Monday, 20 February 2012

My favourite British/Irish boxers in the last 20 or so years

My favourite British/Irish boxers in the last 20 or so years 

In the last 20 years or so we have seen some great British fighters make an impact at both domestic and World level.

I haven't always been a fan of them all but do believe they had a very positive effect on the World of boxing. 

I won't include journeymen such as Peter Buckley or Paul Bonson in my list because i’m talking more about elite fighters. Also, as much as i respect journeymen, i can't say any are my favourite boxers as such.

I also won't include Naseem Hamed, Joe Calzaghe, Ricky Hatton, Steve Collins and numerous "short reigning World champions" such as Nicky Cook, Alex Arthur, Junior Witter, Scott Harrison etc... Not so much because i don't respect them or anything like that because i do respect them a lot. But, merely because i am talking about boxers i was always happy to see in the ring and enjoyed watching. 

Hamed i only watched in the hope i'd see him lose, because he didn't fight the best out there IMO preferring to fight his mandatories at featherweight rather than fight the Mexican warriors coming up from lower weight classes. I was a big fan of Calzaghe until about 2004 and then i went off him because the bigger fights didn't materialise. I tried to be a fan of Collins (after he'd left the USA and arrived in the UK) but i was always more a fan of Nigel Benn. As for the other names mentioned (along with many other names) i was just never a big fan of them.

My favourite British/Irish boxers of the last 20 or so years:

Active boxers:

Carl Froch: One of my favourite British boxer of all time. He's a credit to British boxing. He's exciting, willing to travel, has fought some of the best fighters in the World, is a 2 time World champion and doesn't seem to be planning to take it easy any time soon.

James DeGale: The man has talent in abundance and an attitude to boot. I still think he needs to improve significantly to make an impact on the World stage but i think he should be able to. 

George Groves: I originally thought Groves would go further than James DeGale until i saw DeGale's first few fights, notably his win over Paul Smith, and then changed my mind. However, Groves' close win over DeGale and subsequent destruction of Paul Smith makes me think maybe Groves will go furthest afterall.

Kell Brook: Very talented fighter and one you would have to think will go all the way. He has all the skills and should get better.

Ricky Burns: I didn't think much of Burns early on. I thought he would go on to have limited success at domestic level but his win over Roman Martinez, who was arguably the top fighter at 130lbs at the time, changed my mind. He took a while to step up his level of opposition after that but his win over Michael Katsidis, who most thought would beat Burns easily, has convinced me he's a truly World class fighter. 

Kevin Mitchell: Always an exciting fighter to watch. He can box or brawl and has a great left hand. Uncertain what the future holds but it will be fun watching him progress.

Carl Frampton: Very talented young fighter who seems to have a lot of power for a small guy. After only a dozen fights he's already looking like one of the best super bantamweights in Europe. A clash with Scott Quigg is on the cards. 

Scott Quigg: Another talented young fighter in the super bantamweight division. Already has a lot of experience under his belt and he's only 23. The super bantamweight division in Britain is exciting right now.

Tyson Fury: Not sure why people don't like Fury. He fights the best fighters around him, he calls out fighters and his fights are always eventful. Some people say he's rubbish and "won't win a World title". Since when has winning a World title ever been the most important thing in boxing. Ever heard of Micky Ward and Emmanuel Augustus?

David Price: Big heavyweight and looks to have massive power. A fight with Tyson Fury is on the cards and you would have to think Price will win. If all goes to plan he could be one of the big names at heavyweight for years to come.

Rendall Munroe: There's nothing to dislike about Rendall. He's a tryer and we all like a tryer. He does his best with what he has and doesn't moan or bad mouth anyone. He just gets on with his job. He's also very down to Earth and has even kept his day job as a binman. 

Amir Khan: I wasn't a fan of his until recently. Since day one boxing fans were told Khan would go on to great things before they'd even been accomplished. So much so that poor Khan probably started to believe all the hype himself. He then got KO'd be Breidis Prescott and it seems to have done his career some good. He looks better than before his KO loss and his performances in the USA against Paulie Malignaggi and Marcos Maidana were impressive. His win over Maidana turned me into a fan. Although, he does know how to turn fans off of him like the things he has said since his loss to Lamont Peterson.

Enzo Maccarinelli: I can't really say he was ever one of my favourite boxers but he was always entertaining. That has to be said. He was a big puncher with a not too great chin. He fought some great boxers such as David Haye, Ola Afolabi, Denis Lebedev, Alexander Frenkel as well as several other good quality boxers.

In fact, we can say that those boxers who beat him, would go on to better things BECAUSE of their win over Enzo Maccarinelli. We could say Enzo was a kind of gatekeeper to the cruiserweight division.

Howard Eastman: I always liked Eastman. He has been British, Commonwealth and European middleweight champion and during his prime he challenged for the World title against William Joppy (WBA) and Bernard Hopkins (All 4 belts). He's also fought Arthur Abraham, Edison Miranda, John Duddy, Wayne Elcock and Evans Eshira. He was only stopped once in 7 losses (against Miranda). He's still fighting but needs to retire.

Ryan Rhodes: I can't really say i have always been a fan of his but i have become one in recent years. He's been steadily climbing up the ranks and keeping his head down fighting British and European level guys. He's now on a 4 year unbeaten streak and deserves a World title shot.

Other British/Irish boxers i'll be watching over the next few years:

Nathan Cleverly, Jason Booth, Darren Barker, Matthew Macklin, Craig McEwan, Andy Lee, Lee Byrne, Jamie Kavanagh, Frankie Gavin, Martin Murray, John Murray, Joe Murray, Tony Bellew, Matty Askin, Tony Jeffries, Gary Sykes, Denton Vassell, Callum Johnson, Stephen Smith, Travis Dickinson, Dereck Chisora, Larry Olubamiwo, Tom Dallas.

Retired boxers:

Nigel Benn: "The Dark Destroyer" was the first boxer i loved watching live. He was always on the TV and i loved watching him fight. None of his fights were boring is all i can remember.

Michael Watson: My two favourite boxers of the "British middleweight greats era" of the 80s/90s were Nigel Benn and Michael Watson. He fought Chris Eubank (x2), Mike McCallum and beat the undefeated Nigel Benn by brutal KO.

Chris Eubank: He was never one of my favourite boxers although i've always had a lot of respect for him. I just seemed to prefer Benn and Watson. But, i still watched Eubank and hoped he did well. Unlike Naseem Hamed, for example, who i watched in the hope he'd lose.

Herol Graham: I always liked Graham. He was a class act. Very skilful and very agile but he just couldn't take a punch and that's a pretty bad thing in boxing. If he'd have had a great chin, he'd have been a World champion for sure. He fought some very good boxers like Ayub Kalule, Sumbu Lalambay (x2), Mike McCallum, Julian Jackson, Vinny Pazienza, Charles Brewer.

Clinton Woods: Very under-appreciated boxer in Britain. Ask any non boxing fan in the UK if they know him and none would. That's a real shame. Ok, he was never as exciting as some of the boxers around him during his prime such as Robin Reid or Joe Calzaghe. But, he fought the best and he fought them regularly. He fought: David Starie, Roy Jones Jr, Glen Johnson (x3), Julio Cesar Gonzalez (x2), Antonio Tarver, Tavoris Cloud. Despite the quality of his opponents he was never beaten by KO and only stopped once in his 5 losses (to RJJ). 

He won the commonwealth super middleweight title and then at light heavyweight he won British, Commonwealth, European and the IBF World title.

We can also argue that he was the last boxer to fight a prime Roy Jones Jr as Woods was Jones' last opponent at light heavyweight before he moved up to heavyweight to fight John Ruiz. 

Robin Reid: He perhaps didn't get the recognition he deserved because he fought at the same time as Joe Calzaghe. He fought a pretty good level of opposition throughout his career and some even say deserved the win against Calzaghe. The biggest joke of his career was in 2003 when he challenged IBF champion Sven Ottke. The referee was an absolute disgrace and wouldn't even allow Reid to PUNCH Ottke in some rounds. Had the fight taken place outside of Germany, Reid would've been World champion again. 

Wayne McCullough: Who doesn't like the pocket rocket? I don't need to name his opponents but i might as well: Daniel Zaragoza, Naseem Hamed, Erik Morales, Scott Harrison, Oscar Larios (x2) as well as numerous other World level opponents. Wayne was always a joy to watch, not only because you knew his chin could withstand anything, but also because he always gave it his best shot.

Herbie Hide: He was never an all time great HW but he was exciting to watch and you know he was either going to get a KO win or get KO'd himself. He fought some pretty decent fighters in his career too: Vitali Klitschko, Riddick Bowe, Tony Tucker, Michael Bentt. He could've done more with the prime part of his career possibly but it was exciting while it lasted.

Frank Bruno: Similar to Herbie Hide in the sense that he was either going to KO his opponent or get KO'd. I don't think anyone in Britain didn't know who Bruno was/is. He's certainly one of the most recognisable faces in the UK and much more famous even than the likes of Lennox Lewis. The guys he fought are a who's who of boxing legends too: Mike Tyson (x2), Oliver McCall, Lennox Lewis, Carl Williams, Tim Witherspoon, James Tillis. 

Watching Frank Bruno fight was basically a British tradition. 

Lennox Lewis: Lewis is a tough one for me. I can't really say i was ever a fan of his. If i'm being perfectly honest, i actually preferred Frank Bruno and Herbie Hide. I'm not too sure why because Lewis was the most talented of the 3 and by far the most successful. One obvious factor is that i was never really a big fan of the HW division. I've always preferred the lower weights. Also, Lewis was around at the same time of the middleweight greats in Britain. So i was always more interested in them. But, i could say Lewis was ONE of my favourites but definitely not my all time favourite.

Paul Ingle: I remember when he fought Naseem Hamed. I have never watched a Naseem fight and wanted him to lose so much. He bounced back from losing to WBO champion Naseem Hamed by beating Manuel Medina for the IBF title and then defending it successfully against Junior Jones. He then tragically got injured in his bout against Mbulelo Botile and had to retire.

Johnny Nelson: Nelson is somewhat of a boxing Legend that very few people aside from boxing fanatics even know about. The guy fought from 1986 to 2005. He had 59 bouts from cruiserweight up to heavyweight. He actually made his debut weighing in at 164lbs but then gradually went up in weight little by little. He had an awful start to his career losing his first 3 bouts and 5 of the first 11. 

He then had a 2 year unbeaten streak and challenged then WBC champion Carlos De Leon in Sheffield and got a draw. Eventually he moved up to heavyweight in early 90s and fought the likes of Corrie Sanders and Henry Akinwande. He finally won a World title at cruiserweight in 1999 against Carl Thompson and kept it for 6 years before he retired. 

This is something i also liked about Johnny Nelson: The guy travelled to fight. He fought in Denmark, Germany, USA, France, South Africa, Australia, Belgium, New Zealand, Thailand, Brazil, Italy a total of 17 times. He even travelled abroad to fight while he was WBO champion.

You can't make this stuff up. Talk about willing to fight!

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