ashes in an urn with him if he went away for any period of time. Albina, who was just a little over 5ft tall, came from a village outside Parma, in northern Italy, where her family were peasant farmers.Unworldly and speaking no English, she was sent to live with a relative in London at the age of 15.From the age of nine, the twins began learning to box and at 15 they joined the Eltham club.
Cooper was a poorly educated lad who had been brought up with his twin brother George and elder brother Bern during the war on a council estate in Bellingham, South-East London.
There was something about her that made you tingle.
They were always giggling together.’ Although Albina made no secret of her dislike of the sport, she never tried to stop Henry doing what he lived for.
The former plasterer from Beckenham in Kent became the nation’s champion and most popular sportsman, even though he never won a world title.
He is the only boxer to have been knighted by the Queen – an honour he received in 2000.
‘Dad had no edges,’ says Henry Marco, a businessman who also looked after his father’s interests.