Top 5 UK boxers of all time

Boxing has its fair share of legends from across the globe, and the United Kingdom has produced some greats. After all, this is where the Queensbury rules originated. Here are the top 5 UK boxers of all time, from when pugilism was for fairground booths to the fight stars of today.

Lennox Lewis

In 1965, Lennox Claudius Lewis was born in London to Jamaican parents. He was born and raised in England before relocating to Canada. Lewis was the first British fighter to have held all heavyweight world championships at once since. He became one of Canada’s top amateur fighters after becoming interested in boxing during his high school years. Lewis defeated Riddick Bowe to win the gold medal in the super heavyweight event at the Seoul Olympics in 1988.

Lewis came back to England in 1989 to pursue a career. He won all 22 of his fights without losing, which earned him a championship match against Bowe, the prevailing heavyweight champion. At 230 pounds and 6′ 5″ tall, Lewis was unusually big for a fighter, and his stature presented unique challenges for the typical heavyweight, putting Bowe off. Bowe’s championship was taken away by the World Boxing Council, who then gave it to Lewis. Lewis won every fight he had during the following three years while working to get another championship match. Mike Tyson, who had the WBC heavyweight belt in 1997, declined to challenge the considerably taller Lewis, which led a judge to order him to defend it. He gave it up to Lewis instead. After a few more seasons, Lewis succeeded at becoming undisputed, the first Brit to do so since Bob Fitzsimmons circa 1899.

Lewis received the Member of the British Empire in 1999 and the Commander of the British Empire soon after in 2002. He retired in 2004 with 41 victories, 2 defeats, and 1 draw. 

Jimmy Wilde

Welsh professional boxer William James Wilde was born in Quakers Yard, Treharris, Wales, in 1892. Wilde was a coal miner’s son who himself worked in a coal mine since childhood. He could fit through tunnels and gullies that were too narrow for most of his coworkers to traverse. He began fighting at the young age of sixteen at fairground booths, where spectators marvelled at his fortitude and his capacity to get much bigger opponents to submit. While he had a lithe build, the majority of his opponents weighed around the 200 lbs mark.

Wilde allegedly began fighting in 1911. Though undoubtedly much overstated, he said that he had about 800 bouts, and the real number is likely much more than the 152 that were formally recorded. Jimmy competed until 1923, and in 1916 he took home the International Boxing Union world flyweight championship. He twice claimed the European Boxing Union’s European flyweight championship, in 1914 and 1916. Jimmy held several more flyweight titles as well. He was the first recognised world flyweight champion, and many in the boxing community referred to him as “the Greatest Flyweight Boxer Ever.” He is frequently considered the greatest British boxer in all of history. Wilde was known by several monikers, including the “Ghost with the Hammer in His Hand” and the “Mighty Atom”,” due to his harsh fighting style and powerful blows. Fighters at heavier divisions were no match for Wilde, who ought to fight bantamweights and often defeated them. He has a record of 92-0-1, one of the longest unbeaten streaks ever recorded in boxing.

Bob Fitzsimmons

Bob “Ruby Robert” Fitzimmons, who was born in Helston in 1863, grew to become the first fighter, and the only boxer yet to have been born in Europe, to ever claim three world titles at separate weight divisions. Fitzimmons, with his family, moved to Timaru, New Zealand when he was nine years old. In his youth, his work as a blacksmith helped his strength, and he got into boxing.  After becoming recognised as a serious fighter, Fitzsimmons relocated to Sydney, Australia, where he lived for a while. But Bob had to go to the United States in order to get the respect and money he craved. In 1890, he relocated to the US. When Fitzsimmons defeated the reigning champion Jack Dempsey in New Orleans in 1891, he was awarded the title of World Middleweight Champion.

He had a lengthy and illustrious career in America. He defeated James J. Corbett in the first-ever bout to be captured on film in 1897, winning the heavyweight world championship. In order to win the light heavyweight championship in 1903, Bob Fitzsimmons had to overcome George Gardner over the course of 20 exhausting rounds. He ultimately retired having won 40 fights, drawn 13, and lost 9. Fitzsimmons also performed and engaged regularly in exhibition fights against his son Robert. He passed away in 1917 in Chicago, and I n 1995, he was included in the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame.

Joe Calzaghe

Welsh professional boxer Joseph William Calzaghe born in 1972, and he fought from 1993 until 2008. He became interested in the sport when he was eight years old after receiving a boxing toy.  At age 10, he joined his first amateur boxing club. Before switching to light-heavyweight, Calzaghe held the World Boxing Organisation’s championship for more than ten years and successfully defended it twenty times. He holds the record for defending his super-middleweight world championship for the longest time in boxing history. This overlapped with his time as light heavyweight champion, and so he held two championships for the longest continuous period at the time. During his time as super-middleweight, Calzaghe was the first to simultaneously hold the WBC, WBO, and WBA belts, as well as being the first super-middleweight Ring champion.  He also held undisputed titles in the light heavyweight division.

Calzaghe notably received the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award in 2007. 2014 saw the induction of Calzaghe into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. He went by the monikers “Italian Dragon” and “Pride of Wales.” He became Commander of the British Empire in 2008.

Ken Buchanan

Born in Edinburgh in 1945, Ken Buchanan was a professional boxer of Scottish descent who reigned undisputed in the lightweight division. His fans called him the “Fighting Carpenter”, and he would represent his heritage by fighting in Buchanan tartan. At age eight, Buchanan started boxing and earned his first medal. Later on, he won the amateur featherweight championship. In 1965, he began boxing professionally.

Ken challenged Maurice Cullen for the British lightweight title in 1968 after 23 straight victories. He defeated Cullen in the eleventh round to earn the title of lightweight contender. He fought lightweight world champion Ismael Laguna in September 1970 to win the championship.

At that time, the WBA and the British Boxing Board of Control (BBBC), were in the middle of a feud, and Buchanan was not allowing to defend the WBA title fight in Great Britain.

In 1971, Buchanan fought Rubén Navarro in Los Angeles, successfully defended the WBA title, and won the vacant WBC title. And he succeeded in becoming the unquestioned lightweight champion.

In the same year, Buchanan lost the WBC championship for neglecting to face Pedro Carrasco.  Buchanan retired from boxing in 1978 with a record of 69 fights, 61 wins, no draws and 8 losses.

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