Greatest British Boxers of All Time

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.

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Pound for Pound Greatest of All Time

Honourable mentions: Ricardo Lopez, Roberto Duran, Roy Jones Jr, Marvin Hagler, Evander Holyfield, George Foreman, Lennox Lewis, Mike Tyson, Manny Pacquioa, Benny Leonard, Joe Calzaghe, Gene Tunney, Jack Dempsey, Harry Greb, Jake Lomatta

Before I kick off this list, I would like to begin by saying this list is based on not only the fighters accomplishments but their impact on the sport of boxing. In terboxing-legends-1ms of arguing that the likes of Floyd Mayweather Jr would beat for example, dare I say it, Henry Armstrong. That’s not what this list is about. Their place and position on this list is determined on the era in which they boxed, and what they achieved with the resources and knowledge they had available to them. Also combining factors such as their influence on the sport and their career defining fights which all dictate whether and where they make it onto this list. Furthermore, I’m sure many fans would like to see Mike Tyson on this list, however I believe that we can only measure someone’s greatness on not just their ability but their consistency. Mike in my eyes could of beat any heavyweight in his prime, but his prime unfortunately did not last long enough to be in my top 10.

10)Floyd Mayweather Jr– When I take a look at other lists, I find Floyd ‘Money’ Mayweather is often overlooked. But it’s hard to ignore his outstandingly clean record of 49 fights, and 49 wins. He was simply beautiful to watch; Floyd would outclass anyone, with his frustrated opponent not being able to land a single clean shot. Now the dust has settled and Floyd has retired, only now can people admire just how great- defensively and offensively- this man was. You may not like him outside the ring but you cannot deny his creative power inside the ring. The famous shoulder roll was practised to perfection, and it was so successful that millions of boxers acquired his style. For example Adrien Broner and Andre Berto… But none of them have quite mastered this method as well as Floyd. Because his skill set and boxing intelligence is just unmatchable. Mayweathers dominance in the sport and his jaw dropping defensive artistry is why he secures his position on my list.

9)Julio Cesar Chavez– One of Mexico’s most prized fighter, with a tremendous 115 fights to his record. It was like Chavez was from a different era, back in the day when fighters would have over 100 fights. But to have his record in modern boxing takes excruciating discipline, hard work, and a will to win. Only losing 6 bouts, mostly received near the end of his career does not damage his legacy what’s-so-ever, because during his dominant reign he managed to stack up 90 fights undefeated. Which is unheard of. A great boxer, who carried the pride of Mexico on his shoulders.

8)Sugar Ray Leonard– Sweet Sugar Ray. My word, what a boxer. His flashy skills and charm, great knowledge in the ring and out, makes Leonard arguably one of the best ringsters of all time. His ferocious speed and quick footwork meant he had the capability to out-box any opponent he faced. In my opinion he is the smartest boxer to ever live, which may have been one of the reasons why he was famously the first boxer to purse $100 million. Although he doesn’t have the stand out record to match, for example, Floyd Mayweather Jr, he fought in a golden era of welterweight boxing, and managed to come out on top.

7)Rocky Maricano– The hard hitting, unstoppable, Brockton brute gave meaning to the phrase ‘granite chin’. Rockys relentless style was hard not to like. He holds the perfect record of 49 wins, and against the likes of the great Jersey Joe Walcott. Muhammad Ali once stated that he would not be able to beat Marciano due to his persistent style and gigantic heart, and I believe that this goes to show how admired Rocky was as a fighter. Which is my he makes my top 10 list.

6)Willie Pep– His famous quote “He who hits and runs away, lives to fight another day.” Is the reason the Will-o the Wisp managed to win a staggering 229 times with only 11 losses. He was just one of them fighters, such as Sugar Ray Leonard, who was so smooth and made it look so easy. A ring General without a doubt. Similar to Socrates being regarded as the father of philosophy, Gregor Mendel being regarded as the father of genetics, I regard Willie Pep as the father of footwork. What a legend he is.

5)Jack Johnson– At the core of racial hatred in America, during a time of Jim-Crow laws, despite his colour, the legend that is Jack Johnson managed to tip the boxing word onto its head. Johnson was the first African American heavyweight boxing champion, and also was an icon of the early 20th century. The Galveston Giant would make his weary opponents suffer, as he managed to pick up the tempo in the later rounds. A master of being able to strike first, but come out of the tussle unharmed. Johnson was a true master of his craft, and because of the challenges he overcame, he goes down as one of the most influential boxers of all time. He paved the way for boxing greats such as Joe Louis, Sugar Ray Robinson, and Muhammad Ali.

4)Henry Armstrong– Sure, he could box you, but it was his work rate and endurance that would cripple his foe. You would be lying if you were to say when you look back on the historical videos of Henry fighting, you don’t envy those who were privileged enough to witness boxing at a time when it was not just a sport, but a culture. No sponsorships, endorsements, showboating. Just two men standing toe-to-toe fighting for their honour. Henry Armstrong managed to obtain 3 world championship belts at the same time, when there was only 8 universal divisions all together. While conquering 181 bouts.

3)Joe Louis– A new, enthusiastic fighter comes to your gym wanting to learn the sweet science of boxing. You tell him to go watch Joe Louis, and that’s exactly what all boxing rookies should do. The brown bomber had the best jab in the game, and was able to constantly follow up with devastating right straights. But it wasn’t just his style that was admirable, it was the fact that he was a shy, black, poor kid growing up with all the odds stacked against him. Making his accomplishments not far from heroic. Yet he was so badly treated by his home country. His famous rivalry with Max Schmeling brought boxing under the spotlight in a quite politically unstable time, however he was victorious in their second spectacle despite mounting pressures. A bout with such significance has only been replicated a couple of times since.

2)Sugar Ray Robinson– No words can do Sugar Ray justice. His undeniable knockout artistry rests upon his proficiency in timing, distance and rhythm. The term pound for pound was invented because of Sugar Ray. Even though his best years of boxing wasn’t filmed, what was recorded was beautiful to watch. Breathtaking. It’s close to impossible to argue against Sugar Ray Robison’s place on this list, and rightly so.

1)Muhammad Ali– Who else? Tell anyone on this planet the name of Muhammad Ali and instantly they will come back with words such as; Legend, God-like, Inspiration, The Greatest. Jack Johnson may have started the book on boxing, Joe Louis and Sugar Ray added to it, but Ali sure stamped his name in bold as the author. His lovable arrogance, charming persona, and passion for entertaining made for thrilling fights and even more thrilling press-conferences. Ali’s love for poetry left us with an overwhelming amount of both funny and inspirational quotes, which only give us a slight inkling into just how great this man was. He partook in arguably some of the best boxing matches to date, for example the Thrilla in Manila and the Rumble in the Jungle. His life story and accomplishments left generations upon generations inspired to stand for who they are, and commit 100% into everything they do. The Greatest.