Cooper was born in South East London. He and his identical twin brother, George, grew up in a council house on the Bellingham Estate on Farmstead Road, South East London, although during the Second World War they were evacuated to Lancing on the Sussex coast.
Around 1942, their father, Henry Senior was called up to serve in the war; the rest of the family did not see him again for almost three years. The twins attended Athelney Road School in Lewisham. The Cooper brothers were particularly close growing up and, in his biography, Henry talks of how they came to each other's aid when things turned nasty in the school playground. One particular incident landed the young Henry his first knockout in the playground. At school, the only subject that seemed to interest Henry was History
, where he enjoyed acting out scenarios.
Life was tough in the latter years of the Second World War, and London life especially brought many dangers during the blackout. Henry took up many jobs, including a paper round before school and made money out of recycling golf balls to the clubhouse on the Beckenham course. All three of the Cooper brothers excelled in sport, with George and Henry exercising talents particularly in football and also cricket.
George Cooper, Henry's twin, died on 11 April 2010 at the age of 75.
Henry Cooper is best known for knocking down Muhammad Ali. However he defeated a string of well known heavyweights during his career, including; Zora Folley, Roy Harris, Karl Mildenberger, Alex Miteff, Wayne Bethea, Brian London, Joe Erskine, Jose Manuel Urtain, Piero Tomasoni, Dick Wipperman, Dick Richardson, Billy Walker, Tony Hughes, Jack Bodell, Jefferson Davis and Gawie De Clerk. He died on the 1st of May 2011.