Boxing is once again huge in Britain due to the number of British world champions over the past few years such as Anthony Joshua, Carl Frampton, Amir Khan, Chris Eubank Jr., Lee Selby, James DeGale, and Kell Brook. Britain has always been known for producing fine boxers, but they often failed on the world stage.
That isn’t the case anymore and in truth it wasn’t always the case in the past either. This list features the 10 best all-time boxers to come out of Britain. There were others who came close to making it, but fell just short, such as John Conteh, Chris Eubank, Nigel Benn, Paul Hodkinson, Randy Turpin, Ted ‘Kid’ Lewis, Benny Lynch, Henry Cooper, Frank Bruno, Howard Winstone and Duke McKenzie.
10. Amir Khan
If 30-year-old Amir Khan of Bolton, England had a chin he’d be near the top of this list. Khan has everything else a slick boxer needs such as speed, footwork, snapping jab and combination punching. He lacks a bit in power, but his Achilles heel is definitely the ability to take a punch. Even so, he was the youngest-ever British medal winner in Olympic boxing when he won the silver in Athens in 2004 at the age of 17. He then won a world boxing championship by the time he was 22. Khan has been a Jr. Welterweight Titleholder, but took a risk when he jumped to middleweight and was stopped by Canelo Alvarez. Khan was definitely outboxing Canelo until he was stopped in the sixth round in May, 2016. Khan’s record stands at 31-4 with 19 Kos and he’s beaten Marco Antonio Barrera, Chris Algieri, Devon Alexander, Luis Collazo, Julio Diaz, Carlos Medina, Zab Judah, Dmitry Salita, Andriy Kotelnik, Marcos Maidana and Paulie Malignaggi. He was also blatantly robbed against Lamont Peterson by split decision and Peterson then failed his post-fight drug test. Khan simply doesn’t get the credit he deserves.
9. Ricky Hatton
Stockport, England’s Ricky ‘Hitman’ Hatton didn’t have the greatest boxing skills around, but he had power and a lot of heart. The 38-year-old fought professionally from 1997 to 2012 as a junior welterweight and welterweight and managed to rack up a record of 45-3 with 32 Kos along with a world title. He was stopped by two of the all-time greats in Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr. and there’s certainly no shame in that. In addition, two of his losses came in his last two fights and his three career defeats were in his last five outings. Hatton beat the likes of Paulie Malignaggi, Jose Luis Castillo, Ben Tackie, Vince Phillips, Juan Lazcano, Juan Urango, Luis Collazo, Ray Oliveira and the great Kostya Tszyu. Who can forget Hatton’s fans following him to Las Vegas and drowning out the arena with their singing?
8. Barry McGuigan
If you want to get technical about it, Barry McGuigan was born in the Republic of Ireland, but he took out British citizenship and represented Northern Ireland at the Olympics and Commonwealth Games. McGuigan wanted to unite Ireland when he fought as a pro from 1981 to 1989 at a time the land was being torn in two. He was known as ‘The Clones Cyclone’ and pulled off one of the biggest upsets of his era when he beat Eusebio Pedroza by 15-round unanimous decision for the Lineal and WBA Featherweight Titles in 1985. McGuigan defended the title against Bernard Taylor and Danilo Cabrera before losing it to Steve Cruz outdoors in the heat of the Las Vegas desert. McGuigan, who was also a British and European Champion, may have retired a bit too early as he was only 28 at the time and had a record of 32-3 with 28 Kos. He’s now a successful promoter/manager.
7. Naseem Hamed
If you ever saw Prince Naseem Hamed box you’ll know he had quite an unorthodox style as he threw punches from all angles, held his hands low and was constantly off balance. However, it all worked for him due to his incredible athleticism, which was displayed by doing back flips when he won a fight. He was entertaining in the ring and his flamboyant entrances into the squared circle were also legendary. The southpaw from Sheffield, England went 36-1 as a pro with 31 Kos. His only loss between 1992 and 2002 came to fellow hall of famer Marco Antonio Barrera in Hamed’s second-last career fight. Hamed picked himself up from the canvas when he needed to and became a Lineal, WBO, IBF, IBO and WBC World Featherweight Champion. Hamed was a world champ from 1995 to 2001 and had great power with a knockout ratio of 84 percent.
6. Ken Buchanan
Ken Buchanan hailed from Edinburgh, Scotland and was the Undisputed Lightweight Champion of the world before running into Roberto Duran at Madison Square Garden in June of 1972. Buchanan was hit by a low blow at the end of the 13th round and to his amazement the referee waved the fight off and Duran was the new champion. Buchanan had won the WBA Lightweight Crown by beating Ismael Laguna in Puerto Rico in 1970 and then added the WBC Belt with a win over Ruben Navarro. The WBC stripped him of their title before the Duran fight as Buchanan failed to defend it against the organization’s top contender. The Scotsman fought from 1965 to 1982 with a record of 69-8 with 27 Kos and lost his last four fights. Duran never gave him a rematch, but he’s still remembered by most as the best boxer to ever come out of Scotland.
5. Carl Froch
Considering who he fought during his pro career between 2002 and 2014, Carl ‘The Cobra’ Froch of Nottingham, England certainly deserves his place on this list. Froch beat the likes of former world champions Arthur Abraham, Andre Dirrell, Lucian Bute, Glen Johnson, Jermain Taylor, Jean Pascal and retired with a record of 33-2 with 24 Kos. His only losses came at the hands of former world champ Mikkel Kessler and undefeated world champion Andre Ward by unanimous decisions. Froch would avenge the defeat to Kessler though as he beat him in their rematch. He also beat current world champions George Groves twice as well as Yusef Mack. Froch was an IBF, WBA and WBC Super Middleweight Champions who always brought excitement to the ring.
4. Joe Calzaghe
There aren’t many world champions to retire unbeaten, but southpaw Joe Calzaghe of Newbridge, Wales was one of the few. Calzaghe went 46-0 during his career between 1993 and 2008 with 32 Kos. It may be true that he didn’t take on the elite of the division. He did beat the all-time greats Roy Jones Jr. and Bernard Hopkins, but they were well past their prime by then. Calzaghe won the Lineal, WBA, WBO, IBF and WBC Super Middleweight Titles during his career and reigned as a world champion for just over a decade. He also beat some fine boxers in Chris Eubank, Omar Sheika, Mikkel Kessler, Sakio Bika, Jeff Lacy, Mario Veit, Richie Woodhall and Robin Reid. Basically, Calzaghe did everything that was asked of him, which was beat every man he ever met in the ring. Not too many boxers can stake that claim.
3. Bob Fitzsimmons
The first man to ever win world titles in three different weight divisions was Bob Fitzsimmons of Helston, England. He managed to capture the middleweight, light heavyweight and heavyweight and titles during his career from 1885 to 1914. Fitzsimmons beat Jack Dempsey for the World Middleweight Title, Peter Maher for the Heavyweight Crown and then George Gardner for the Light Heavyweight Championship. He then moved back up to the heavyweight division for the rest of his career. Fitzsimmons was a tremendous puncher as he unofficially went 61-8-4 with 57 Kos. He took on the best of his era including Jack Johnson, James J. Jeffries, Tom Sharkey, James J. Corbett and Jack Britton. Fitzsimmons fought his way into the hall of fame with his achievements in the ring and was reportedly the lightest heavyweight champion ever at 172 lbs.
2. Lennox Lewis
The title of best British heavyweight ever has to go to Lennox Lewis of London, even though he won a super-heavyweight gold medal for Canada at the 1988 Olympics. Lewis was a good all-round athlete, but nobody really knew just how good he was with the boxing gloves on until a few years into his pro career. He ended up being the dominant heavyweight during his era as he was the British, European and Commonwealth Champion, was a three-time World Champion and as of now was also the last Undisputed Heavyweight King. Lewis met all comers including Frank Bruno, Razor Ruddock, Oliver McCall, Hasim Rahman, Evander Holyfield, Ray Mercer, Tony Tucker, Andrew Golota, Shannon Briggs, Vitali Klitschko and Mike Tyson. Lewis went 41-2-1 with 32 Kos. The only blemishes on his record were a draw with Holyfield and losses to Rahman and McCall. However, he beat all three in rematches, therefore he technically beat every opponent he faced.
1. Jimmy Wilde
Jimmy Wilde will go down in history as one of the lightest men to ever box at 96 lbs, and also as arguably the best British boxer ever. Wilde was born in Wales and became that country’s first professional boxing champion as well as being the first World Flyweight Champion. He fought from 1911 to 1923 with a remarkable record of 132-3-1 with 99 Kos and lost his last two bouts. Wilde was a British and European Champion and held onto his World Title for more than seven years. He also went 104 bouts without losing to start his career. Wilde had three different nicknames as he was known as ‘The Mighty Atom’, ‘The Tylorstown Terror’ and ‘Ghost with the Hammer in his Hand.’ He had incredible power for somebody who was 5-feet-2-inches tall and usually weighed less than 100 lbs in the ring.