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Top 10 boxing Brits

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  • 5 picks out the British boxing greats who have held world titles over the years

David Haye may have claimed the WBA heavyweight championship at the weekend but there have been plenty of British boxers to pick up world titles on their way to greatness over the years. Here we pick a top 10 great British boxing world champions...

1) Joe Calzaghe (46 contests, 46 victories (32 KO), 0 defeats, 0 draws)

The undefeated Welshman finally said he would call it a day at the start of 2009 after a 15-year undefeated professional career - 11 of which were spent in possession of the WBO super middleweight belt. Calzaghe seemed to operate under the radar for most of that time but gained greater recognition when relieving Jeff Lacy of the IBF belt in 2006 before defeating Mikkel Kessler the following year to truly dominate the division. He topped up his pension plan in 2008 after moving up to light-heavyweight - Calzaghe making full use of his relentless style Stateside to outpoint Bernard Hopkins and Roy Jones Jr.

2) Lennox Lewis (44, 41 (32 KO), 2, 1)

Never wholly taken to the hearts of British fight fans, owing both to his North American accent and, to a lesser extent, a perceived conservative approach in the ring and yet his record tells its own story - as does the fact that Lewis is one of only five boxers to win a world heavyweight title three times over a decade. The native of West Ham defeated both Evander Holyfield and (an admittedly past his best) Mike Tyson in his decade at the top and avenged both his losses - against Oliver McCall and Hasim Rahman - in rematches.

3) Ken Buchanan (69, 61, (27 KO), 8)

A former amateur star, the Scot claimed the British lightweight belt before scoring an upset in 1970: many thought that Edinburgh to Puerto Rico was a journey too far but Buchanan prevailed against Ismael Laguna to take the world title. He remained undefeated for 18 months but lost in controversial circumstances to Roberto Duran at Madison Square Garden in 1972. He boxed on for another decade, winning the European championship and also beating Sky Sports' own Jim Watt - a world title holder himself at the start of the 1980s. Buchanan spoke of a return to the ring earlier this year at the age of 63.

4) Naseem Hamed (37, 36 (31 KO), 1)

British boxing's equivalent of Marmite, 'The Prince' started as he meant to go on by mercilessly taunting opponent Vincenzo Belcastro in taking the European bantamweight title in 1994. Moving up to featherweight the following year, he took the WBO world title off Steve Robinson in the latter's Cardiff backyard and picked up the IBF belt as well before beating WBC champion Kevin Kelley in 1997 - Hamed coming off the canvas three times to knock his opponent out in an incredible four rounds. Defeat finally came to Marco Antonio Barrera in 2001 and hand problems brought an end to the spectacular-yet-controversial fighter's career soon after.

5) Chris Eubank (52, 45 (23 KO), 5, 2)

Eubank's rivalry with Nigel Benn dominated British boxing during the early 1990s, the pair fighting twice with Eubank edging the honours. He went undefeated as a middleweight before claiming the WBO super middleweight title in September 1991. However, opponent Michael Watson received serious injuries in the fight - an outcome that left Eubank considering his future. He fought on, albeit adopting a more circumspect approach, and defeated the likes of Sugarboy Malinga before losing his unbeaten record to Steve Collins early in 1995. Another defeat came at the hands of Joe Calzaghe and retirement soon followed.

6) Nigel Benn (48, 42 (35 KO), 5, 1)

The 'Dark Destroyer' quickly gained an explosive reputation - an early blip albeit coming in 1989 when Benn was knocked out by Michael Watson. Re-applying himself in the States, he won the WBO middleweight title the following year but then lost it to Chris Eubank. The pair's match-ups - they fought again for the WBC and WBO super middleweight titles at Old Trafford in 1993 - loom large in the memory but Benn will be best remembered for his brutal contest against Gerald McClellan in 1995, in which he came back from being knocked out of the ring in the opening round to stop his opponent, who received grievous injuries. Having lost twice to Steve Collins, Benn quit the ring in 1996.

7) Lloyd Honeyghan (48, 43 (31 KO), 5)

Honeyghan's reputation is based almost entirely upon his stunning against-the-odds win against then welterweight king Don Curry in September 1986. That was pretty much the highpoint for the Jamaica-born Londoner and although he subsequently made a couple all-action title defences - losing and regaining the WBA belt in the process - he appeared well past his best just over three years later when, fighting against Mark Breland, he was knocked down repeatedly before the contest was stopped after just three rounds.

8) Ricky Hatton (47, 45 (32 KO), 2)

Probably the most popular British fighter of recent years, Hatton became world champion in 2005 after an against-the-odds win against Kostya Tszyu. He then unified the light welterweight division with victory against Carlos Maussa before stepping up to defeat welterweight Luis Collazo. His career subsequently saw him yo-yoing between the two divisions, a defeat of Jose Luis Castillo being a notable success before stepping up once more to challenge pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather Jr. Unable to take the fight to the American - some blaming referee Joe Cortez - Hatton eventually succumbed in round 10. Moving back down again, Hatton gained two more wins before being comprehensively dismantled by Manny Pacquiao in May.

9) John Conteh (39, 34 (23 KO) 1, 4)

A sort of David Haye for the 1970s, the charismatic Liverpudlian was probably as well known to the British public for his squat thrusts on seminal TV show Superstars as his appearances in the ring. Conteh won the WBC light heavyweight title in 1974 and successfully defended it until 1978. Two more attempts to regain the title proved unsuccessful and he retired in 1980.

10)= Howard Winstone (67, 61 (27 KO), 6)

Merthyr Tydfil surely holds the world record for erecting boxing statues - a town with a population of 56,000 having honoured Eddie Thomas, Johnny Owen and Winstone in such a manner. Thomas mentored Winstone and the former amateur star captured the British and European titles with relative ease. However, the world title proved more elusive and Winstone needed four attempts to finally claim the WBC belt in 1968. He lost the title in his first defence, however, and retired from the sport soon after at the age of 29.

10)=Barry McGuigan (35, 32 (28 KO), 3)

Born in Ireland but a British citizen, the 'Clones Cyclone' got star billing at Belfast's King's Hall in the 1980s and his skills as a featherweight were rewarded with a world title shot against Eusebio Pedroza at Loftus Road in 1985. McGuigan put the title holder down in round seven on his way to a unanimous points win. Two more defences followed; however McGuigan lost the title the following year to the lightly-regarded Steve Cruz - their gruelling encounter held under a fierce sun in a car park at the Caesar's Palace Hotel in Las Vegas. He retired immediately afterwards, although returned to the ring for a brief spell in 1988/89.

Comments (17)

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Will Jarvis says...

Calzaghe is rightfully top and Lennox qualifies on the basis that he was in London which i think is England which is part of the UK last i looked!!!

Posted 00:20 19th May 2010

Arshad Asmal says...

People who say hatton should be ahead of Naseem hamed is a joke!! Hatton was the real paper champion, he had no skill and he got a boxing lesson by pacman and money maywather!!! Hatton could never knock n e one out, he was just a brawler! I really felt for him against pacman nothing would have saved him, pacman knocked him out cold!! Hamid on the other hand was a classy fighter, he could torment, humiliate as well as knock them out. Hamid lost once and never got ko'd unlike hatton. Against barrera any boxing fan new there was something wrong with him.. His entrances in the ring was worth the pay-per-view itself.. he was an entertainer we wont see anyone like him again in the uk, he could talk the talk and walk the walk!!! Too bad talents like him always have issues and problems. Tyson, zidane, cantona and rocket ronie who are geniuses at their sport always had problems thats just the way it is, even tiger woods is showing his true self now, need i say more. I think the real number 1 in the uk even tho i hate to say it has to be Lennox Lewis!!! He fought all he could and beat them, altho he was a boring fighter/entertainer!! he avenged all his losses to show he could come back and beat the likes ov tyson, ruddock and holyfield.. As a tyson fan i hav to admit it was a washed up tyson!! Calzaghe and hatton r jokes, they never fought anyone in their prime especially calzaghe, i think he should be around sixth in the list!! Nigel benn and chris eubank shud be way higher, David haye should be their after he retires not yet!!!

Posted 14:16 8th December 2009

Marc Musgrave says...

Its right to have Joe at number 1, 46 fights 46 mins, another said. The Prince was brilliant to watch and deserves his place on entertainment value. Lewis shouldn t be in there on the fact he's NOT british!!!!

Posted 13:55 13th November 2009

Rich Field says...

This is a total joke! Jimmy Wilde is by far the greatest UK boxer of all time. Even Joe Calzaghe would agree to that. Joe doesn't even come close the great little man. Even the world's best rate Jimmy in the top 10 of all time!!! That's not just the UK, that's the whole world in the whole history of boxing!!! Whoever wrote that list has absolutely no idea about boxing and it should be changed. Jimmy Wilde was clearly the greatest British boxer the world has ever seen. God Bless you Jimmy, you were fantastic. Never forgotten by the TRUE boxing fans. JIMMY WILDE!!!

Posted 13:54 11th November 2009

Kristian Denieffe says...

Lightening fast hands and always an aggresive approach. Calzaghe rightly at no1. Not only did he win fights he put on a show. The bloke is a born entertainer. You say Hopkins/Jones are past it, well lets see Carl Froch fight these guys, they wud put him to bed! To add to his speed Calzaghe had one of the best chins in the business! Knocked dwn by Hopkins,Jones and in an earlier fight, got up and finished the job easily.Also took heavy shots frm kessler which he took like a true great! And as for Jef Lacy(the best america supposedly had), did he even land a punch? Calzaghe cudv knocked him out any time he wanted! He completely embarrased the man!

Posted 13:00 11th November 2009

Russell Larke says...

What about Jimmy Wilde???? the man went 103 fights undefeated, surely worth a mention? actually probably a greater fighter than Joe Boxing record Total fights 152 Wins 137 Wins by KO 99 Losses 5 Draws 2 No contests 8

Posted 09:16 11th November 2009

Phil Russell says...

Hamed was fantastic, a true entertainer and an explosive fighter but as soon as he faced true quality he got turned over good and proper! I wouldnt have put Calzaghe at Number 1, he fought many shot and overrated fighers.

Posted 14:17 10th November 2009

Dale Burrows says...

I wouldnt argue to much calzaghe deserved to be no.1 like every says retired undefeated and thought the boxers when they were in the hayday, i.e Lacy, Kessler and even though jones and hopkins are getting on still decent fighters, lewis for me fought Holyfield and Rahman in there hayday and got K.Od in his 1st fight against Rahman and fought Vitali Klitschko and was getting beat on points and won it with the cut, to retire with that very clever cos alot of people would of argued he would not of won the rematch. But 1 person who dosen't get a mention is Sir Henry Cooper Knocking down Ali and then fighting Floyd Patterson one of the most memorable fights of that year, should be in there. Just to end with Mike Tyson he for me the greatest boxer ever in his prime no-one would of beat him in his hayday he possesed everything (the most power any boxer has possesed in his fist,speed,agility and he could take a hit on the chin) before the unfortente loss of his trainer.

Posted 13:39 10th November 2009

Haydn Davies says...

Can't argue with Calzaghe guys!! 46 fights 46 wins!!! end of!!!

Posted 12:46 10th November 2009

Dee Cregan says...

well this is a tough one but i wouldnt argue with the order too much. Joe was likable and entertaining. Its just a pity he wasnt given the chance to fight jones etc earlier in their careers. Lewis on the other hand, a bit like calzaghe had to wait for his big chance but unlike calsaghe he got beat along the way. I think he did have the class and skills to pay the bills but he lacked concentration. He suposidly goes down as a great, a 3 time world champ, but he achieved this through having such a major fault. Getting KO'D by two bums then beating them 2nd time round and regaining the belts in the prosess is for me, unforgivable. He should have KO'd them tubes the 1st time. I guess you could say he qualifies as legend by defaulf. Lewis should have been undefeated easily and top of this list by miles and miles. But as its just a british boxing list, then lewis may justify his position but wouldnt make top 20 all time heavyweights. Just ask bert sugar! Buchanon was some man to and its Shame about McGuigan. What might have been?

Posted 08:57 10th November 2009

Matt Mills says...

I think Herbie Hide is one of the most under-rated British boxers, and in my opinion should make the top ten. Technically the best heavyweight we've ever produced and if God had made him just a little bit bigger he would have dominated the heavyweight division for a lot longer.

Posted 08:09 10th November 2009

Ali Herriot says...

what about errol (bomber)graham, avoided by benn,watson,eubanks and the americans.was close to stopping jullian jackson before getting caught with one of his bombs,would surely have been up there if given the opportunity.

Posted 02:47 10th November 2009

Dave Hudson says...

Got to agree that this list is terrible. For a start to have Joe Calzaghe ahead of Lewis is unforgivable. Lewis fought many top contenders over his entire career and beat them all. Joe just had a high profile ending against some shot/overated fighters. I will give Joe his due for wins against Kessler and Hopkins, but that doesnt get him the top spot please! In fact i wouldnt have Joe in the top ten. Check out the BBC because they have a great top ten list.

Posted 01:23 10th November 2009

Dave Holley says...

Big Frank should at least be mentioned, if not just for that crazy Tyson fight and harry carpenters comments!

Posted 22:33 9th November 2009

Shaun Obrien says...

its not Joe Calzaghes fault all the best boxers dodged him in his early career and only wanted to fight him in the last few years. and how is hatton behind benn Eubank and hamed??? he has only lost to 2 boxers who were both the pound for pound best fighters on the planet at the time he faught them.

Posted 22:25 9th November 2009

Cam Roders says...

Prince Naseem Hamed is about number 2 he was amazing. Lennox lewis beat tyson when tyson was at the end of his career. If tyson was in his prime he would of killed lennox

Posted 21:06 9th November 2009

Paul Johnson says...

I think that rightly Joe Calzaghe sits at the top of the tree. His style in the ring was second to none.

Posted 20:47 9th November 2009

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