British boxing has been thriving as of late, with so many superstars coming through, contesting massive fights domestically and internationally, and more world champions than ever before. But this nation has always been a major competitor in the world of boxing and so many names come to mind when you think of the great fighters that this country has produced. I’m now going to try to cut down all of those names to just one per decade, as I name who I believe to be the five greatest British boxers of the past five decades!
The 70’s was a fairly quiet era for British boxing compared to the big names you had worldwide at the time, and the decades that followed for the Brits when the country’s boxing scene really started to thrive. But it still had its fair share of big fights and big names, and the name that always stands out for me is Scottish lightweight Ken Buchanan.
Buchanan is considered by most as the greatest Scottish boxer ever and the best British lightweight fighter of all time. The man from Edinburgh was the undisputed WBA lightweight champion in the early 70’s and boasts a record of 69 wins and 8 losses, with 27 of his wins coming by knockout.
He may not be a household name like some of the others who are considered this country’s greatest, but his style, skill and ability could match anyone, and he is one of the most deserving on this list in my opinion.
Lloyd Honeyghan was a fantastic fighter – and I mean fighter! Anyone who has seen the man fight will know he was guaranteed entertainment. With a record of 48 wins (30 by KO) and just 5 losses, he had an all-action style and was an out-and-out slugger, but he did also have skills to match the best too.
The Jamaican-born Brit boasts a lot of big wins on his record but none bigger than his massive upset over Donald Curry in 1986. At the time Curry was considered the best pound-for-pound fighter on the planet and was expected by almost everyone to handle Honeyghan with ease. However Honeyghan had other plans and dominated the fight, stopping the American in just 6 rounds.
Honeyghan may also be remembered by some for the time he famously, or maybe infamously dumped his WBA welterweight belt in a trash bin in London because of a fall-out with the association. He disagreed with the WBA’s rules that allowed fights in apartheid South Africa, and the ‘title-dumping’ proved significant as soon after the WBA stopped sanctioning fights in the country.
All-in-all the man was an elite, exciting and sometimes extravagant fighter. His career was littered with success and he won the British, Commonwealth and European titles, and four different versions of the world title at the time. Achievements you just can’t argue with!
There’s a lot of names to choose from when you think back to the 90’s. You’ve got the likes of Chris Eubank, Nigel Benn, Frank Bruno and Naseem Hamed who were all fantastic fighters that will be remembered for years to come. But one man stands just above the rest and that’s Lennox ‘The Lion’ Lewis. The heavyweight is considered by most to be Britain’s best fighter of all time.
Lewis actually represented Canada at the Olympic games in 1984, but moved back to his native country of England when he turned pro, claiming that he always considered himself British. He went on to have an amazing professional career. Finishing with a record of 44-2-1, 32 KO’s, he has wins over big names such as Vitali Klitschko, Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield, Shannon Briggs and Frank Bruno. And despite losing twice he has still beaten every man he has ever shared the ring with. Oliver McCall and Hasim Rahman both managed to knock the big man out, but both were beaten rather comfortably in rematches shortly after. The only other blemish on his record was a draw to fellow heavyweight legend Evander Holyfield who he also beat that same year in a rematch. The technical giant also remains the last undisputed heavyweight champion of the world.
Like I said, there are many other honourable mentions from this decade like the few I named above but when it comes to in-ring ability and achievements, there’s only one front-runner for me.
This was another decade packed with British talent but I’ve got to go with the Welshman on this one. Joe Calzaghe managed to go his whole career without a single loss and was a 2-weight undisputed world champion, having held the WBA, WBC, IBF, IBO and Ring magazine titles at super-middleweight and the Ring magazine title at light-heavyweight.
His professional career spanned 15 years from 1993 to 2008 and in that time he became the longest-reigning super-middleweight world champion in history, making 21 successful defences of the WBO title over 10 years. He has wins over the likes of Jeff Lacy, Mikkel Kessler, Roy Jones Jr, Chris Eubank and Bernard Hopkins.
Calzaghe retired in February of 2009 and became one of only eleven fighters in history to retire as an undefeated world champion. Although some people will argue that some of his biggest wins came over guys that were slightly past their prime, you can’t argue with a man that retired with a record of 46-0 and competed at the very highest level of the sport and beat some of the best fighters out there!
This decade hasn’t actually finished yet and there’s plenty of fighters out there who can overtake Carl Froch in the next few years, such as Carl Frampton, Tyson Fury, Anthony Joshua and Amir Khan, who could all be just a few big wins away from having legendary careers themselves. But when you look at just 2010 to 2017, Carl Froch is head and shoulders above the rest.
‘The Cobra’ has a record to match every other fighter from the past five decades, and a fight between him and Calzaghe would have been arguably the biggest British match-up ever if they were just a few years closer together and would have crossed paths. The Nottingham native retired in 2014 after a blockbuster fight with rival George Groves in front of 80,000 fans at Wembley Stadium – the biggest British crowd ever at the time. He was never in a dull fight and his Rocky-like gung-ho style made him a British fan-favourite. He was only beaten twice, by the skilful Andre Ward who will likely go on to become a great himself, and Danish legend Mikkel Kessler who he beat in an epic rematch.
A four-time super-middleweight world champion and pound-for-pound top 10 rated fighter for many years, he really was a throwback fighter. Whilst his skills were actually quite good and underrated, it will be his brawls, slugfests and tremendous heart he will be remembered for.
But like I said, the 2010’s aren’t over yet and there’s some real stars coming through so it can all change. Could be Frampton? Could be Joshua? Could be Fury? Could even be someone else? Boxing is so unpredictable!
Let me know who you think it could be by commenting below or chatting with me on Twitter!