Great Britain has produced a vast wealth of internationally renowned Boxing talent ever since its inception as a legitimate sporting profession in the early 20th century, spawning numerous World Champions across a plethora of weight divisions, whilst some of the sports most colorful characters captured our imaginations.
This list is by no means definitive and is simply a selection of my own personal preferences that have inspired myself and many others on both sides of the ropes.
Each of them are battle hardened warriors in their own right, and in my opinion are worthy additions to any list when discussing the finest ring generals of the last century.
Feel free to let me know your own top five or if I’ve missed any of your favourites in the comments down below.
5. Prince Naseem Hamed.
There has never been anyone quite like Prince Naseem Hamed, a man who brought an unprecedented number of eyes to the often overlooked featherweight division in the 1990’s.
The flamboyant entrances and spectacular front flip over the top rope before each of his bouts set the tone for what was always a guarantee if you tuned into a Prince Naseem fight, pure box office entertainment.
A multiple time World Champion, his unconventional Boxing style meshed with his arrogant and brash persona made him and each of his battles thrilling viewing. Despite his cockiness Prince Naz delivered between the ropes time and again with raw knockout power that stunned many for a man who stood at a mere 5ft 4in tall.
His defense was barely existent, as rather than the traditional gloves up guard, he would prefer to duck and dive, nonchalantly daring his opponents to land on his chin.
Eventually his luck would run out with such daredevil tactics, suffering a devastating loss to Marco Antonio Barerra in 2001 that he never truly recovered from, as soon after he retired from the ring.
However, for the ten years that he did compete, his style and showmanship exuded excitement like we’ve never seen before and he inspired an abundance of other British Boxers to lace up a pair of gloves.
Click on the numbers down below to continue the countdown.
Over the course of the past year we have seen the rise of a disturbing trend amongst a sport that has seen some of the very finest warriors battle for supremacy and respect over multiple decades.
It is a discipline that commands commitment, heart, and a fierce desire if you are to reach the pinnacle of the fight game. Over many years and since my own childhood we have been fortunate to witness truly epic showdowns, and the rise and fall of many fantastic athletes that have sacrificed everything in order to become a World Champion.
Boxing itself is littered with inspirational role models that have struck a chord with so many people from all walks of life. Numerous fighters have had to break through from poverty stricken backgrounds to carve out a living, and many other people are bred into a world that can be so unforgiving. Alas, these boxers have given hope to the unfortunate, and credence to the motto impossible is nothing.
Going as far back as the 1960’s Muhammad Ali was the original maverick superstar that refused to conform to his expected status in that era’s society. He was an Olympic Gold medalist that turned professional and went on to win three World Heavyweight Championships, attained through some of the greatest showdowns in the sports lineage.
Ali dedicated his adult life to mastering the sweet science of Boxing. His outlandish and controversial attitude transcended the sport as his battles were not only waged inside the ropes, but also as he fought for social and racial equality for ethnic minority’s around the world. In doing so he left a untouchable legacy behind as the man who gave hope to so many.
Both Mike Tyson and Frank Bruno came from broken homes in the 1980’s and engaged in contests that thrilled nations as each man pushed their mind, body, and souls to the very limit for the opportunity to be crowned Champion of the world.
Iron Mike’s namesake Tyson Fury is another tale of inspiration and success that has been previously covered at this magazine. It ranks as an uplifting tale of triumph over adversity of the highest caliber.
With each of these names the common denominator is the fact that each and every victory has been bred through many years of hard work and great sacrifice.
Chris Eubank’s career in the 1990’s is one that I feel holds the most relevancy here however, as it would be intertwined with both tragedy and triumph. The most memorable feuds of his career would come with the Dark Destroyer Nigel Benn and Michael Watson.
Eubank vs Benn was a classic rivalry that encapsulated everything that we loved about the sport, barnstorming battles between men with a deep dislike for another, battle lines were drawn as two elite warriors in their athletic prime slugged it out. Eubank’s would narrowly escape with his championship after a win and a draw in the two fights.
Unfortunately the latter contest with Michael Watson is notorious for all the wrong reasons, as Watson’s loss resulted in hospitalization and a coma for the Londoner. In turn both himself and Eubank’s lives would never be the same again, as Watson’s near fatal injuries left him struggling to walk and talk for a very long time.
Thankfully he is now able to walk, talk, and communicate comfortably after many years of grueling physical and emotional therapy. However, he is confined to a wheelchair for the vast majority of his daily life.
Eubank’s himself confesses to carrying the guilt and mental scars for Watson’s suffering to this very day, despite both men touchingly becoming close friends after such a horrific incident.
This unfortunate tale must sound the alarm for any man or woman who choose to lace up a pair of boots and step into a Boxing ring. What these fearless warriors do is extremely dangerous, as their livelihood and very existence is placed on the line every time they head into battle.
People have lost their lives and many have suffered catastrophic life changing injuries. Therefore for any celebrity to think that they can waltz into a ring and glove up against any seasoned professional fighter is both foolhardy and reckless beyond belief. It is one thing for amateur’s to face one another, but when you have musicians and Instagram influencers calling out hardened combatants I fear that this current façade is going to only end in tragedy before too long.
Enter Jake and Logan Paul, two brothers barely out of nappies in the sport, sharing a total of four fights between them. Youtubers and former Disney actors by trade, they astonishingly share a belief that they belong in the same breath as the likes of the great Floyd Mayweather who retired undefeated after a glittering career. Having fought the most fearsome fighters of this generation such as Oscar De La Hoya, Manny Pacquiao, and Canelo Alvarez.
Both men are extremely vocal in press conferences and across social media, claiming to be knockout artists whilst calling out various UFC fighters, which I find laughable on so many different levels, as the reality itself speaks at a much higher volume.
Jake’s three victories have come against a fellow Youtuber, an ex NBA player, and a ageing retired UFC fighter. Whilst Logan’s one and only bout ended in defeat to another fellow Youtuber KSI. Thus, it is baffling as to how both men have the gumption to make such outlandish claims, as it has no basis whatsoever.
Jake and Logan Paul’s attitude itself is almost symbolic of this generation of Instagram influencers and Youtubers, as they look for instantaneous gratification through clicks and likes on social media platforms. So rather than through self dedication and commitment, both men feel they can bypass the core fundamentals of a discipline that takes many years to master and become an immediate overnight success.
Personally, I can only see the impending showdown with Mayweather ending in an embarrassing defeat for Logan Paul as the undefeated former World Champion is in another galaxy in comparison to the Youtuber. With that in mind I feel that Mayweather should not even be stepping into the ring with him, such is the disparity between the two.
It is a bout that is fraught with danger, and the criticism that could be heading his and Boxing’s way if Logan Paul suffers serious injury or worse would leave an indelible stain on such a highly regarded profession. Thus, I feel that it isn’t worth him tarnishing his own legacy with a man who simply hasn’t earned the right to be there in the first place.
Boxing itself does not need this kind of publicity, as true fans and supporters understand that this isn’t what the sports fundamentals and principles were built on. Furthermore, I feel that it is an affront and an insult to the legacy of the men and women who have devoted their precious time and energy to the sport and provided it with such a rich history.
The only way we can put a halt to this celebrity circus is to no longer pay lip service to this growing and concerning trend. It is said that money talks in life and it certainly does so in the world of Boxing and pay per view buy rates. Thus, if we the paying consumer refuse to draw our eyes and hard earned money to these glorified playground spats they will ultimately dwindle down to irrelevancy.
In turn, rather than watch celebrities cosplay for followers and likes, we can rightly focus our attention back to the real Boxing personalities that take part for passion, respect, and tradition.
Feel free to discuss any of the viewpoints down below.
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Anthony Joshua’s rags to riches tale has seen the London based fighter garner an astronomical and adoring fan base not only in the United Kingdom but throughout the world. The former Olympic Gold medalist currently sits atop a stacked heavyweight division, with three of the four World Heavyweight Championships available under his possession.
This Saturday he lays each of those titles on the line as he is set to go into battle with Kubrat Pulev, his mandatory challenger. This in my opinion marks the beginning of a pivotal chapter that will determine the fate and legacy of Joshua’s seven year professional career.
Ever since sealing Olympic Gold for Team GB at the 2012 London Olympics, AJ has seemingly captured the hearts of the nation, with many hailing him as a national treasure after his rapid rise to the apex of the Boxing industry. As a result his social media following and carefully crafted public image has seen him become one of the most marketable athletes in the world, as he holds an abundance of sponsorship deals with the likes of Lucozade, Under Armour, and Beats By Dre.
It is certainly an inspiring tale when you read upon the history of Joshua, who was destined for a life of crime before he saw the error of his ways and decided to pour his time and energy into the art form of professional Boxing.
His war with Wladimir Klitschko in 2017 where he won all the heavyweight titles available will go down in folklore. The hungry young lion engaged in a knock down, drag out brawl with the elder statesman of the division in Wladimir Klitschko, as many had questioned Joshua’s ability to hang with an elite fighter such as the 41 year old Ukrainian.
Joshua duly delivered on his budding reputation and recovered from an early thunderous knockdown to win via TKO in a classic encounter, roared by a jam packed 90,000 capacity Wembley Stadium.
We seemingly had a new hero in the sport, AJ was a household name and for the first time since Frank Bruno it seemed as though an emotional bond had been created between us the fans and Joshua himself. It was hard not to root for the charismatic street kid made good, who was crowned the new World Heavyweight Champion after just 15 professional fights.
After the match up Joshua called out Tyson Fury for the battle that everyone wanted to see and yet three years later in 2020 it has failed to materialise, and this is where I believe you can trace AJ’s downturn in public perception back to in some quarters.
His Boxing ability has been questioned ever since that thrilling victory as consequently he has somehow failed to square off against any of the true players of the heavyweight division.
Following on from the victory over Klitschko, he faced off against Carlos Takam and despite winning via stoppage in the 10th round it was a shaky performance and a maybe a pre-cursor of the future.
Joseph Parker was Joshua’s next match up where a pedestrian win on points followed, and Shortly thereafter he would face Andy Ruiz Jr in Madison Square Garden, New York, where the world would be left stunned by what unfolded in the ring.
An overweight Andy Ruiz Jr was left with little to no chance against the hulking Anthony Joshua, who was expected to steam roll his opponent. What played out was quite the opposite as Ruiz Jr dropped AJ on his backside on multiple occasions leaving the referee no choice but to call for the bell, leaving Ruiz as the first ever Mexican World Heavyweight Champion and the Londoner comprehensively beaten, the Curtains had been drawn on the Antony Joshua show.
Much to his credit he promptly regained those belts in the return bout with Ruiz Jr and is now a two time World Heavyweight Champion, but many now suggest that this has exposed a soft under belly beneath the Joshua foundations.
He has himself admitted that complacency had wormed its way into his fight camps and would no longer let that happen, the loss had bred a new focus according to the man himself.
He stands accused by his naysayers as being just a bodybuilder who can throw a decent punch, a man who doesn’t hone and test his craft against the finest that the fight game has to offer.
It seems that Tyson Fury has overtaken AJ in the publics and boxing purists affection as his willing to take on the elite fighters in their prime has earned the general public’s upmost respect. He also holds the prestigious WBC version of the World Heavyweight Title which is a glaring omission from the Anthony Joshua trophy cabinet.
At a glance it seems that his lucrative media commitments often overshadow what truly matters to fans of the sport and in my view this is where he continues to flounder.
It is time to ditch the building of the brand and for AJ to step up to the mark and face off against the likes of the bronzed bomber Deontay Wilder and the gypsy king Tyson Fury rather than various journeyman fighters across the division, if he wishes to be considered as one of the all time great fighters of this generation.
I am hard pressed to ignore the comparison to Frank Bruno who I briefly mentioned earlier, his tale certainly echoes that of AJ’s, the troubled teenager who turned his life around by virtue of Boxing.
Never the most technically gifted fighter he went to war with the likes of Lennox Lewis and Iron Mike Tyson on numerous occasions, warrior’s of the highest caliber.
Bruno would typically bow out on his shield, losing to the baddest man on the planet Mike Tyson on his maiden defence of the World Heavyweight Championship he had only just captured in the fight previous against Oliver Mcall.
It was a gut wrenching loss yet he was suitably adored none the less for his courage and fighting spirit.
In stark contrast I cant escape the notion that AJ’s signature victory came over an ageing Wladimir Klitschko who was past his prime, and his subsequent match ups have been against the lesser likes of the heavyweight division.
With the showdown against Kubrat Pulev fast approaching it is paramount that he disposes of the 39 year old Bulgarian if he is to seal a fight with the new people’s champion Tyson Fury, a showdown that would surely shatter all box office records.
I am in no position to question the skill of an Olympic Boxing gold medalist and World Heavyweight Champion, but a step up to the professional ranks poses a brand new set of questions for any talented amateur, and the whispers continue to circle around him in regards to his heart and desire for the big time showdowns that will solidify his legacy and standing in the sport.
We as fight fans like to see the elite go toe to toe and if it comes to pass that AJ faces Tyson Fury in 2021 it will be a blockbusting event that we can all look forward to with great anticipation.
Therefore, it is the here and now that marks Anthony Joshua’s opportunity to land a body shot to his detractors by no longer shirking his responsibilities as World Heavyweight Champion, and making the match up’s that we are all eager and deserve to see as paying patrons of the sport.
Thus, If the Watford born slugger should emerge from that proposed encounter with the Gypsy King as the undisputed World Heavyweight Champion, he would undeniably land the knockout blow to even his harshest of critics.
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It’s what the self proclaimed ‘Gypsy King’ has done throughout his entire existence, and every battle he has faced inside the ropes or in life itself, he has emerged undefeated.
Tyson’s rise to prominence is a story that needs to be heard and is a truly inspirational story that has transcended the world of just Boxing and sport.
His tale began on August 12th 1988, born into Irish travellers weighing only one pound and three months premature, he was given little to no hope of living by Doctors and medical personnel.
He survived and his father John named him after ‘Iron’ Mike Tyson, the reigning World Heavyweight Champion at the time.
Fury left school at 11 years old to tarmac roads alongside his brothers and took up amateur boxing at the age of 14. Encouraged by his father a former bare knuckle fighter and professional boxer himself, with his family’s roots also running deep amongst the sport.
As Tyson began to make a name for himself in the fight game it became apparent that people did not take him seriously despite the fact that he had put together a relentless winning streak, dismantling every opponent he had faced.
A shot at glory.
His 26-0 record would eventually lead him to a showdown with Wladimir Klitschko however, who had presided over the division as champion for 10 years straight.
The build up to the bout was somewhat unorthodox, much like Fury himself, as he continued to act as court jester in press conferences, with Boxing purists and analysts alike giving the man who came from nothing barely a chance against the Ukranian giant.
With the fight taking place in Dusseldorf, Germany, he would be stepping into the Lion’s Den for the chance to fulfil his lifelong ambition of becoming World Heavyweight Champion.
The following 12 rounds from Fury was a masterclass on how to hit and not be hit as he outclassed Klitschko from the off and throughout, his ability to switch styles and nimble footwork totally bamboozling the defending champion.
Crowned as the new World Heavyweight Champion and capturing every belt in the division, Tyson had scaled the mountain that few ever believed he could.
The Gypsy from Morecambe was the new face of the Boxing world.
The price of success.
It soon became apparent that Tyson’s triumph would ultimately lead to his downfall, as he sat on his recently acquired throne he began to ponder what was next…? had the pinnacle of his career been reached…?
What followed became well documented in the media as Tyson had to relinquish all of his hard earned titles after testing positive for cocaine and being declared medically unfit by Doctors to fight.
Fury began to gain vast amounts of weight due to his excessive lifestyle and depressive episodes, a comeback seemed unlikely as he publicly announced he was diagnosed as bi-polar and at times didn’t want to live anymore.
However, as we entered 2018 Fury boldly stated that he would be making a comeback to the ring and was set on reclaiming the World Heavyweight Championship’s that he had never lost, the eye of the tiger had returned.
Shedding a monumental 10 stone in the run up to his return bout with Sefer Seferi, Fury cut a lean and mean figure as he picked up the win in his hometown of Manchester.
Another win against Francesco Pianeta followed with talk amongst the fight industry that a bout against The ‘Bronzed Bomber’ Deontay Wilder was on the horizon.
In an era where big match ups seem to take an age to negotiate, Fury quickly put pen to paper on the fight and both sides agreed to the bout taking place in the December of that year, with Tyson once again stepping into the backyard of his adversary at the Staples Centre in Los Angeles.
Both men were undefeated going into the match up with Fury once again labelled as the underdog against the knockout artist Wilder.
Despite his two and a half years in the wilderness Fury controlled large portions of the fight, outboxing his opponent throughout with superior handwork and left right combinations.
With a win on points looming, it was Wilder who unleashed a devastating left right combination of his own in the final round, dropping Fury to the canvas in stunning fashion.
The arena and fans at home held their breath as it seemed that Tyson’s journey had ground to a shuddering halt.
As the referee began the count to 10, Tyson inexplicably began to rise to his feet in its latter stages, an iconic moment that seemed to symbolise his rise from the ashes.
A seismic return from the depths of depression and addiction that had taken hold of his life over the last number of years, an inspiration to anyone that feels like there is no way back from the brink.
Remarkably he closed out the fight on the offensive and as the final bell rang both men embraced in the ring. The match declared a draw with each combatant preserving their undefeated streaks.
Tyson was however widely recognised as the true victor amongst most pundits and fight fans.
With the first confrontation between them ending in such controversial fashion it was a only a matter of time before a rematch would take place to settle the ongoing dispute of who was truly the superior fighter.
The fight would take place on February 22nd 2020 at the MGM Grand Las Vegas, with Fury once again being given little hope against the explosive power of Wilder.
Fury’s stunning performance and systematic destruction of his adversary proved otherwise, as Wilder’s corner threw in the towel halfway through the 7th round to save him from a comprehensive and painful defeat. Which had seen him bleeding from the ear and placed on his backside twice already.
The Gypsy King’s redemption had come full circle as he was crowned the WBC Heavyweight Champion of the world without a blemish on his record.
His rise from obscurity to World Heavyweight Champion and subsequent fall from grace would have made a extraordinary story in its own right, yet it seems unfathomable that he has returned more charismatic and stronger than ever despite his underlying issues. As such his second Championship victory is rightly lauded as one of the greatest comebacks in sporting history.
No stranger to publicity on the other side of the ropes, Fury has courted controversy on many occasion with his outspoken views on religion and sexuality bringing much criticism in the past.
However his popularity has soared as he has proved to be a champion inside and outside of the ring, supporting mental health charities and addiction welfare groups after donating the entirety of his purse from his 1st match up with Deontay Wilder, which amounted to a staggering £7 million.
Currently an ambassador for Frank Bruno’s mental health charity, the once maligned Gypsy King has turned public perception on its head with his generosity and willingness to open up in regards to his own difficulties that he has faced with drugs, alcohol, and mental illness throughout the tenure of his life.
Raised awareness of such crucial issues has inspired countless others to come forward, to not face their problems alone, and that in itself may be his biggest victory of all.