Tag Archives: Boxing

Top 10 British boxers of all time (part one)

Britain has produced some incredible pugilists over the past century, but who are the cream of the crop? In part one of this article Ken Irons gives the first five of his top ten British boxers of all time, focusing on numbers 10 to 6.

Nigel Benn

It is inevitably difficult to assess athletes of any kind when comparing different eras; the contemporary boxer has the advantages of improved fitness levels, whereas fighters of fifty and sixty years ago, in the days before multi titles for each weight division, had but one world title to fight for.

They didn’t, like today, get a shot at a title when they’d only had to undergo a handful of fights. Taking these points into account, I have done my best to come up with a fair assessment of the top ten British boxers of all-time based on a series of criteria that includes longevity and performances on the big stage; the latter one reason why some notable names have missed the cut.

10) Sir  Henry Cooper OBE KSG

 Heavyweight (55 fights, 40 wins,  14 losses, 1 draw, 27 K.O’s)                                                         

Cooper, otherwise fondly referred to as Our Enery’, was arguably the most popular British fighter since the war and, although he held only Commonwealth and European titles as opposed to a world strap, is still remembered for his fearsome left hook.

It was this punch which, famously, floored Muhammad Ali in perhaps Cooper’s most notorious bout although Ali, aided by some alleged sharp practice from his corner to give him extra recovery time, went on to stop Cooper with a badly cut eye.

9) Barry McGuigan MBE

Featherweight (32-3, 28 KO’s)

McGuigan, born in Clones, Republic of Ireland, and nicknamed the ‘Clones Cyclone’, was a skilful boxer and powerful puncher whose 32 winning professional fights included 28 knock outs. 

He won the world title and successfully defended it twice. His career was at it’s height during the time of ‘The Troubles’ (a religion conflict mainly based in Northern Ireland) and McGuigan earned tremendous respect and admiration from both sides of the political divide, not only via his in-ring accomplishments, but also by his heartfelt, authentic neutrality. 

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8) Naseem Hamed

Bantam, Super Bantam & Featherweight (36-1, 31 KO’s)

Southpaw Hamed, born in Sheffield, was a very exciting, if unorthodox fighter who packed a great punch with either fist, knocking out 31 of his 36 victims (losing only one fight in his professional career).

He held WBC, WBO, IBF & WBA world titles but retired at only 28 years of age, this despite being hailed by some as potentially Britain’s best ever fighterwhose only fault allegedly was a limited enthusiasm for training camp.  

7) Lloyd Honeyghan     

Welterweight (43-5, 31 KO’s)

Jamaica born Honeyghan, a supreme combatant, was responsible for one of the greatest world championship wins ever achieved by a British fighter when, in 1986, he travelled to the USA to defeat their seemingly invincible champion Donald Curry in 6 rounds.

He was WBC, WBA & IBF champion from 1986 to 1987 and WBC champion 1988  1989, although he famously dumped his WBA belt in a trash bin due to their policy of allowing fights in South Africa.  

6) Nigel Benn

Middle & Super Middleweight (42-5-1, 35 KO’s)

Ex soldier Benn, born in Ilford, was one of the most exciting fighters Britain has ever produced and the crowds would flock to witness his aggressive, barnstorming approach to contests, which resulted in many knock out victories.

He won world titles at both middle and super middleweight and had two epic battles against his nemesis and arch rival Chris Eubank, the first of which he lost, with the rematch concluding in a hotly disputed draw.

Check back with Kureen tomorrow for the top five and let us know if you agree with Ken’s selections or not! 

Written by Ken Irons

I have always had a love of the written word and have frequently, over the years, exasperated editors, publishers et al with my copious submissions of work. My highly advanced years I find a plus, as it means not having to research so much - I can remember it if it's in the last century or so!

King of Promoters – The amazing story of Don King

Regular contributor Ken Irons regales Kureen readers with the amazing story of charismatic, wild-haired boxing promoter Don King.

Don King

Don King was born in 1931 in Cleveland, Ohio. From a young age he realised that, due to his colour and lack of social status, he would have to fight hard to achieve his ambitions. The first of these ambitions was to become a lawyer and to this end he went to Kent State University.

Ever the pragmatist however, he was persuaded by his elder sibling to drop out and to join him in illegal bookmaking and the numbers racket, then a way of life in the city.

King’s aptitude for numbers and his phenomenal memory proved highly beneficial in this new, if shady, enterprise and he soon ran his own operation. Something, however, that Don had assimilated, both from his upbringing and this work on Cleveland’s mean streets, had instilled in him a ruthless mindset that would almost bring about his downfall.

Don King 3

He had learned that: you have to grab what you want before the other guy gets it; no one is going to give you something for nothing; and, if someone does you down and you show them mercy, then they’ll do it again and again. Thus it happened that on two occasions, in 1954 and 1966, King ended the lives of two human beings.

When the cases came to trial in 1966 it was established that the first man had been shot in the back by King as he attempted to rob one of the latter’s gambling houses. This case was pronounced justifiable homicide.

In the second case, in 1966, King was convicted of 2nd degree murder for stomping to death an employee who owed him $600. The employee, an unfit and weedy man, stood no chance when confronted by the 6 foot plus, heavily built King, who stomped and mercilessly kicked him to death. A police officer, who had witnessed part of the slaughter, was wholly mortified by it and later described the horror of seeing the victims head flapping from side to side, propelled by the bigger man’s boots.

The conviction was subsequently reduced by the judge to non-negligent murder and King served just under 4 years. He was later pardoned for the crime in 1983 by Ohio Governor Jim Rhodes and there were letters of support from Jesse Jackson and other influential parties.

In the meantime Don used his incarceration to good effect and read extensively (notably on Philosophy), thus helping to mould the intelligent yet verbose speaker the public would soon marvel at. He was particularly prone to classic quotations, an idiosyncrasy that would remain with him.

Alas, these were interspersed with regular malapropisms that, despite a fierce intelligence, he seemed blissfully unaware of. However, his mode of communication, an important part of which seemed to involve never answering a direct question when he could instead divert the questioner’s attention by rambling on to his heart’s content, served him very well in the practice of negotiation that his career ultimately demanded.

On his release from prison King moved into boxing. After working with an experienced local promoter, Don Elbaum, he made a crucial move when he persuaded Muhammed Ali to box in a charity exhibition, staged to help a local hospital for black people.

There followed, in 1974, King’s golden hour. All he had learned to date: the determination, the bargaining skills, the ruthless business ethic, were used to negotiate with Ali, Foreman, their managements, the boxing authorities and heads of foreign government alike, to produce one of the biggest and most famous fights ever – the ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ – Ali v Foreman in Zaire.  Vitally, a special arrangement was brokered with the Zaire Government to secure the (then record) $10 million purse.

King maintained his position as a major promoter throughout the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, promoting the likes of Larry Holmes, Roberto Duran, Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield, Julio Cesar Chavez, Bernard Hopkins and many others.

Always interested in music he also promoted The Jacksons ’84 ‘victory tour’. His other abiding interest – the cause of his fellow blacks – was served by his acquisition of an African American community weekly paper in Cleveland.

It would have been nice to think that King’s career was free of further problems involving the law. After all, his omnipresent towering figure, complete with spiky hair, standing in the ring flanked by the world’s best fighters as he beamed happily into the camera, was now a familiar sight the world over.

Nor did he confine himself to posturing only at his own promotions – on one famous occasion rival promoter Bob Arum was forced to clamber up the steps and bravely restrain King from entering the ring at Arum’s own promotion.

Outside of the ring, he had successfully integrated into society: he held an Honorary Doctorate of Humane letters degree from Central State University and had publicly backed presidential candidates.

It therefore shocked many people when King’s business methods came under serious scrutiny. He was sued by practically every one of the big name fighters he promoted for defrauding them: by Ali for $1.1million, Holmes for $10 million, Tim Witherspoon for $25 million, Tyson for $100million ad nauseam. Terry Norris alleged that King had conspired with his manager to underpay him. King settled out of court for $7.5 million, and conceded to Norris’s wish that the settlement be made public.

Don King 5

King’s normal practice was to settle out of court and thus Tyson was eventually paid $14 million, Witherspoon $1 million, Holmes $150,000 and so on. A particularly chilling example of King’s ruthlessness came with the Ali settlement; In 1982 Ali – who, it should be remembered, had kick-started King’s career by agreeing to box at the latter’s charity exhibition – had sued King for short changing him in the brutal Larry Holmes fight, during which Ali took a severe beating.

King’s response was to approach one of Ali’s old friends, a man called Jeremiah Shabazz, give him a suitcase containing $50,000 in cash, a letter ending Ali’s lawsuit against King, and instructions to deliver them to Ali. The letter even gave King the rights to promote any future Ali fights.

Ali was in hospital at the time showing the early symptoms of the cruel illness that has now taken hold of him. He was, according to his old friend, ‘mumbling’ a lot, however, he signed the letter. Shabazz later regretted helping King and it was reported that Ali’s lawyer was reduced to tears on hearing that his client had ended the lawsuit without telling him.

In a 1992 senate investigation into organised crime, King invoked the 5th amendment when questioned about his connections to ‘Godfather’ John Gotti. He subsequently deemed any such allegations as “racist”. The man who no less a writer than Norman Mailer had hailed as a “genius”, was characterised by Mike Tyson as “a wretched, slimy, reptilian motherfucker, who would kill his own mother for a dollar”.

King launched a $2.5 billion defamation suit against ESPN after a documentary claimed that he had “killed not once, but twice”, had threatened to break Larry Holmes’s legs, and cheated Meldrick Taylor out of $1 million then threatened to have him killed. The case was dismissed.

Don King’s wife died in 2010 at age 87. He has a daughter, 2 sons and 5 grandchildren. Although he has inevitably lost some of his strength and menace at 83, his ambition persists and he has made it clear that he will never retire.

Rather, he still plans and dreams of his next possible promotion and, of course, the resultant payday.

Written by Ken Irons

I have always had a love of the written word and have frequently, over the years, exasperated editors, publishers et al with my copious submissions of work. My highly advanced years I find a plus, as it means not having to research so much - I can remember it if it's in the last century or so!

Fight of the Century

In Ken Irons’ latest article he looks at the upcoming ‘super fight’ between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao, and discusses five other blockbuster bouts that never took place.

The upcoming Floyd Mayweather Jnr Vs Manny Pacquiao blockbuster, scheduled for May 2nd in Las Vegas, is already being dubbed ‘fight of the century’ and is attracting enormous interest worldwide.

For a non-heavyweight fight to be paying by far the biggest purse money in history speaks for itself. The lion’s share of this purse will go to Mayweather on a 60 – 40 percentage with his share, reportedly, a staggering 140 million dollars.

The fight was first mooted some six years ago, with both fighters then generally acknowledged as the best ‘pound for pound’ champions in the sport.
Mayweather Pacquiao
Mayweather is a 5-weight division world champ who has won 10 world titles, and Pacquiao an 8-weight division world champ who has also secured 10 world titles.

Boxing fans, impatient to see the two men meet in the ring, have had to endure frustration for all of that time however, due to disputes between the two camps over such issues as drug testing, promotional rights and the like.

It was therefore with some surprise that those same fans were greeted with the news last month that terms for the match had finally been agreed.

Although both fighters are, sadly, now somewhat past their primes (Mayweather is 38 and Pacquiao 36) this fact does not appear to have diminished appetites for the scrap.

Incidentally, Pacquiao has reportedly bent over backwards to comply with his rivals’ terms, including accepting the smaller purse, something which has been construed by his supporters as proof that it is he who wants the fight most. However, one could perfectly understand any possible caution exhibited by Mayweather, as his outstanding 47 wins, no losses record is now approaching that of Rocky Marciano (49 wins in 49 fights).

The great Rocky Marciano: 49-0 pro record remains the boxing benchmark.
The great Rocky Marciano: 49-0 pro record remains the boxing benchmark.

So, whilst it seems likely that Mayweather, should he win, would want to continue fighting, Pacquiao, bearing in mind his outside interests (mainly in politics), is thought likely to call it a day after the match, especially should he be defeated.

Both men are reported to be training extremely hard, with ‘Money Man’, Mayweather, always a stickler for fitness, re-introducing a wood chopping  routine which goes right back in boxing to the time of  Jack Dempsey and even Jack Johnson, and strengthens back, shoulder and core muscles.

Filipino Pacquiao, the ‘Pac Man’, is a non-stop puncher, capable of unsettling any opponent, whereas Mayweather is a fleet of foot boxer whose style has been cited by Top Rank chief, Bob Arum, as reminiscent of the classic American fighter from Sugar Ray Robinson, through Sugar Ray Leonard and Muhammed Ali.

Who will prevail, with 4 titles at stake, on May 2nd?    Will it be WBA (super), WBC & Ring Welterweight champ Mayweather, or WBO Welterweight champ Pacquiao? I’m going for Mayweather on points!

Whilst on the subject of the dream fight, it is tempting to consider what other match-ups would thrill the fans: what fighters – were it possible to manipulate the various eras in which they practised their trade – would make for contests to equal, and even surpass Mayweather vs Pacquiao?

If it is not too much to keep fight fans from drooling uncontrollably, how would the following encounters, for example, appeal if they appeared on the support card? And remember that all contestants would be in their prime when they stepped into the ring.

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1) GEORGE FOREMAN v MIKE TYSONMike Tyson pigeon

It is difficult to imagine two more destructive punchers and more difficult still to imagine the outcome. I would simply have to place my bet on the match NOT going the distance!

Alternatively, Iron Mike could face another opponent. So we could be treated to…

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2) RIDDICK BOWE v MIKE TYSONRiddick Bowe

This could perhaps be referred to as the heavyweight showdown between ‘The two Bruisers from Brooklyn’. Again, picking a winner would not be easy although Tyson would possibly start as the favourite.

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3) VITALI KLITSCHKO v WLADIMIR KLITSCHKOKlitschko Bros.

At the risk of upsetting the two fighters’ mother – who made them promise years back that they would never face each other in the ring – this would be a most interesting match up.

The two Russian giants have similar styles and physiques, but though Vitali was initially the more polished, Wladimir is now building up a superb fight record. This is another tough one to call.

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4) JULIO CESAR CHAVEZ v ROBERTO DURAN

Coming down in the weights, these two are multi-weight champions (3 divisions for Chavez, and 4 for Duran).

‘Manos de Piedra‘(Duran’s nickname, translating as Hands of Stone) was the ultimate hard man. This ‘tough guy’ image was however somewhat dented when on one occasion in 1980 he defended his WBC welterweight title.

The challenger was Sugar Ray Leonard, who he had battered over 12 rounds earlier that same year for that same title. Duran refused to come out for the 8th round, reportedly uttering the famous words “No mas”(no more).

Mexican Chavez was a hard hitter (86 knockouts in 115 fights), capable of delivering disabling body shots and he had a strong chin. I don’t think that the fans would have any complaints here about lack of action.

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5) SUGAR RAY ROBINSON v SUGAR RAY LEONARD

This final one would be my personal dream fight. Robinson’s name is invariably, and justifiably, invoked whenever the question of ‘greatest of all time’ arises.

The second, and junior, Sugar Ray is generally held to be at the very summit of ‘pound for pounders’ in the modern era, as against Robinson’s latter day superiority. As for picking a winner, I simply wouldn’t have a clue!

Let us know your thoughts on the Mayweather/Pacquiao contest in the comment section below, and please like and share the Kureen Facebook page, our target is to reach 300 likes by the start of June this year!

Written by Ken Irons

I have always had a love of the written word and have frequently, over the years, exasperated editors, publishers et al with my copious submissions of work. My highly advanced years I find a plus, as it means not having to research so much - I can remember it if it's in the last century or so!

Premier Predictions. Week Five

Another sticky week for Dom Kureen saw him defeated 6-4 by actor/muso Kelvin West. Surely the current rut can’t last for much longer, with a packed Christmas Premier League schedule allowing ample opportunity for a renaissance.

Pink Ganesh

In this Boxing Day instalment of Premier Predictions, Dom takes on the might of music journalist, youth educator and former Irish footballer Jonathan O’Shea, a man who speaks 14 languages fluently, three of them Flemish.

*All Boxing Day fixtures kick off at 3pm unless stated.

Chelsea vs West Ham United
Kick Off: 12.45pm

John Terry

Dom: 2-1
Chelsea were effortlessly impressive at Stoke during a 2-0 victory last weekend, with evergreen John Terry scooping man of the match honours. West Ham should provide a more arduous proposition, with main man Andy Carroll at last finding his feet (and fitness). The lanky sick note should give Terry and Cahill a headache, but the Hammers will exit empty handed.

Jon: 2-1
A blood-and-thunder East v West clash of cultures is on the cards at the Bridge. Big Fat Sam may have ‘diversified the brand’ this season, but will primarily concentrate on using his multiple big units to go toe-to-toe with Chelsea’s own beasts (Ivanovic, Matic, Diego Costa, et al). A win will keep Chelsea clear at the top and (come May) the Hammers can clinch a Europa League spot.

Burnley vs Liverpool

Dom: 1-2
Martin Skrtel’s 97th minute point salvager against Arsenal felt significant for the Reds. Unfortunate not to win on the day, Brendan Rodgers will view Burnley as the match where his team can place short-term crisis talks to bed. Clarets’ star man Danny Ings is always lively; the young striker could conceivably trade Turf Moor for Anfield next month.

Jon:  1-1
Will Danny Ings still be around by the end of January? Will Brendan Rodgers? I reckon the former will net a late equaliser to once again undermine the latter’s floundering attempts to rescue Liverpool’s stalled season. A vitally important transfer window awaits both sides.

Crystal Palace vs Southampton

Dom: 2-2
The Eagles are among a crop of unpredictable teams in the top-flight this term. On one hand they have bucket loads of flair in wide positions, on the other they lack any form of legit front man (Fraizer Campbell doesn’t count.) Saints were back to their best with a 3-0 slaying of Everton last week, but they’re never as penetrating on their travels. A point apiece.

Jon: 0-2
Palace, as their curiously-coiffed gaffer freely admits, are desperately short up front. The Saints, meanwhile, have many expensively-acquired forward options and can also cherry- pick fresh prospects, such as the impressive Harrison Reed, from their fantastic academy as and when they wish. Ronald Koeman is notoriously level-headed and will stay patient while his side grind out the win.

Everton vs Stoke City

Lego Robot Dance

Dom: 2-1
The Europa League has clearly affected Everton, with half of their summer acquisitions loan deals made permanent, inevitably that policy can promote stagnation. Worse still, key duo Romelu Lukaku and Gareth Barry have been far less effective since becoming full-time Toffees. Stoke are destined for a lower-mid table finish, remaining adjacent to the bottom feeders after this narrow defeat.

Jon: 2-1
It’s been a tough term on both sides of Stanley Park. Despite bringing the old gang back together (loanees Barry and Lukaku signing permanent deals in the summer), Everton have regressed. The Toffees real strength, as anyone will tell you though, lies in the wide areas – one of their flying full-backs will spring to the rescue here with a characteristic late penalty-box surge.

Leicester City vs Tottenham Hotspur

Dom: 1-3
Nigel Pearson currently resembles a toddler padding through quick sand, resorting to the same stale tactics and clichéd post-match diatribe week after week. His is a glorified Championship team, who despite early season promise are, by a distance, the puniest collective in the division. The Foxes will be totally overrun by an improving Spurs side – for whom Christian Eriksen has been a revelation.

Jon: 0-0
Freakish free-for-alls apart (the dreamlike 5-3 thumping of United) Leicester have struggled to create and score. Consistency, for Spurs, continues to be more elusive than Twitter fiend Joey Barton’s sense of hypocrisy. Erik Lamela brings to mind early-United era Cristiano Ronaldo: all slickness but little substance, while Christian Eriksen is the real deal and Harry Kane shows promise, but they still lack a killer instinct.

Manchester United vs Newcastle United

Newcastle Manchester United

Dom: 3-0
If this fixture had been played a month ago Newcastle might have fancied their chances. Since then Louis Van Gaal’s side have stumbled upon some consistency, in no small part aided by the return of Michael Carrick. The Toon have an injury crisis that threatens to suck them back into trouble – they should be fine once a few of the better players return, but until then it could be onerous for fans.

Jon: 4-2
Falcao’s Villa Park equaliser last week should be an ominous sign for the other Champions League chasers – with RVP back in full flow, United now possess the most deadly striking unit in the PL. Newcastle left the (Gallow)gate open while chasing an overdue derby win last week and suffered another bitter defeat by the merciless Mackems. Defensive frailties abound here, so expect six goals as a minimum.

Sunderland vs Hull City

Dom: 0-0
The Mackems won the Tyne-Wear derby in the dying throes on Sunday, as their Geordie hosts overplayed gung-ho when seeking a late winner, that was only Sunderland’s third league victory in 17 matches thus far. With both teams averaging less than one goal per game this has the potential to have all the hard hitting action of Pip Schofield interrogating Pudsey Bear.

Jon: 1-0
Having grown tired of ties, Sunderland finally seized the day against their reviled rivals and the sublimely talented Adam Johnson was the hero once more. Top scorer Stephen Fletcher will be the difference in this hugely important game for ex-Mackem manager Steve Bruce. Hull will have to get busy in the January window if they want to stay afloat (for evidence that Tigers can float, check out ‘Life of Pi’)

Swansea City vs Aston Villa

Wilfried Bony

Dom: 3-2
The overturning of slack jawed speed merchant Gabby Agbonlahor’s unwarranted red card against Manchester United provides a boost for Paul Lambert, who must envisage the former England forward’s presence alongside Christian Benteke as a key component of the Villains’ blueprint. Swansea love playing on their own ground and Wilfried Bony will fancy his chances against a ponderous Villa defence.

Jon: 0-6 1-1
Big boys Bony and Benteke will share the spoils here, after Villa customarily cede 79% of possession and hope to nick 0.4 of a goal on the break. Delph and Sanchez will provide some serious steel in midfield. By contrast, the Swans’ Gary Monk sets out to play keep-ball in every eventuality and has been richly rewarded by a high-flying start to the season.

West Bromwich Albion vs Manchester City

Dom: 0-2
The Baggies don’t often suffer heavy defeats, but have the stodgiest midfield in the top-tier, burdened by unimaginative workhorses. In the absence of Sergio Aguero the likes of David Silva and Jesus Navas have come to the party for City, who will leave the Hawthorns with three more precious points.

Jon: 2-3
Striker-less City were a joy to behold once they took the upper hand last week; with David Silva, Jesus Navas and Yaya Toure sparking off their unlikely foil, the ever-versatile James Milner. They’ll score again in the absence of Aguero & co, because West Brom are flakier than filo. Saido Berahino can edge back to form with another eye-catching display against a PL big gun, but alas no post-Chrimbo cigar.

Arsenal vs Queens Park Rangers
Kick Off: 17.30

Mathieu Debuchy

Dom: 3-1
Matthieu Debuchy turned from hero to villain last week, the right-back cum centre-half scoring his first Gunners goal to level matters at Anfield, followed by ludicrous marking that allowed Martin Skrtel to bullet home the latest of late equalisers. In 11-goal Charlie Austin Rangers boast a striker with the ability to disturb any makeshift defence, although without a single point on their travels and with the ancient Clint Hill/Richard Dunne in situ they’ll concede a few too.

Jon: 3-1
Expect: Arsenal to revert to swashbuckling type back at home, after travails on their travels. Wenger’s boys barely deserved to return with a point from Anfield but nearly snatched all three – QPR always shrivel away from Loftus Road’s tight confines though. Don’t expect: Sky’s Thierry Henry to make a brief cameo with a last minute handballed winner for the Gunners.

After four editions of Premier Predictions DJ Rees remains the front runner, with Dom just ahead of Kelvin West, despite him suffering 6-4 loss in their head-to-head!

1. DJ Rees: 11 points

2. Just Mike: 9

3. True Geordie: 8

4. Dom: 7.25 (average points scored)

5. Kelvin West: 6

 

Think that you can do better? Get in touch and you could be part of Premier Predictions in 2015!

Written by Dom Kureen

As a young rapscallion stranded on an Island, my time is split between writing, performing spoken word, wrestling alligators and delivering uplifting pep talks to hairdressers before they prune me. I meditate and wash daily when possible.