The 10 Greatest Fights In British Boxing History
This weekend we watched Amir Khan and Kell Brook engage in a heated rivalry in the ring that saw the atmosphere the British fans created on full display. We decided to look back at the passionate and strong fight fans from Britain who love the sport so much and think upon what are the greatest boxing bouts in British history, between two British fighters, and where does Amir Khan vs Kell Brook rank.
01. Carl Froch vs. George Groves II – Attendance 80,000
The greatest bout in British boxing history was the capstone on a true grudge match that took place in the last decade, as George Groves seemingly was beating Carl Froch in their first meeting only for a stoppage that was deemed unfair halted the bout before the fans truly felt a verdict had been received. More so, I think some felt the feel-good story of the up-and-coming, undefeated George Groves was robbed of his moment.
Froch, who had the features of a Slytherin, from the Harry Potter books, was viewed as taking his talents to Las Vegas, Nevada in the near future around the time of this, as Froch came off rather unlikable but could fight as well as, and Groves was the emerging prospect with wins over James DeGale as well as Paul Smith, trained by a top coach Adam Booth.
The rematch, saw bad blood, build-up, 80,000 fans, and a definitive conclusion, as Carl Froch secured his spot as British boxing royalty, and to be honest, George Groves, mentally never recovered from this, as he was a shell of himself after these two bouts. A moment British fight fans will never forget. We didn’t get a passing of the torch, but rather the creation of a British boxing icon.
Groves left Booth, entered a super middleweight tournament, which he lost in the finals to Callum Smith, and retired. Groves never really got the win to define his career at the highest point, and Froch fended off the guy, who was supposed to take his spot. The mark of a true legend.
This fight seemed to mentally break Groves who despite winning a world title, never bounced back to the same level.
02. Nigel Benn v Chris Eubank Attendance 47,000
The only blood feud as bad as Teofimo Lopez vs Vasyl Lomachenko is Nigel Benn vs Chris Eubank. Spiritual opposites who loathed everything about the other each other as Nigel Benn coming off a first-round KO of Iran Barkley faced Chris Eubank, the last boss level of British boxing legendary status. In total boxing fashion, Eubank’s Tina Turner song “Simply The Best” cut out during the ring walk, as it was rumored Benn’s team had tempered with it – that being said Eubank would stop Benn in nine, a stoppage that was debated. Eubank had the WBO middleweight title and the label as the British boxer in his weight class of during his era.
That being said, he would fight Michael Watson, the second bout turning to be a tragedy, and rematch Benn in 1993. Don King was involved and both the winner and loser would be under contract for Don King. Ironically, the bout was a draw and neither fighter would be under contract to King, after the bout.
The second fight was a bout between two cultural icons in British boxing who represented different things, Eubank’s a Kanye West-like, and Benn a grizzled tough guy, who wasn’t trying to play any games.
Though they never had a third bout, a draw to conclude their bouts was fitting as they truly are two of the greatest British boxers ever.
03. Amir Khan vs. Kell Brook
The end of a feud between the two best welterweights of their era in British boxing saw Kell Brook knockout Amir Khan in six rounds. The bout was that of British folklore, as Khan was a 2004 Olympic silver medalist, and in 2011 held two world titles at 140 lbs., and spent most of his career in America with famous trainers like Freddie Roach and Vergil Hunter. Brook was a world-class fighter who mostly spent his career in the U.K.
Brook viewed Khan as everything he wanted to be, as Brook I feel whether rightly or wrongly, felt Khan got a much bigger promotional push and lived in Khan’s shadow for most if not all of his career.
The KO win is a big win for Brook, who even in the twilight of his career needed this victory as despite being a world champion and good fighter, had a rather strange resume in hindsight.
04. Anthony Joshua vs Dillian Whyte
Anthony Joshua, who is the more successful version of the Frank Bruno archetype in British boxing, faced the man who dropped him and beat him in the amateurs in Dillian Whyte. A fight labeled “Bad Intentions”, was a fight that raised the marquee of both fighters as, despite Joshua knocking out Whyte in the seventh round, one could say Whyte became a star on this night when he rocked Joshua.
Even though most fight fans favorited Joshua, Whyte earned their respect on this night.
Though it didn’t happen when both fighters were at their true prime – it happened, and it was big – mostly because Anthony Joshua is the most popular British heavyweight ever. Outside of the Wladimir Klitschko bout, Joshua defeating Dillian Whyte is one of his crowning achievements as a pro, and Whyte being in this fight became a star, based on the popularity of Joshua and putting forth a great performance on that night.
05. Frank Bruno v Lennox Lewis – Attendance 25,784
Frank Bruno, was a gun without bullets, and Lennox Lewis is one of the five greatest heavyweights of all time. On paper, it wasn’t much a fight, but “The Battle Of Brittan” saw Bruno get stopped by the greatest British heavyweight boxer of all time, a claim Tyson Fury is now making a debate about, as Lewis secured that spot via a dominant seventh-round TKO victory. People loved Bruno, who was a British folk hero, as this was Bruno’s third chance at a world title, and Lewis’ second defense of the WBC heavyweight title. This was seen by the beginning of the telecast 66% of the fans watching thought Bruno would win.
Bruno fought his heart out and endeared himself to the fans, but just couldn’t handle the left hook of Lewis as Bruno’s chin failed him not his heart. Bruno was the most popular British heavyweight since Henry Cooper, and the spiritual predecessor of Anthony Joshua.
06. Chris Eubank v Michael Watson II
It is safe to say that Chris Eubank might be the most dynamic personality British boxing ever had, and his two bouts with Michael Watson will go down in history, and sadly infamy.
Watson faced Eubank, but Eubank was the victor by a narrow margin, as detractors thought the cards might have shown favoritism to the marquee fighter. In fact, most media outlets scored the fight for Watson.
A rematch was scheduled in which Watson was winning the bout until – it happened. In the 11th round, Eubank went down, got up and knocked Watson down with an uppercut as Watson’s head hit his head hit on the ropes. In the 12th round, Watson should not have been allowed to continue, but was allowed, and was not able to defend himself – after the fight, Watson collapsed.
Watson would be in a 40-day coma after this, and retire from boxing after this fight.
07. George Groves vs. James DeGale
These two hated each other. To this day, Groves and DeGale will not speak. The bout was razor-close with Groves getting a majority decision win in the end for the British super middleweight title.
Former friends turned bitter rivals – we never got solace to this match-up, but it made both fighters British boxing legends.
The bout is viewed as the gold standard in the modern era of two young prospects fighting each other early in their career, and neither losing in their earning potential, while giving the fans a great fight. The two would only face once, despite the extreme dislike. Nothing. Only one fight, and a whole generation of fights fans debating the outcome of the first fight.
08. Joe Calzaghe v Chris Eubank
The greatest British boxer to ever live, Joe Calzaghe, seemingly had to face the most entertaining fighter in British history in Chris Eubank in order to earn that title and the respect of the British public.
The opening minute gives you a look at the greatness that is Joe Calzaghe as he dropped Eubank in the first seemingly seconds of the fight. Yet, despite wide scores, Calzaghe would say that Eubank was the toughest fighter he ever faced and took him to places he had never been.
Eubank served as the final boss of British icons up until this point, and Calzaghe defeating him, seemed to offer insight on the true potential of the future all-time great.
Beyond that, Calzaghe, who was known for hometown title defenses, and shots that seemingly slapped as opposed to having snap on them earned a lot of respect, as he beat of the greatest British fighters ever.
This was the moment that the Welsh fighter became a figurehead of the Cool Cymru movement, a movement I still don’t understand at all.
09. Joe Bugner v Henry Cooper
Before we had Anthony Joshua or Lennox Lewis, we had Henry Cooper. A great British boxer. Sure, if you watched Bugner vs Cooper now, it wouldn’t stack up to modern science, technology, or achievement, but nonetheless – Cooper, at 36-years-old, faced a 21-year-old Joe Bugner, for the British, European, and Commonwealth titles.
As typical, with boxing, a bad decision ruined what seems like a good fight as Bugner beat Cooper by a half-point, something that was done away with since, and because of this bout in fact. The fans booed, and Cooper would retire.
Cooper is a British boxing icon, who fought Muhammad Ali, and is truly a great of his era for his country.
10. David Haye v Enzo Macarineli
Before we had Usyk, we had David Haye – a cruiserweight with a personality.
Haye would stop Maceratesi in two rounds, and the fight card title “Bombs Away”, also saw Haye turn into a superstar in front of our eyes, as Haye called his shot, and delivered. It is rare that a cruiserweight captures the world’s attention, but Haye did that.
The bout signaled the U.K. taking over the cruiserweight division, and as on this evening – the U.K. ruled the division.
Haye would state that he needed a nine month training camp to stay at cruiserweight as he went to heavyweight after, this fight will long be remembered as one Haye’s best. It is not unlike Sergio Martinez vs. Paul Williams II, for me, in terms of result.
Nigel Benn v Michael Watson
Nigel Benn will always be a boxing star, but when emerging Michael Watson, stopped him in six rounds – it created a new contender, and future star.
The triangle of bouts between Nigel Benn, Chris Eubank, and Michael Watson provided a lot of joy for fights fans, and got people who didn’t watch the sport of boxing to watch.
Sadly, Benn would have a tragic bout with Gerald McClellan, and Eubank’s career would mirror his a year-or-two prior by essentially putting Watson in a coma for over a month, Watson would never box.
Watson was a fighter who in all honesty should have wins over Benn and Eubank, but gets forgotten, sadly. This was Watson’s career highlight.
Carl Frampton vs. Scott Quigg
Not nearly as interesting as the fights mentioned below, we saw Frampton outbox Scott Quigg, who is a wild man, who comes to win, but also just was limited. The fight had brewed for years and years, and when we got it – we saw two fighters who looked a bit tense and gunshy, with so much pride on the line.
That being said the build-up to this fight was top-tier and happening in the era of Carl Froch versus George Groves probably helped. Not quite, but worth noting.
Joe Calzaghe vs Robin Reid
It is a shame DAZN didn’t exist for Calzaghe versus Reid, as the two hated each other, and it was Calzaghe’s true rival, yet many in U.S. don’t even know Robin Reid’s name. The fights you can truly question if Calzaghe won are Robin Reid and Bernard Hopkins, and yet – this fight goes largely unnoticed.
Reid’s powerful right hand was effective but did it land enough? Probably not for the work rate of Calzaghe, but worth a rainy day binge-watch.
Tyson Fury vs. Dereck Chisora II
In many ways, it was Joshua vs. Whyte, before that fight, as Fury and Chisora both went on to have great careers, and their personalities matched each other well.
Tyson Fury, the greatest heavyweight of his era, and maybe of all-time, need a worthy foe on the come-up, and the wild tough guy antics of Chisora provided a perfect opponent.
Looking at Tyson Fury, who is targeting Dillian Whyte, and Anthony Joshua in the future points to the fact Fury probably wants a bout suitable of making this list, if not, two.