Calzaghe vs Froch And The Best British Fights That Never Happened

Hatton vs Witter, Benn vs Eubank III and more
11:00, 07 Jul 2023

Carl Froch and Frank Warren have engaged in a war of words over the fact the former never fought Joe Calzaghe. We’ll never know the truth on how close the fight came to taking place, nor how up for it either party was. But it remains one of the great what-ifs of British boxing history.

In honour of this age-old debate resurfacing, The Sportsman is taking this opportunity to look back at the best British boxing matches that never took place.


Chris Eubank vs Nigel Benn III

Unlike the other pairings on this list, we got two fights out of the brash Eubank and the fearsome Benn. ‘Simply The Best’ won their first fight in 1990, scoring a ninth-round TKO in an absolute thriller. Their second bout was a hotly-contested split draw at Old Trafford in 1993.

Given the mainstream success of the rivalry and the genuinely thrilling antipathy the pair shared, it is inconceivable that they never settled matters with another fight. In modern boxing, a bout as exciting as their first would not have had to wait three years for a rematch. In 2023, more is more and if the pair were around now we may have even had a fourth bout to truly settle the score.

Benn and Eubank have both talked about coming out of retirement for a third, but with both edging closer to their free bus pass, this generational feud is best left in the past. 

Joe Calzaghe vs Carl Froch

Froch spent much of the early part of his career calling out Calzaghe. He bristles to this day about the fact the bout never took place. But when comparing their respective careers, it is easy to see why. While unbeaten two-weight world champion Joe matches up well with three-time super middle boss Carl on paper, the truth is their primes didn’t align time-wise.

Froch won his first world title a month after Calzaghe’s final fight.‘The Pride of Wales’ hadn’t fought at super middleweight for a year at that point, while Froch would never move up to the light heavyweight division in which Calzaghe was competing at that stage.

Six days after Calzaghe’s final super middleweight fight, a 2007 win over Mikkel Kessler, Froch was defending his British title. That win came against the ageing Robin Reid, a fighter the Welshman had dispatched eight years earlier. As good as Froch vs Calzaghe would have been prime-for-prime, it was just never genuinely feasible as a marketable fight during their careers.


Ricky Hatton vs Junior Witter

These two light welterweight stars never had the problem Froch and Calzaghe’s doomed match-up did. In fact, there were several occasions where a fight between the two would have made perfect sense.

Perhaps in late 2000, when Hatton had just scooped the British title in a thriller with Jon Thaxton and Witter was rebounding from failure in an IBF challenge that came too soon against Zab Judah? In 2002, when ‘The Hitter’ held the Commonwealth title, a belt ‘The Hitman’ would never win? The following year when Hatton steamrolled Dennis Holbæk Pedersen instead while Witter was racking up stoppage wins?

Perhaps worst of all, the two never met in 2007, when Hatton was the IBF and The Ring world champion and Witter held the WBC belt. An all-British world title unification. Yorkshire vs Manchester. This fight could have sold out any stadium in the north of England.

But sadly the moment would pass. Hatton lost to Floyd Mayweather up at welterweight that December while Witter dropped his title to Timothy Bradley the following May. The stars would never align again and this perfect fight would be confined to the “Never Happened” pile.

Johnny Nelson vs Enzo Maccarinelli

The fight on our list that actually came the closest to taking place, the two cruiserweights were signed on to fight each other in 2006. Maccarinelli had won the WBO interim bauble while Nelson held the full belt. The plan was to match the pair and crown a single champion.

It didn’t come to pass, but unlike the rest of this list, it was not the fault of the fighters. Nelson’s body had begun to give out after a record-breaking career. He had made an incredible 13 defences of the cruiserweight title, still the joint-most in history. A six-and-a-half year reign also sees ‘The Entertainer’ remain the longest reigning cruiserweight king there ever was. 

A knee injury picked up while sparring for the Maccarinelli bout led to Nelson’s retirement. Enzo was elevated to full champion status and reigned until 2008, when he was stopped by WBC and WBA champion David Haye in a unification fight.


Tyson Fury vs Anthony Joshua

I know what you’re thinking. This fight could still happen. After all, whenever Tyson Fury gets bored of baiting Oleksandr Usyk, he turns his attention to “negotiating” a fight with Anthony Joshua.

But the fight didn’t happen in 2018 or 2019. It didn’t happen in 2020, 2021, 2022 and it looks unlikely for 2023. The bout will always be discussed while both men are still actively competing. The two standout British heavyweights of their generation, there will always be some appetite for a clash.

But the window is closing. Joshua has lost three times since the matter was first broached. If his decline continues this fight will barely register at the box office. It is hoped that one day we can remove Fury vs Joshua from this list. But given the way the last five years have gone, we wouldn’t bet on it.

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