Tag Archives: British

Top 10 British boxers of all time (Part Two)

In the first part of Ken Irons’ article he revealed the first half of his top ten British boxers of all time, this time we find out who made the top five (and more importantly the number one slot!)  So who did our man at ringside feel were the premier pugilists from the land of the Rose? Read on and find out…

5) Chris Eubank 

Middle & Super Middleweight (45-5-2, 23 KO’s)

London born Eubank moved, in his teens, to New York, where he eventually fought off drug, alcohol and shop lifting dependencies when he took up boxing. 

On his return to the U.K. he was undefeated world middleweight champion for over five years and unbeaten in all fights in his first ten years as a pro.

His lisping drawl, eccentric attire and foppish attitude antagonised some (including arch adversary Nigel Benn) but masked a steely character.

 4) Carl Froch

Super Middleweight (33-2, 24 KO’s)

Froch, from Nottingham, is generally regarded as the best pound for pound British fighter currently plying his trade.

Nicknamed ‘The Cobra’, the 38 year-old has won 33 of his fights (24 knock outs) and suffered his only defeats by decision, with a record of 9–2 in world title fights, four victories being by knock out.

 –

3) John Conteh           

Light Heavyweight (34-4-1, 23 KO’s)

Aged only 19 Lancastrian Conteh won a gold medal at middleweight in the 1970 Olympics.

On turning professional he won the WBC light heavyweight crown in 1974 and held it until 1977. He retired in 1980 with a record of 34 wins, 4 losses and a solitary draw.

Regrettably he was another superbly talented fighter who could have done better still had it not been for an alleged penchant for the high life.

 –

2) Joe Calzaghe CBE

Super Middleweight (46-0, 32 KO’s)

British Lionhearts v Italia Thunder - World Series of Boxing

Welsh southpaw Calzaghe held WBO, WBA WBC & IBF super middle titles and is the longest reigning super middle champion in history, retiring undefeated in 2009.

His popularity has since resulted in appearances on national TV shows, while a perfect professional record of 46-0 is one of the finest in the history of elite level sparring, trumped only by Rocky Marciano (49-0) and Floyd Mayweather Jr (47-0).      

– 

1) Lennox Lewis CM, CBE

Heavyweight (41-2-1, 32 KO’s)

Born in West Ham, Lewis moved to Canada in childhood but retains dual nationality. At 6 feet 5 inches and around 17 stone, easy going, chess playing Lewis was a supreme boxer with a knock out punch in either hand.

He held the undisputed world title and never ducked a fight in an era (nineties) when there were plenty of dangerous fighters around, such as Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield and Vitali Klitschko (all of whom Lewis subjugated.)

His only professional defeats were duly and emphatically avenged in resultant re-matches.

What do you think of Ken’s choices? Should Ricky Hatton have made the cut? How about Frank Bruno or Herbie Hyde (ok, the last one might be a joke!)

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!

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. 

 –

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!

Will Konta Be Queen of Melbourne?

Johanna Konta’s path to the semi-finals of the Australian Open is blocked by a woman who, in the words of the British number one, is on an even “more incredible journey” than she is. Dom Kureen takes a look at what lies ahead for the woman blazing a British tennis trail.

 

 

Born in Sydney in 1991, Johanna Konta relocated with her family to Eastbourne in 2005, at the age of 14 (only gaining British citizenship in 2012). Now she is set to become the first British woman to contest a Grand Slam quarter-final for 32 years when she takes on Chinese qualifier Zhang Shuai on Rod Laver Arena later today.

Having beaten seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams in straight sets in the opening round, Konta held her nerve over three hours and four minutes to defeat brilliant Russian Ekaterina Makarove 8-6 in the decisive third set of their fourth-round match.

 

Underachiever to contender

This time last year Konta slumped to number 147 in the world rankings following a straight sets loss in the first round of qualifying in Melbourne. The following month took her to Arizona and California, where she earned just over £700 in two tournaments on the second-tier ITF circuit.

Victory over Zhang would place her inside the world’s top 30 for the first time, a position that guarantees seeding for all of the majors.

The work she has done with mental coach Juan Coto has been well documented, but the 24-year-old has also made technical adjustments to her game.

 

On the other side of the net

Her next opponent Zhang has previously reached the top 30 herself, although a dismal reversal of fortunes in 2015 saw her drop outside the top 100 by the end of last season. This, coupled with a Grand Slam record of 0-14, the worst of anyone inside the top 300, meant that she was given little chance of progressing beyond the first round again this time.

Aged 27 and seemingly going nowhere, she considered retiring to open a coffee shop before opting to devote another year to her career on the WTA circuit.

It was no surprise to her when she was paired with second seed Simona Halep in round one.

“Before the draw, I already guessed I would play Halep, because all the time I play the top players,” the 27-year-old told Kureen.

But, for once, a bad draw was not followed by a Grand Slam defeat. In the first Tuesday night session on Margaret Court Arena, the qualifier ranked 133 in the world won 6-4 6-3.

Konta

Konta is just over two years Zhang’s junior, but her career seems to be barely approaching its zenith.

“Eat, sleep, repeat,” is her mantra as she prepares for an Australian Open quarter-final that seemed totally inconceivable 12 months ago.

Fellow Briton Andy Murray also plays in the quarter-finals in Melbourne later today, against veteran Spaniard David Ferrer.

The 28-year-old Scot offered some advice for Konta as she aims to continue her unlikely run by reaching the last four.

“She’s just got to keep doing what she’s doing. Keep her head down, keep working hard, stay calm,” said Murray, who has reached the final four times previously.

“She’s doing great. To back up what she was doing at the end of last year was fantastic reward for all of the hard work she has put in”

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.

50 Greatest British sports stars of all-time: 20-11

In this penultimate instalment of the series, Kureen gracefully glides towards the upper echelon of the British sporting elite.

To view the first three parts click on the links below;
50-4140-3130-21

20: Sir Walter HammondWalter Hammond

A world-class batsman, inspirational captain, brilliant fielder and tidy, albeit reluctant, medium paced bowler, Hammond appeared in 85 Test matches, compiling an at the time Test record individual score of 336 not out, despite losing years of his career to the second World War.

In addition to his cricketing prowess, Hammond made a handful of appearance as right winger for Bristol Rovers, but in spite of his obvious footballing talent only had eyes for cricket. A glittering 20 year international career finally ended at the age of 43, although a rivalry with the legendary Sir Donald Bradman bred a life-long inferiority complex.

19: Tony McCoy

The 2010 BBC sports personality of the year has won 19 consecutive Champion Jockey titles, and more than 4,300 races all told.

Particularly adept at riding poor horses to unlikely victories, McCoy continues to excel into his 40’s, showing no sign of retiring from the saddle any time soon.  At 5’10” he also stands considerably taller than most jockeys, making his success all the more improbable.

18: Johnny Wilkinson

Kicking the winning drop goal for England at the 2003 Rugby World Cup made Surrey born Wilkinson an instant national icon at the tender age of 23.

Injuries blighted his career throughout, but he still managed to play 91 Tests and score a record 1,169 points for his country. He represented Newcastle Falcons with distinction for 12 years, before a 5-year spell in France with Toulon culminated with Wilkinson leading his team to two cup final wins in his final brace of competitive appearances.

17: Jim LakerJim Laker

Laker’s long-standing first-class bowling record analysis of 19 for 90, achieved against Australia in 1956, is unlikely to be bettered, and amazingly came just weeks after the spin bowler had taken all ten wickets in an innings against the touring Australians in a  warm up match against his county side Surrey.

A Yorkshireman, Laker never actually represented his native county due to settling in London following World War II, instead forming a deadly spin-combo with Tony Lock for both club and country. His record of 193 Test scalps at 21.57 apiece places him firmly among the great tweakers.

16: Dame Kelly Holmes

Inspired by Steve Ovett, Holmes began her competitive athletics career at the age of just 12, winning the British girl’s 1500m the following year. By 1988 she had turned her back on the sport to join the army, only returning to the track four years later.

A succession of debilitating injuries appeared to have denied Holmes gold medals at the major games, until in 2004, at the grand age of 34, she produced nerveless, perfectly paced runs to take gold in both the 800 and 1500 metre races. Holmes later admitted that she had contemplated suicide during the darker days, citing meditation as a practice that transformed her life.

15: Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean

Few sports people have ever come close to emulating the popularity of Torvill and Dean, who came to national prominence when they scored 12 perfect 6’s on their way to Olympic figure skating gold in Sarajevo in 1984.

Turning professional later that year (rules prohibited them from earning any money from skating if they wanted to perform at the Olympics), the duo choreographed a series of successful musical shows on ice, before returning to the pro arena a decade later to take bronze in Lillehammer.

14: Sir Christopher Hoy

The most decorated cyclist of all-time is an 11-time World champion, six-time Olympic champion, and Britain’s most successful Olympian, leading team GB out for the 2012 Olympic opening ceremony.

A legendary sprint cyclist, Hoy’s individual success carried over into team cycling, where he represented various teams, most notably ‘Team Sky’ in 2008. Never one to rest on his laurels, the Edinburgh born 39 year-old turned his attention to motor sport in 2014, belatedly announcing his intention to compete for Nissan at 24 hours of Le Mans in 2016.

13: Sir Bobby Charlton

The creative catalyst for England’s 1966 World Cup glory remains one of the world’s most beloved sporting figures almost half a century after his career zenith.

The 1958 Munich air disaster deprived Manchester United of a slew of their exciting ‘Busby Babes’ squad, with Charlton himself considering retiring from the game due to the trauma. Thankfully for United and England he didn’t, going on to become one of the finest number tens the world has ever seen, with the Ballon d’Or awarded to him at the end of the same year that he held the Jules Rimet trophy aloft.

12: Daley Thompson

At a time when the original A-Team was in its prime Britain boasted its own action man in Daley Thompson, a muscle-bound decathlon competitor who struck gold at both the 1980 and 1984 Olympic games, breaking the world record for the event on four separate occasions.

That his feats often go overlooked in the nation’s sporting annals is possibly testament to a lack of perceived conformity, most notably when Thompson whistled his way through the national anthem whilst stood atop the podium in Los Angeles in ’84.  

11: Sir Ben Ainslie

The most successful Olympic sailor of all-time, Ainslie won silver at his first games in 1996, aged just 19, this would be his last time tasting defeat on the grandest stage, with gold following at the next five Olympics to go alongside his 11 World titles.

Sir Ben Ainslie

More recently Ainslie was hailed as the mastermind behind Oracle Team USA’s stunning comeback to win the 2013 America’s Cup 9-8, the Brit providing an unlikely remedy to the team’s warring crew and hefty fines as they turned around a seemingly insurmountable 8-1 deficit.

Tomorrow we delve into the top 10. Who made it? Who missed out? Why the need for so many questions in the closing paragraph? All will be revealed tomorrow.

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.

50 Greatest British sports stars of all-time: 30-21

In the third part of the series, Kureen counts down the best of British sport from 30th to 21st place. To view the first two editions simply click on the links below;

Part one: 50-41
Part two: 40-31

30: Sebastian Coe

Seb Coe

His post-athletics foray into politics has make it easy for detractors to overlook a sensational spell during the late 1970’s to mid-1980’s when Seb Coe not only broke three world records in the space of 41 days, but also became the undisputed king of 1500m running.

This was much to the chagrin of British team-mate and arch nemesis Steve Ovett, who pre-1980 had been undefeated at the distance for three years, only for Coe to win consecutive Olympic titles in 1980 and ’84 to go alongside a brace of 800m silvers.

29: Mo Farah

 At 5 foot 6, and carrying a little over 55kg on a slim frame, Mo Farah isn’t your archetypal sporting hero. Born in Somalia in 1983, he joined his father in Britain at the age of eight, barely able to utter a word of English.

He soon found his purpose, becoming a top junior middle and long distance runner, culminating with a clutch of national records and, more notably, double gold at 10,000m and 5000m in both the 2012 London Olympics and 2013 Worlds – Farah rewarded with a CBE and lucrative endorsement deal with vegetarian food behemoth Quorn.

28: Steven Hendry

‘The golden boy’ was the fresh, acne afflicted face of snooker throughout the 1990’s, winning seven world and five UK titles over the course of the decade, remaining world number one for an unprecedented eight consecutive seasons between 1990 and 1998.

An attacking, fiercely competitive player, Edinburgh born Hendry revolutionised the game with offensive shot selections that put fear into opponents, most notably Jimmy White who was traumatised irreparably by a series of major final defeats at the hands of the Scot. 

27: Lester Piggott

Nine Epsom Derby wins and 11 British flat racing championships in a high-calibre era of horse racing made Piggott the Queen’s favourite jockey.

That cosy propinquity rapidly fell into decline in 1987 however, with Piggott jailed for more than a year as a result of tax fraud, her maj’ swiftly withdrew his OBE, and although a return to the saddle provided a few career twilight highlights, his reputation amongst racing fans was in tatters. 

26: Ronnie O’Sullivan

Ronnie O’Sullivan burst onto the snooker scene in 1993, beating the great Steven Hendry 10-6 in the final of the UK Championships at the tender age of 17; the crowd wooed by his attacking style and dismissive attitude towards the game’s hierarchy, an ardent support that endures to this day.

That early hype seemed to weigh heavily on the shoulders of ‘The Rocket’, with severe depression and patchy form undermining his remarkable talent. A new training regime, lightened schedule and adjusted mindset allowed O’Sullivan to find consistency, his five world titles placing him third on the all-time list.

25: Martin Johnson

A World Cup winning captain, British Lions staple, and world class player, 6 foot 7 inch, 260 pound lock Martin Johnson was the proud, fearless chief who stood at the front of England’s 2003 main stage success.

If that World Cup glory was inevitably the pinnacle of a glittering career, it was for the 1997 Lions tour to South Africa that Johnson arguably reserved his finest form, the Spring Boks unable to snuff out his threat at the line-out on the way to a 2-1 series victory for the British team.

24: Fred Trueman

A stoic Yorkshireman, ‘fiery’ Fred Trueman is etched in the annuls as England’s all-time premier fast bowler, with his 307 Test match wickets (at the time a world record) coming at just 21.57 a piece, a miserly average befitting a man never ashamed of his thrifty habits on or off the field.

That superlative international record would have undoubtedly been even more impressive had Trueman not been in conflict with the MCC so often, leading to him being omitted from a number of England’s matches. Surprisingly, considering the velocity of his bowling, Fred stood at only 5 foot 10 inches tall in his spikes.

23: Jonathan Edwards

Edwards’ talent was obvious from a young age, but the embryonic stages of his athletics career were affected by devout Christian beliefs which prohibited the triple-jumper from competing or practising on Sundays. Relenting, he eventually decided to work around his religious convictions, his career almost immediately prospering as a result.

Early in the 1995 season he broke the world record by a centimetre, and later that year added another 31cm to the mark as he took World Championship gold with a humongous leap of 18.29m. Olympic glory took longer, eventually arriving in Sydney in 2000, with Edwards bowing out of the sport a year later, having secured a second world title. As an interesting aside; in 2007 Edwards announced that he was no longer a Christian.

22: Andy Murray

2012 was a career defining year for Andy Murray. The Scottish tennis player became the first British man to reach the Wimbledon singles final since Bunny Austin in 1938, losing to Roger Federer. The tears he shed in his post-match interview saw him accepted by reticent sections of fans still lamenting the retirement of the milder mannered Tim Henman.

Andy Murray

Later that summer Murray won the Olympic singles title. He started 2013 by gaining his first Grand Slam at the US Open, and, having qualified for a second successive Wimbledon final, secured the trophy in front of a fervent, partisan crowd, defeating Novak Djokovic in straight sets. All that remains on the career bucket list is to win the French and Australian slams, and become world number one before the inevitable knighthood… Watch this space.

21: George Best

The most talented footballer that Britain has ever produced was also one of the most troubled. Discovered at 15 playing in Belfast, Manchester United manager Matt Busby received a telegram from one of his scouts which read “I think I’ve found you a genius.”

That genius was never more obvious than during the 1967-68 season, when a 22 year-old Best struck 32 goals, helping United to secure the European Cup and becoming the youngest player ever to receive the FWA player of the year award. By 26 alcohol addiction and a nocturnal lifestyle ensured that Best’s peak years were behind him; a flurry of different clubs brought fleeting highlights, before he received a liver transplant, drinking the newly fitted organ into submission within three years, and passing away in 2005.

Tomorrow we’ll reveal the first half of the top-20, who could be better than Best? Tune in tomorrow to find out!

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.

50 Greatest British sports stars of all-time: 40-31

In the second part of Kureen’s top 50 British sports stars countdown we look at numbers 40-31. Check out 50-41 by clicking here.

*Article profile picture courtesy of Louis Swann.

40: Christine Ohuruogu

Christine Ohuruogu

Revelling on the big stage, London born Ohuruogu has won 400m gold and silver medals at the last two Olympic games, adding to two World titles gained in 2007 and 2013.

Her career was in danger of going horribly awry in 2006, with a one year suspension from athletics the result of three missed out-of-competition drug tests. A 2009 MBE reflected her figurative rehabilitation in the eyes of her peers.

39: Steve Davis

A perceived lack of personality held Davis back from super stardom, as he romped gleefully towards half a dozen world title wins during his 1980’s pomp.

Conversely it is for defeat that he is best remembered by casual fans, his 1985 epic with Dennis Taylor ending 18-17 to the bespectacled Northern Irishman, as Davis crumbled from 8-0 up, eventually missing a decisive final frame black, with a still unrivalled 18.5 million BBC 2 viewers tuning in until almost 1am for the climax.

38: Gary Lineker

The ‘Match of The Day’ anchorman came within a spot-kick of equalling Sir Bobby Charlton’s England goalscoring record, fluffing a penalty against Brazil that would have drawn him level with the 49 scored by the Manchester United legend.

Still, 48 goals in 80 international games, a World Cup golden boot, and prolific scoring stints with Barcelona, Spurs, Everton and his beloved Leicester City all contributed to a wonderful football career that ended prematurely due to a toe injury.

37: WG Grace

‘Doctor’ William Gilbert Grace was the first celebrity of cricket, once refusing to walk when bowled out in a friendly match, replacing the bails and telling a disgruntled bowler “they’ve come to see me bat, not you bowl!”

Beyond the bravado Grace was a terrific all-rounder, whose First Class batting average of around 40 accompanied a bowling average of 18, and was all the more impressive due to the state of the uncovered pitches of the time. He played his final Test match in 1899, finally hanging up his whites in 1908, aged 60.

36. Phil Taylor

Depending on which side of the bed you lay upon ‘The Power’ either shouldn’t make the list due to a lack of perceptible athleticism, or should be placed far higher due to an unrivalled 14 world championship titles.

It is for his relentless quest for perfection at the oche that he deserves to be recognised, in total securing 40 major title victories. At the age of 55 his skills finally appear to be diminishing, but with a brimming trophy cabinet and 10 televised nine-darters in the bag his legacy, and financial security, have long been assured.

35: Sir Leonard Hutton

One of England’s most headstrong cricket captains, and arguably their finest ever batsman, Yorkshireman Hutton broke team-mate Wally Hammond’s Test record score by compiling a 13-hour innings of 364 against Australia in 1938.

Sir Leonard Hutton plaq

That mark stood for 20 years, and remains an Ashes record today – Hutton relishing contests with England’s arch rivals, also winning both of his series against Australia as captain. Remarkably he achieved all of this despite prime years of his career being lost to the Second World War, where he additionally suffered significant wrist and forearm injuries.  

34: Sir Gordon Richards

The only jockey to ever be knighted, Sir Gordon Richards was the British flat racing champion on 26 separate occasions during a 33-year career that included almost 5000 career wins.

As the only major event he hadn’t won, the Epsom Derby became an obsession for Richards, and in 1953, in his final dash for glory, he was finally able to add the trophy to his collection, storming to victory on 5-1 joint favourite Pinza.

33: Tanni Grey-Thompson

Grey-Thompson boasts one of the most decorated careers of any athlete, her 11 gold medals spread across four Paralympic games from 1992-2004.

Hailing from Cardiff, Wales, the future wheelchair racing icon was born with spina Bifida, eventually heading to Loughborough University in pursuit of athletic excellence. This was accomplished, and a 2005 promotion to Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) was as much recognition of her service to disadvantaged people as it was her sparkling career on the track.

32: Virginia Wade 

Famed for her 1977 Wimbledon singles title, Wade boasts a 100% success ratio in solo Grand-Slam finals, winning all three that she contested. The only reason she doesn’t make the top 20 is due to her era not being among the strongest for the women’s game.

Her place in the hearts of British sports fans was assured via US (1968) and Australian Open (1972) singles victories that saw her rise to world number two, as well as four doubles slams, but her legacy was truly cemented by that win at SW19. 

31: Matthew Pincent

The often overlooked half of the Redgrave/Pincent dynasty, Matthew Pincent was an outstanding rower in his own right, earning gold at four consecutive Olympic games between 1992 and 2004.

Ten more gold medals at world level established him as one of the greatest the sport has ever seen; that he will forever be viewed in Redgrave’s looming shadow owes more to his colleague’s incredible achievements than any shortcomings in Pincent’s own makeup.

As we hurtle rapidly towards the top 30, let us know what you think of parts one and two. Come back tomorrow to find out who filled positions 30-21.

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.

50 greatest British sports stars of all-time: 50-41

All this week Kureen will be counting down the 50 greatest British sports stars of all-time.

Andrew Flintoff: Narrowly missed the cut
Andrew Flintoff: Narrowly missed the cut

The 50 explained

There are some notable absentees from the list who just missed the cut. The likes of World Cup winning goalkeeper Gordon Banks, Ashes hero Andrew Flintoff, sailing superstar Ellen MacArthur, and former French Open tennis champion Sue Barker among them.

The top 50 is based upon the quality of the performer, not their star status. Hence the lack of a David Beckham or perennial underdogs Tim Henman, Frank Bruno and Sir Henry Cooper, who when push comes to shove were very good, but not great.

50: Sally Gunnell

Sally Gunnell remains the only woman to have won the European, World, Commonwealth and Olympic 400 metre hurdles titles. She is additionally the only British woman to have won those four titles in any individual event.

Her gold run in the major championships began in 1992 when she took the Olympic title in Barcelona, followed by a world record obliterating run at the World Championships the following year.

49. John Charles

Rated by many as the greatest ever all-round footballer to come from the British isles, Charles became a Leeds United icon in the 1950’s, before departing Elland Road to join Juventus in 1957 for a British record transfer fee of £65,000.

The Welshman flourished in Turin, leading the Serie A scoring charts with 28 goals in his inaugural season, as his new side won the league title. He placed third in the Ballon d’Or (Golden Ball) in 1959, and was voted Juve’s best ever foreign player during the club’s centenary celebrations in 1997, having netted 108 times in just 155 league matches, despite playing a third of those as a defender.

48: Lewis Hamilton

Few British sporting icons have polarised opinion like two-time Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton; be it his on-off relationship with Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger, a snarky arrogance or a perceived lack of patriotism, Hamilton is not held in the esteem usually associated with elite drivers from these shores.

After a staggering rise through karting, Formula Renault, Formula Three and GP2, Hamilton was snapped up by McLaren to partner double World Champion Fernando Alonso. The two couldn’t stand each other, but it was the Brit who outlasted his erstwhile colleague, collecting the world title in 2008, before a move to Mercedes brought another six years later.

47: Steve Ovett

Building his reputation as an athlete who could achieve remarkable times in disparate distances during the 1970’s, it was during the 1980 Moscow Olympics that Ovett’s rivalry with fellow Brit Sebastian Coe reached its peak.

Steve Ovett

Both men contested the 800m and 1500m distances, with Ovett surprising 800m favourite Coe by taking the title, and then experiencing a reversal of roles, with his three-year unbeaten streak over 1500m ending – Ovett settling for bronze as Coe kicked late to triumph.

46: Paula Radcliffe

The current women’s marathon world record holder would sit(or squat) far higher in the list if it wasn’t for her penchant to freeze on the biggest stage.

An incredible, dedicated long distance runner, Radcliffe has won enough gold to make even King Midas envious. Five Olympic finals failed to yield a medal, happily she fared better in the World Championships; securing marathon victory in 2005, and 10,000m silver in 1999.

45: Rory McIlroy

Rory Macilroy

The Northern Irish golfer appears to have the world at his feet at just 26 years of age. Indeed, in five years time he will probably make the top 10 of this list, such is the upside of a player who has been swinging a club since the age of three.

With four majors already in the bag, and inevitable comparisons to a young, pre-scandal Tiger Woods, golf’s current world number one won both the PGA and Open Championships in 2014, and has already snaffled three titles on the tour this year. There’s no ceiling to his potential, as long as he doesn’t become distracted by extra curricular enterprises.

44: Charlotte Edwards

England’s current women’s cricket captain is one of the greatest players the sport has ever seen.

The only woman to score more than 2000 runs in T20 matches, Edwards made her international bow at just 16 years of age, remaining at the top of her craft for the next two decades. In 2014 she was part of the group of England players to be awarded central contracts by the ECB, another major milestone for the women’s game.

43: Nigel Mansell

Mansell often cut a grey, monotone mannequin among the glitz and glamour of motor racing, but it was from inside the cockpit that he came to life.

Having seen world titles snatched away on the final day of more than one season, 1992 finally brought the moustachioed Brummie the F1 championship he craved, with a little help from the unparalleled early 90’s Williams team. Within six months he’d become the first man to simultaneously hold that title and the CART Indy world series when he triumphed in his début season in America.

42: Sir Roger Bannister

With the 1952 Helsinki Olympics failing to provide the tonic of a 1500m medal that Bannister had long expected, the athlete became obsessed with another goal; becoming the first person to break the 4 minute mile.

6 May 1954:  Roger Bannister breaks the 4 Minute Mile in 3 Minutes 59.4 Seconds. Mandatory Credit: Allsport UK/Getty Images
6 May 1954: Roger Bannister breaks the 4 Minute Mile in 3 Minutes 59.4 Seconds. Mandatory Credit: Allsport UK/Getty Images

The feat was achieved in Oxford in 1954, with the stadium announcer drowned out by a fanatical support in the stands after uttering the number three (the final time was actually 3 minutes, 59.4 seconds.) Bannister managed this with only sporadic training while he studied to become a junior doctor.

41: Bunny Austin

Henry Wilfred “Bunny” Austin played during an era of high quality tennis players, thus missing out on Grand Slam glory despite reaching five major finals in all, .

He and Fred Perry ensured that Britain had a tight grip on the Davis Cup from 1933-36, with the tandem beating all-comers for four years before both wound down their careers. Austin is widely considered the greatest male player not to win a Grand Slam.

Bunny Austin only at number 41??? Come back tomorrow to find out who kept the legend of SW19 out of the top 40, as we focus on positions 40th down to 31st.

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.

The Future of British MMA?

I first crossed the path of Tom Breese in early 2012 in a West Midlands town called Dudley. He was immediately affable, albeit possessing an imposing aura. Little more than three years later he’s secured a contract with Dana White’s Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) behemoth Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), taking with him an unblemished professional CV.

Tom BreeseAt 6 foot 3 and with barely an inch of fat on his body, he had already made waves in the MMA world at the time of our initial encounter, having fought his inaugural amateur bout a full three years earlier when aged just 17.

An undefeated 8-fight amateur career under the watchful tutelage of Mick Broster usually saw fights end via submission, with the triangle choke and armbar favoured finishes for the talented, increasingly confident teenager.

Breese signed up with the British Association of Mixed Martial Arts (BAMMA) in 2010, taking his pro bow later that year at BAMMA 4 on the eve of his 19th birthday, vanquishing the handy and experienced Shahid Hussain via submission in the second round.

“My ultimate goal is to become champion and the first British fighter to hold the UFC Title but I will take it one fight at a time,” Breese told me shortly after having forced a tap-out from fellow high pedigree youngster Thibaud Larchet in possibly his final contest on UK soil last November, inflicting only a second defeat on the 22 year-old Frenchman following four competitive rounds.

And what of the influx of professional wrestling talent into MMA? Former UFC champ Brock Lesnar remains an anomaly, with the likes of Dave Batista and Bobby Lashley proving leaden footed inside the octagon, despite being able to afford the best possible training.

“I don’t mind them coming into MMA as long as they can fight. CM punk signing to the UFC is a little controversial as he has never fought, I would have liked him to have fought outside of the organisation first but it is what it is.”

British fighters have generally struggled to make an impact in UFC, with Michael Bisping probably the stand-out, although an impressive 26-7 record at the top level is undermined a tad by recent events; the 36 year-old suffering losses in four of his previous seven contests, as an increased calibre of opponent, father time (and some painfully wooden acting as a guest star on Hollyoaks) have all seemingly conspired to make him less effective than during his mid-2000 pomp.

Tom Breese Wins

At just 23 years of age, Breese could provide the remedy for the current British malaise over the pond. His vast reach, increasingly potent skill-set and eye-catching attacking repertoire should ensure that he swiftly becomes a favourite with the fans, whether that translates into a title or not, only time will tell.

For the fighter the mission remains crystal clear though; to become a trail blazer for other British MMA talent, whilst simultaneously proving his credentials among the world’s elite by earning the right for a major title to adorn his waist.

So far everything that Breese has set out to do has come to fruition, probably more rapidly than even he dared believe. With his best years still well ahead of him there’s no reason why he can’t become one of UFC’s star attractions, although the Birmingham born, Montreal based grappler refuses to let his feet leave the ground when assessing his own prospects;

“My ultimate goal is to become champion and the first British fighter to hold the UFC title, but I will take it one fight at a time.”

Tom Breese makes his UFC debut against Luiz Dutra Jr in Brazil on May 30th – be sure to support him as he continues to represent GB at a level that few from these shores have ever reached.

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.