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.
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 fighter, whose 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!