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.
Dubbed the queen of the palace after her stunning debut success at the World Darts Championships in 2019, Fallon Sherrock marked her return to arms at this years tournament on December 19th with an opening round clash with former BDO World Champion Steve Beaton.
With the return of spectators it is sure to be an action packed and star studded event, with so many contenders in prime position to mount an assault on the prestigious Sid Waddell trophy and the £500,000 jackpot on offer.
The standard of play has never been higher in the men’s game as astronomical averages are being set on a weekly basis, and this is sure to set the stage for a thrilling tournament.
Amongst that prestigious field sits Fallon Sherrock who has punched a path through the men’s game unlike any female has ever managed in the sport before.
Her appearance at the 2019 World Championship saw the first ever victory for a female at the tournament in its forty year history, an unforgettable moment that captured the imagination of every sports fan in the country.
She would eventually succumb to Chris Dobey 4-2 in sets in the third round of the tournament, yet her journey through those three rounds mattered so much more than the final destination, as Sherrock had finally shattered the glass ceiling for female athletes in a predominately male sport. Ladies had competed in this tournament previously but not one had managed to overcome such a monumental obstacle, and in doing so Fallon Sherrock became a overnight sensation and won an entire legion of fans in the process, both male and female.
Her groundbreaking performance laid waste to the notion that women cannot compete with men in elite level sports, whilst some naysayers believed her to be a flash in the pan.
Sherrock went on to silence any doubters however, with a series of hugely impressive outings in multiple televised events, most notably in September 2021 she became the first woman in the history of the PDC to reach the final of a televised tournament at the Nordic Masters, eventually falling to the mighty Michael Van Gerwen 11-7 on legs.
Her imperious form continued in earnest at last months Grand Slam of Darts, as she yet again barged down the door of male superiority by reaching the quarter finals of a major event filled with household names. Her narrow and subsequent 16-13 loss on legs to former World Champion Peter Wright was greeted with a shower of praise from fans and pundits of the game alike, as she continues to fly in the face of convention each time she steps onto the oche.
The next stop for her is a return to Alexandra Palace where Sherrock’s star shone so bright in 2019, and it is sure to be an emotional return for her after failing to qualify for last years event during the on-going pandemic.
Her strides forward as a competitor has been nothing short of remarkable, as the svelte lady in pink continues to make a mockery of any shallow belief that women cannot emulate the men at the highest level, and in doing so she has earned the respect of her male peers within the game.
To do so whilst placed under the microscope every time she steps up on stage deserves a huge amount of respect, as it cannot be easy to be thrust into the limelight so quickly. Yet she admirably seems to take it all in her stride as she continues her inspiring tale of success into the men’s game, where as previously women would only compete against each other in a separate tournament.
Much to their credit the Professional Darts Corporation are offering more opportunities to women than ever to battle it out amongst their male counterparts, and once again Lisa Ashton will also compete in this years World Championship, however she continues to be without a win in the tournament.
Ultimately though it is Fallon Sherrock who has taken her opportunities and ran with them, as she looks to build upon her budding reputation as a genuine threat in any competition that she enters. With a solid showing at this years World Championship we may also see her square off against the cream of the crop on a weekly basis in the Premier League, which would be yet another monumental first.
As far as I can see I would say that it would fully deserved as this pioneer for women’s sport continues to prove that she belongs on the big stage, rather than to have her participation treated as a mere sympathy act.
Her journey has shone the spotlight on what women are truly capable of when given equal opportunities and she has not just pushed against centuries old boundaries, she has smashed through them with great gusto. Thus, it is time to celebrate her marvelous achievements since her magical debut at Alexandra Palace in 2019.
Consequently, I feel that there are certain sports that would benefit from simply handing females the opportunity to compete, as it would see many more eyes on the product, and with Fallon Sherrock making such a positive impact in the world of Darts it can surely only inspire other women to participate in any sport that they wish.
Over time women’s role in society has changed and adapted enormously from just being mothers and wives in the not so distant past, as now we see them as people of power, friends, and important role models for many children in all walks of life. Alas, our attitude to women has changed so much over the last century and I feel it is time that sport echoes those sentiments and their achievements should be held in as much high regard as the men.
I do feel that has been prevalent over the last few years with the likes of Emma Raducanu deservedly gaining hero like status for her astonishing major win at the US Open tennis, but there is still some work to do as far as I can see in terms of equal pay and recognition in society as a whole.
What Fallon Sherrock has accomplished should be the first steps in the evolution of Darts and possibly other sports, as surely if you are talented enough to reach the required standard then you deservedly belong on that playing field regardless of gender.
I sincerely believe that Fallon Sherrock can continue to challenge the status quo at this years highly anticipated World Championship as she has quickly become a precious commodity to both Darts and sport in general, as her popularity has known no bounds as both male and female fans have taken her to their hearts.
It is now almost time for her to ruffle some feathers once more, and personally I am looking forward to what she can achieve at this tournament and beyond, as she blazes a trail that no female has ever travelled down previously.
Professional Darts requires an innate ability to perform under pressure and be able to harness mental clarity at pivotal moments, and from what I have witnessed it seems that Fallon Sherrock has these attributes in abundance as her quest for a maiden major title continues to gain pace.
Personally, I hope that she makes that giant leap sooner rather than later!
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It seems that it was only yesterday that a fresh faced sixteen year old footballer named Wayne Rooney burst on to the scene with an outrageous winner against an Arsenal team in the midst of a 30 game unbeaten run.
Everton Football Club had unearthed a rare and precocious talent who at this early stage of his career would make the headlines for all the right reasons.
Thrust into the limelight from this precise moment, his career trajectory has seen him hit many dizzying heights and also monumental lows, as the legacy of Wayne Rooney can and will be debated long into the future.
His England career began in earnest with a friendly against Australia in 2003 as a second half substitute at the tender age of seventeen.
The following summer at Euro 2004, Rooney would leave his indelible mark on not just us as England fans, but the entire footballing landscape, as his rip roaring performances as a fearless eighteen year old catapulted his name alongside the likes of a young Pele and Maradona. It was certainly a warranted comparison as his performances were simply sensational.
England would eventually falter at the quarter final stage after the man himself broke his metatarsal in the opening ten minutes of the tie against Portugal.
Regardless of the harrowing timing of his injury, he left that summers tournament with four goals to his name and a reputation that was enhanced immeasurably. Unfortunately this would be the absolute peak of his international career with England.
Manchester United came knocking instantly and paid £28 million pounds for his services on his return. A record fee for a teenage footballer at this moment in time, his manager Alex Ferguson and the club were handsomely rewarded by their investment, as he duly delivered a glittering and trophy laden career at the theatre of dreams.
Paired with a young Cristiano Ronaldo, these two young stallions led Manchester United on a path of glory that garnered three Premier League titles in succession and the most treasured prize in the game, the European Cup in 2008.
At this juncture at appeared as if you could not split the two, in regards to who was the superior talent, as both Wayne and Cristiano were crucial cogs in the Manchester United machine.
Ronaldo eventually moved onto pastures new with Real Madrid as his standing in the sport rocketed into a new stratosphere, going on to amass a ludicrous 760 goals in his career and is still fighting fit at 36 years young for Juventus in Serie A.
Whilst Rooney had somewhat been left behind by the Portuguese marvel, his own remarkable scoring accomplishments for both club and country still command the upmost respect from any follower of the game. Scoring 253 goals for Manchester United and 53 goals for his country, eclipsing the the legendary Bobby Charlton on each occasion.
You could almost create a scrapbook of some of Rooney’s most exquisite strikes, as his eye for the spectacular created so many moments to treasure as football fans, and his overhead kick against Manchester City was duly voted as goal of the century by supporters across the country.
Despite his vastly impressive accolades, I sincerely believe with the right application and focus off the pitch Rooney could’ve tapped into his vast well of talent that much more, and taken his place at the table alongside the duo of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo in the conversation of who is the greatest of all time.
His early performances led us to believe that this was a genius in the making, and in patches of his career he delivered on that promise. However, when his off the field misdemeanors began to surface in the media his talents would often take a backseat to the controversy circling around him.
Allegations surrounding his private life have always followed Rooney throughout his time in the game, with infidelity, court cases, and contractual disputes all rearing their ugly heads at various points in his career, and these distractions can only serve to hinder the stroke of a footballing artist.
A five time Premier League winner, a three time League Cup holder, and the owner of both a FA Cup and Champions League winners medal, it seems unjust to criticize Rooney’s credentials. But much like Paul Gascoigne before him I feel that these issues did eventually put the brakes on a man who was destined for so much more in the game, despite admittedly already achieving so much.
Thus, I believe if Rooney had harnessed all of his god given talent and whole heartedly committed himself to the game like his old running buddy Cristiano Ronaldo, he could have led England to great success in both European Championships and World Cup tournaments.
Once dubbed the white Pele by adoring England supporters, it is suffice to say that looking back across his international career it is sadly littered with crushing disappointments. These should not attributed to him alone, but it is difficult to comprehend why after such a swashbuckling start to life in an England shirt that he only found the net in a World Cup on just one occasion in his career, a 2-1 defeat against Uruguay in Brazil 2014.
It is often discussed that his will to be a team player worked against him, as he was regularly willing to play out of position in order to make the team tick. This point is certainly valid but also his ill discipline would also cost England dearly in major tournaments, as red cards and a lack of anger management would often see Rooney sitting out games of the upmost importance.
The World Cup in 2006 instantly springs to mind with his red card in the quarter finals against Portugal and could be chalked up to inexperience, yet at our next major tournament in Euro 2012 we were shorn of our number one marksman once again, missing the first two group games due to a red card in the final match of qualifying against Montenegro.
To pin England’s failure on just one man is unjust, and is something I do not wish to do, as I feel that far too much weight was hung around Rooney’s neck in an era where quality English players coming through the ranks at club level were almost an oddity.
In stark contrast we currently we have an abundance of riches with the likes of Jadon Sancho, Jack Grealish, and Marcus Rashford all showing the hallmarks of top international stalwarts for England.
Rooney often shouldered the burden of a nation and it would certainly have been a tough ask to deal with the immense pressure that was bestowed on him as our talisman and captain. However, I do feel that with greater application he could have accomplished truly monumental greatness and it is almost with regret that he has retired at the age of 36 having never fully fulfilled his astronomical potential.
Ultimately Wayne Rooney’s name will be etched into the record books as a Manchester United and England great due to his outstanding honors and goal records for both, yet the man himself continues to divide opinion in regards to his impact on the game during his playing years.
Management is now the next step for the Croxteth born, once wonderkid, and it is scarcely believable that he has reached retirement, proof that time does indeed fly.
I tip my hat to the man himself for a stellar career in football and wish him the very best in his new role at Derby County, and as a Manchester United fan I cherish some of the fantastic memories he provided us with at his rampaging best.
However, I will never be able to shirk the underlying feeling that there was always just a little more left in the tank.
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Seven years after turning professional, Gerwyn Price can now lay his hands on the prestigious Sid Waddell trophy, becoming only the fifth ever Welshman to be crowned World Darts Champion.
It was a rivalry renewed as the fiery and brash Welshman Price would encounter the far more restrained and efficient Scotsman Gary Anderson, as such the clash of styles and temperaments made this showpiece final fascinating viewing.
The match itself played out in nerve jangling fashion as The Iceman failed to keep his cool on countless occasions, missing a total of eleven championship darts which saw his Opponent Gary Anderson begin to reel in the 35 year old Price who continually failed to grasp the opportunities handed to him.
With the final score reading 7-3 in Price’s favour it would seem that this victory was fairly straight forward on the surface. It was certainly anything but that however, as this contest of the highest quality made for riveting viewing as the pendulum of momentum swung from one player to the other.
Price himself recorded a stratospheric 3 dart average of 136 in one set, setting the highest ever average for one set in the process. With a demolition job firmly on the cards it seemed the coronation of Price as the new king of the oche was looming large on the horizon.
However, as the final stretch on the road home beckoned, the Welshman began to show sure fire signs of nerves and trepidation as the enormity of his achievements came into view.
The man who had scarcely missed a double throughout the entire evening began to waiver as each match dart hung like a stone around his sizeable neck.
As each arrow agonisingly slipped through his fingers it was the Flying Scotsman Gary Anderson who punished the Welshman time and again, registering two sets on the bounce to make it 6-3 on the night and a third beckoned to leave the score at 6-4.
As the tungsten tension reached boiling point it was Gary Anderson who failed to capitalize on Price’s late Christmas gift, this time missing 3 darts himself at double sixteen. Price could breathe once again and the Welshman finally kept his composure to realise his dream by checking out double five to become World Champion and land the winners purse of £500,000.
“I’ve never felt pressure like that in my life, that was tough to hit that winning double, how Michael Van Gerwen, Peter Wright and other people make it look so easy its crazy, that was tough.”
Gerwyn Price 2021 World Darts Final.
Price’s ascendancy to the top of the sport marks a remarkable rise as he won his tour card at Q school in 2014. Having left a successful career in Rugby union and rugby league behind, he decided to shift his focus towards his darting dreams and ambitions.
It is a decision that has paid off in abundance for the former doorman and in capturing the World title in his first attempt he has now removed his Dutch rival Michael Van Gerwen from the throne as world number one.
Price by his own admission had courted this prize for a long time and it is no mean feat as Van Gerwen has routinely dominated the sport for long periods. But it now seems that it is Gerwyn Price’s time to showcase his prowess in a sport that is so competitive across the board.
To hold the accolade of world number one takes dedication, heart and desire over sustained periods as you must amass the required ranking points to place yourself at the head of this table.
It is clear that Price has that passion and fervor for the game in abundance, you certainly need to look no further than his emotional and passionate outbursts whilst on stage, which can cause upset to both spectators and rival players alike.
His colorful past as a competitive Rugby player and bouncer could perhaps provide us with an insight into why Price harbors such aggression on occasion, as both professions require a domineering presence in order to be a success.
I believe that the Welshman brings these bruising attributes of his psyche to the forefront on the oche because he simply cannot be anyone else, it is deep rooted in mental make up to have an inner warrior that becomes unleashed when faced with competition. I would therefore suggest that the marking of a maximum 180 or a crucial check out with his now trademark roar is simply a show of his desire to succeed and a love for his craft.
I feel that many may have misconstrued his attitude as confrontational and aggressive as Michael Van Gerwen on many occasions has shown his propensity to celebrate wildly on stage throughout his matches as world number one for seven long years. Yet it seems to me he does not court as much criticism, so I do feel that it is unjust to lambaste Gerwyn Price for his similar actions.
Some players are seen resorting to cheap and underhand tactics in order to find victory, and to do so in the cheapest manor is a far greater misdemeanor in my eyes. This has been evident throughout the years in Darts and is not something myself and many other fans of the game can condone.
Gary Anderson versus Mensur Suljovic was a prime example in the earlier rounds of this very tournament, as the Austrian’s slow play and bizarre behavior riled the Scotsman to such a degree he declared he would rather quit the game than continue playing in such a manner.
There is no such sly undertone with Gerwyn Price as what you see is what you get and Anderson faced no such needle in the final against his opponent, just a man who had his heart and mind set on realising a sporting dream.
With that appetite for success does come an intensity that sometimes spills over, but I cannot see an issue with displaying your emotions in a thrilling sport that thrives on the ability to hold your nerve under excruciating pressure at times. The topsy turvy ebb and flow of matches makes many match up’s pure theatre that can leave us emotionally exhausted when the sport is at its very finest.
Ultimately what we have seen in the last three weeks at Alexandra Palace has been a fabulous showcase for the sport of Darts that continues to grow exponentially every year.
The lack of spectators has been pushed into the background by the pure drama of each and every session as a slew of big guns fell to the wayside in the early rounds, including the reigning champion Peter Wright in a seven set thriller against Gabriel Clemens.
Who can also forget the Dave Chisnall masterclass against Michael Van Gerwen in the quarter finals. We watched on awestruck as Chizzy’s 107 three dart average laid the x3 World Champion to waste in a 5-0 whitewash.
These magical moments amongst many others lit up our tv screens in a spectacular championship, and in what are currently some dark times with the ongoing pandemic, this tournament served as a welcome break from the new normal.
We were reminded of the joy and passion that live sport can evoke from both us the fans and the competitors themselves, and for an action packed three weeks I can only offer my gratitude and thanks to all the PDC staff and players that put on such a memorable show.
The Iceman is no doubt a worthy and deserving winner, and to reach such monumental heights with a career very much in its infancy is something to be greatly admired.
Thus, the impending battle to hold onto his new found status as world number one will create an epic backdrop for an already exciting season ahead for 2021.
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There has been various articles at this magazine where I have recollected some of the finer moments and memories that football has granted us throughout the years.
But today its time for a change of tact, to answer the question that has eaten away at my passion for the sport for a number of years now.
Has football lost its way?
For me It seems that the chasm between modern footballers and spectators of the game is ever expanding. For a pastime that was once billed as a game for the people it really is a crying shame that Premier League Football with its vast financial wealth and clout seem to have marginalised what makes our game so very special, us the fans.
The roar, the hustle and bustle of the matchday crowd is an event that you can always recollect fondly on your first time at an arena. Passion, emotion, and tension streams from the stands and vastly enhances the theatre that plays out in front of us, and now with the pandemic era of football in full swing this is more evident than ever before.
Players that share these traits now seem to be part of a by-gone era, as the celebrity Instagram culture seems to have penetrated into not only the realms of our everyday lives but also into many facets of modern Football, casting a shadow on our beloved national game that we have nurtured and cared for so much.
Watching the game growing up as a Manchester United fan I was transfixed by the blood and guts style of play not only by United, but also any opponent that would face off against them. Titanic battles between heated rivals such as Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea would leave me salivating for the next game on the horizon, as my own enthusiasm for victory would be mirrored by the warriors that would be stepping out onto the pitch every weekend.
Every match contested with gusto and thunder would keep us glued to our tv screens, teetering on the edge of our arm chairs or bar stools, as every win or loss for either team always seemed to matter so much more.
The battle would often begin in earnest as the teams lined up beside each other in the tunnel, a look of steely of determination in the eyes, fired up for the task ahead, waiting to leave every ounce of blood sweat and tears out on the pitch.
This has now been replaced by obligatory hugs, handshakes, and friendly chatter that seem to quell my own and the players thirst for battle before the match has even got underway. Whilst in defeat the same players are often seen smiling and swapping shirts afterwards whilst the fans trudge home disconsolate and broken hearted.
This attitude of the games new generation seems to have watered down such a vital dimension of the game and in my view it is what made football like no other sport and so rewarding for its fanbase, for victory achieved by grit and strength of character always tasted so much sweeter.
This tribal culture and sense of belonging to the badge has recently been derided and disregarded too many times by a new breed of football player.
Far too often extortionate amounts of money change hands for players in terms of transfers and wages, whilst within a few days the new kid on the block confesses his love for his new employers and how he has dreamed of playing there since he was a child.
It’s a yarn that has now been spun far too many times and myself and many others see straight through the façade, yearning for the days past where player loyalty and love for his team truly meant something. As it seems players no longer look towards championships and trophies, instead it seems that the pay packet is what drives any young talent coming through from grass root level.
I’m baffled by the obsession with social media and the constant flaunting of wealth by so many. This will only serve to widen the gap between spectators and footballers even more so, as it is that connection that we as supporters thrive on with our chosen team, and without it the game will eventually become meaningless.
I could never comprehend that my love for the sport would ever begin to dwindle, but here we are where it seems that it no longer holds such an important role in my life. Gone are the days of teams, managers and players fighting tooth and nail for medals and championship honours. Now replaced by young wealthy men that seem to be more concerned about their FIFA rating on Playstation, or the latest expensive car that they can lay there hands on, all without ever actually achieving anything in the game whatsoever.
I blame the shift in society for this new wave of unmotivated footballers as they have been raised in a culture where fame and notoriety can be won without a shred of actual talent. We seem to aimlessly compete with each other across social media platforms attempting to justify our own existence in the world, and that for me has seeped into mainstream sport as previously mentioned.
Fashion and clothing lines are even released by truly mediocre players that serve to line their already bulging pockets, which can only turn off the paying public who are being fleeced for money by multiple subscriptions services to even watch a match on tv.
I truly hope that one day we can close this gap and get back to what made us fall in love with the game to begin with.
Performance’s that echo our spirit and enthusiasm for the game need to follow from the players as too often a lack of commitment suggests that selfies and sponsorship deals matter more in the long term.
This article may be seen as a slight on our game as it currently stands, but it is something that I feel very strongly about, as there is too many Mesut Ozil’s in the game and not enough Cristiano Ronaldo’s.
Cristiano embodies some of the criticisms housed in this article, but it cannot be denied his fantastic ability and outright desire to be the best on the pitch and for that he deserves all of the trappings of his own monumental success.
I believe that greed and wealth from clubs and players alike is slowly detaching people from the sport and where it will all lead eventually can only be speculated on, as it has seemingly turned into nothing more than a millionaires playground for many.
Throw the introduction of VAR into an already volatile mix, it has now become a recipe for disaster.
Further contempt from avid followers of the game has arisen, with many up in arms with its affect on the sport. Since its inception it has been an unmitigated failure in my eyes as it has now turned many matches into atmosphere vacuums as we can no longer even celebrate the high point of any game, the goals.
Inconsistent decision making and flawed logic when making these refereeing calls is having a highly detrimental effect on the sport, as it is forcing us the fans to hold back our emotional investment in the game. This being the magical ingredient that the game must continue to encourage in order to withhold its mass appeal.
I hope that one day football can return to its former glories as it is such a marvellous spectacle when all positive facets of the game are on full display.
But this can only happen if clubs and their staff begin to understand that football is built on the foundation of its supporters.
Whilst continuing to raise ticket prices, replica shirt sales and subscription services to line rank average playing staffs pockets is no longer viable in the current climate.
Football will eventually find itself at a crossroads in my opinion and I sincerely hope that it will realise the errors of its own ways and we can embrace it once more as something to love and cherish all over again.
I would suggest Scrapping VAR and introducing a salary cap would be a mammoth step in the right direction.
Feel free to discuss any of my viewpoints down below.
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