The Great British Box off.
Britain and Boxing have a very, very long association. We take tremendous pride in the gentleman’s sport and boxing’s roots are deeply entwined with our British History. In the early days noble men would stand toe-to-toe (usually bare knuckle until the Queensbury rules were established) fighting for their honour. It then tended to finish with a handshake and a pint afterwards. Nowadays British boxing has became more professional and competitive but the principles of fighting for pride still applies, which may be perpetuated by national treasures such as the Lonsdale belt. Currently there are 12 British world champions, which given the size of our tiny but proud island, only goes to show how much we still impact the world of boxing. Our magnificent history only makes constructing this list harder but I’m sure most will struggle to knock any of the following legends off my list.
Honourable mentions: Lloyd Honeyghan, Randolph Turpin, Henry Cooper, Ted Lewis, Bob Fitzsimmons, Tommy Farr, Freddie Welsh, John Conteh, Steve Collins.
10)Barry McGuigan-This man never left his opponent alone in the ring, not a second’s peace. Constantly sinking shots into the body which would eventually devastate his victims. One of Irelands most prized fighters; his fights were thrilling to watch. Not to forget his special victory against the Panamanian Pedroza, who held the WBA featherweight championship. Although it was a short reign, Barry’s dynamite performances seals his spot in my Top 10 list. Currently Mcguigan is still prominent in the boxing scene, mentoring the fellow Irish champion Carl Frampton.
9)Ken Buchanan- Tough fighters such a Buchanan don’t come around often these days. Ken was the only British fighter ever to win the American Boxing Writers Fighter of the Year – outperforming the likes of Ali and Frazier that year. Technically he was sublime, stamina was second to none, and he had a speedy stiff jab that his opponents could never escape from. The spring in his legs meant he was able to pounce on his opponents in a flash. He faced boxing icons such as the great Roberto Durán, but lost on a controversial low-blow with Buchanan being on the receiving end. However some experts claim Buchanan was beating Durán up to that point. Nevertheless the Scotsman will go down as a British hero.
8)Ricky Hatton- “Walking in a Hatton wonderland…” The chant that was bellowed by his devoted Mancunian fans, and would raise the roof off countless venues around the world. He was famously labelled as the ‘Peoples Champion’, and he still is. The build up before a fight was close to matching the fight itself. Outside the ring we’ve established what a quick-witted character Ricky Hatton was but inside the ring Hatton was an animal. He perfected the art of body punching and would leave you clinching your sides after just spectating one of his bouts. The stunning victory over Kostya Tszyu is a strong contender for one of the best British performances.
7)Prince Naseem Hamed- Not only a great boxer but a great acrobatic, performer and entertainer. He pulled in fans from across the world who would tune in to see his impeccable style and even more impeccable ring entrances. If it wasn’t for his unfortunate defeat under Barrera and short lived career, Prince Naseem would make it to the top of my list. I can’t help but find myself constantly re-watching Naseems fights, because they were just so exciting. One second the Prince would be down, and the next his opponent would be hanging over the ropes… Every second of his fights tempered with uncertainty. The Prince brought in many unlikely fans who were unaware of the sweet science and managed to change boxing matches into a spectacle, rivalling theatrical shows on Broadway.
6)Carl Froch- The ‘Cobra’ possessed a granite chin, which meant he could leave his hands low and rip into his opponent the second they took the bait. You could never write Froch off in a fight because he always had the brute power in his locker to knock his victims out cold- As shown against Jermain Taylor and of course, George Groves. During most of his career Froch was extremely underrated but once he retired the boxing community went into mourning. All that was left was watching some of his thrilling fights on replay and only now has the Cobra been given the credit he deserves. We shall never forget: He “knocked out George Groves at Wembley in front of 80,000 people”.
5)Chris Eubank- Exciting, dangerous and oozing with flamboyance. Don’t let the fancy suits and calm persona fool you, once Eubank stepped (or should I say summersaulted) into the prize ring, he transformed into a executioner. Outside the ring Eubank’s weird and wonderful character lead him to superstardom, which is one of the reasons he holds one of the most famous voices in the sporting industry. Similar to Froch, Chris had an iron chin and bucketloads of heart but he could also turn some of the hardest fighters into wobbly-legged dancers. A deathly stare from this man can leave you sleepless for nights on end, and if you haven’t seen Eubank striking his formidable pose/stare then I highly recommend you do.
4)Nigel Benn- Its doesn’t get much darker than ‘The Dark Destroyer’. He was ruthless in the ring and he only had one mindset: knockout. Amazingly Benn didn’t even start boxing until he was 18 when he joined the army. The rest is history. He fought and won in one of the greatest yet tragic fights of all time against the warrior Gerald McClellan. Never has an underdog replicated what Nigel did on that night, and if it wasn’t for the devastating outcome it would go down as the greatest fight involving a British boxer- it was like a scene out of Rocky. Furthermore Nigel Benn was involved in the most significant, famous rivalries in British boxing with the above boxer: Chris Eubank. These two loathed each other and it wasn’t just to sell tickets either.
3)Jimmy Wilde- This historical boxing icon is widely (no pun intended) regarded as the greatest British fighter of all time. The ‘Mighty Atom’ pretty much sums up Jimmy Wilde, for his measly size of 5 ft 2 he sure packed an explosive punch. But it was his defensive style that stood out- Timeless. He looked like a modern day boxer. Jimmy could have written the book on self-defence. The Welsh legend could find any faults in his foe and expose his opponents weaknesses in devastating fashion, which is why he holds the staggering record of 132 victories and only 3 losses. RIP
2)Lennox Lewis- Avenged his 2 losses out of his 41 victories meaning he defeated every man he shared the ring with. He dominated the heavyweight scene for over a decade. Lennox’s unique athleticism and intelligence combined to make a destructive knockout machine. His kayos against Tyson, Rahman and Ruddock were works of art, which could be technically analysed for weeks. Furthermore, no matter how technical Lennox ‘The Lion’ Lewis was, he still could dig deep as shown in his final bout against the boxing great Vitali Klitschko which turned into a quality slug fest. Although riddled with a controversy and questioning throughout his career, Lennox managed to rise above it and become one of the ATG heavyweight boxers.
1)Joe Calzaghe- A handful of Calzaghe’s accomplishments include: being the longest reigning super-middleweight in history, defeating Roy Jones Jr, Bernard Hopkins, Eubank, and Jeff Lacy (who was deemed as the ‘new Mike Tyson’), winning BBC SPOTY in 2007 and of course remaining undefeated throughout his career. His résumé is endless but it wasn’t just his achievements in the sport of boxing that puts him at the top of my list, it was his lightening fast hands and Welsh heart that made him the Hall of Fame and ATG boxer that he is today. Joe the ‘Italian Dragon’ carried many injures which consistently acted as an anchor during his career, he also faced plenty of criticism and doubters but despite all of this, he proved to himself and others that he was a true warrior and one of the boxing greats.