Once upon a time, British Heavyweights were not respected by many in the United States. That all changed with the arrival of Lennox Lewis, who turned in the career of a top 5 all-time heavyweight. Today, we will look at the top ten British heavyweights of all time.
The 6ft 2in “Dancing Destroyer” could not compete with the giants at the beginning of the super-heavyweight era of boxing. Hide took out Michael Bentt at Millwall’s The Den in 1994 to earn the WBO title, which was then a lightly-respected title. Hide could hit Riddick Bowe with ease, but he couldn’t take the American’s return fire and was eventually stopped by a courageous effort. Hide’s high-level ambitions were ended by Vitali Klitschko, in 1999 with KO2.
If Haye could have fought as well as he talked, he would be much higher on this list. Haye was one the greatest cruiserweights ever. Haye was also a good heavyweight, which allowed him to show off his punching power. In 2008, he switched from Cruiserweight to heavyweight and stopped Monte Barrett in five rounds. This set up a title fight against Nikolai Valuev in the next year. Haye defeated the Russian 7-footer to win the majority decision and a part of the heavyweight title. Haye knocked out John Ruiz, a former multi-time belt holder, and Audley Harrison in just two defenses. He then agreed to fight Wladimir Klitschko to win the inaugural WBA “super”. It didn’t work out. Klitschko defeated Haye, who was much smaller. Haye blamed the loss partly on his sore toe. Although he was able to stop Derek Chisora, that was his last chance. He won victories over two journeymen and lost to Tony Bellew in back-to-back bouts. However, he left his mark at heavyweight. In my opinion, the effort against Wlad hurts Haye because wins over Valuev and Ruiz are not outstanding victories.
Hungarian-born Briton was also an Australian citizen. He had a long career (1967-1999), broken by long hiatuses. However, he never stopped fighting. Although he had a lot of success, including winning British, Commonwealth, and European titles, his most notable fights were against Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali twice. Neither fighter was able to drop the blonde underdog. His only chance at a world title was a 1975 loss to Ali by unanimous decision. Henry Cooper, the British heavyweight champion, was his most significant win. It was a close decision that ended Henry Cooper’s reign in 1971. Bugner returned to Australia in the 1990s and performed well despite his advanced age. He then left the sport. He was 49 years old when he fought his last fight in June 1999. It was a victory that disqualified Levi Billups. People not to go back and watch his first fight against Frazier, Bugner gave a good account of himself.
Bruno is a popular figure in British boxing history due to his cheerful personality and great success in the ring. He proved that perseverance could pay off. In 1982, he became a professional wrestler and defeated 21 opponents to make a splash. He also had his ups as well as downs. He failed to win three world titles between 1986 and 1993. But he kept going. At 33 and in the final stages of his career, a dream became a reality. Bruno defeated Oliver McCall, the belt holder at the time who had prevented Lewis from winning the title. His countrymen greeted him joyfully, but the good fortune didn’t last. In his first defense, he agreed to face Mike Tyson after his release from prison. He was defeated in three rounds and lost his newly won belt. Bruno has never been able to fight again, but he is still a fan favorite.
In a well-remembered unanimous-decision defeat to the great Joe Louis, the Welshman proved that he was among the best heavyweights of his time. Farr had great victories and a few draws when he went to New York in 1937 to face Joe Louis, the newly-crowned heavyweight champion. The fight took place before 37,000 fans at Yankee Stadium. Although he didn’t win, Louis would not lose for many years. Farr pushed Louis to the limits and could have had his hand raised if he were able to punch harder. He left the ring with more respect than when he entered it. He said, “I gave them an excellent effort.” Indeed, he did. In the first of four consecutive fights held at Madison Square Garden, he lost to Jim Braddock by a split decision. He lost his next three fights, and then he went back to Europe to end his career. British fans will never forget him for his efforts against Louis.
Cooper is most well-known for hurting Cassius Clay in their 1963 fight at Wembley Stadium. His chance to make history was lost. Ali won the next round and stopped Cooper on cutsThree years later; Cooper lost to Ali via cuts in his world title fight. However, he was much more than the two fights against a legend. “Our Henry”, a British heavyweight champion, held the title for over a decade. This is still a record. His victories over skilled opponents like Zora Folley and Karl Mildenberger are a sign of his talent. In 1971, he lost his British title in a narrow decision to Joe Bugner, 21 year old. That fight was disputable. He never fought again. He will never be forgotten and will always be one of the most-beloved fighters in British boxing.
The 2012 Olympic super heavyweight champion appeared to be unbeatable. He began his career at 22-0 with 21 KOs and won a heavyweight title by stopping Charles Martin. In 2016, he defended the title six more times, adding two more belts. Wladimir Klitschko, Joseph Parker and others were also unsuccessful challengers. Then disaster struck. The American Andy Ruiz Jr., a pudgy American, hurt Joshua in round three. He stayed with the champ and stopped him in round seven. Joshua appeared more confused than injured, but he couldn’t continue. He bounced back by beating Ruiz in the rematch six months later to regain his titles, only to lose twice to the smaller but equally talented Oleksandr Uzyk in his most recent fights. Joshua is tough to rate this high, but he has some quality wins. It will be interesting to see where he goes from here, but I doubt he will go any higher on this list.
Bob Fitzsimmons, a man with a strange appearance, was tall and thick with long legs. He had great success in the modern divisions of boxing, ranging from heavyweight down to welterweight. Fitzsimmons was an international man, having lived in Australia, New Zealand, and England. Fitz, 167 pounds, was already a middleweight champion when he faced James J. Corbett (184) to win the heavyweight title. “Gentleman Jim”, who seemed to be winning in the 14th round, until Fitzsimmons landed the famous “solar-plexus” punch, which severely hurt Corbett, and he couldn’t continue. Fitzsimmons became the heavyweight champion. Fitzsimmons held the title for two more years but lost it in an 11 th-round knockout to Jim Jeffries (206) in 1899. Fitz was not done. Fitz won the newly established light heavyweight title, beating George Gardner in 1903. Fitzsimmons, the great fighter, was only 40 at that time.
Fury is an enigmatic big man who you either love or hate. Either way, you cannot deny the skill of this giant. He was the first man to defeat Wlad Klitschko in a decade, but things went awry, like drug tests. Fury was away for a few years and ballooned up to over 400 lbs. Somehow he pulled his life together and mounted a comeback that even George Foreman or Bernard Hopkins would be proud of.
He dominated Deontay Wilder over three fights and surprised people with his punching ability. He then beat the likes of Whyte and Chisora.
The only thing left to accomplish is a super fight with the unbeaten Oleksandr Usyk. Hopefully, that fight will take place sometime this year.
Lewis’s punishing jab, crushing righthand and ability to use them efficiently under the tutelage of Emanuel Steward made him a great heavyweight regardless of nationality. He was Canada’s 1988 Olympic gold medalist. Lewis held the heavyweight title for 15 years, beating all heavyweights except Riddick Bowe, who Lewis believed wanted nothing to do with him. Lewis fell twice and was knocked out in 1994 by Oliver McCall and in 2001 by Hasim Rahman. But he became more determined and focused, winning both of these rematches by stoppage. In 1999, he also drew with Evander Holyfield, a fellow Hall of Famer. However, most observers believed that Lewis had been robbed. Eight months later, he outpointed Holyfield easily in a much closer fight. He terrorized Mike Tyson by defeating him in 2002 and defeated Vitali Klitschko in 2003. Lewis retired as champion, perhaps sensing his slippage.
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