First Line Of Defence: When The Best Brits Put Their Belts On The Line

Here is how six Great Britons got on in their first title defences
06:55, 09 Sep 2021

Sunny Edwards was set to defend his IBF Flyweight championship against Jayson Mama on Saturday at the Copper Box Arena in London. An injury to the Croydon man means he must wait to make the maiden defence of the title he won in April.

When Edwards does return, he will follow in the footsteps of an illustrious roll call of British world champions. Domestic fighters have endured varying fortunes when defending their hard-won gold for the first time, here is how six Great Britons got on in their first title defences.

Randolph Turpin (L TKO10 Sugar Ray Robinson)

Turpin had won the Middleweight Championship Of The World from Robinson on points in the greatest upset ever staged in a British ring. Two months later, the new champion could not replicate the unbelievable performance that had crowned him on the Earl’s Court night.

Only 23 years old, Turpin had the weight of the world on his shoulders going into the rematch at the Polo Grounds in New York. He had suddenly found himself catapulted into international stardom. Turpin fought gamely and the scorecards were close, but Sugar Ray demonstrated why he would go on to be regarded as possibly the greatest boxer of all-time, as he pounded out a tenth-round TKO.


Naseem Hamed (W KO1 Said Lawal)

Three punches. Two knockdowns. One round. ‘Prince’ Naseem did not hang about in his first defence of the WBO Featherweight title. Hamed had ripped the title from Steve Robinson in eight one-sided rounds the year before, and made an incredible statement against Lawal.

Hamed knocked the Nigerian down with the first punch of the fight, a clever right hook. When the action resumed he needed only a snapping right followed by a crunching uppercut to end the night 35 seconds after it had begun.

Herbie Hide (L KO6 Riddick Bowe)

‘The Dancing Destroyer’ had dethroned Michael Bentt by stoppage for the WBO Heavyweight title in his last outing, but had the misfortune of running into one of the era’s defining fighters.

‘Big Daddy’ was imperious in taking the title from the Norwich man, knocking him down seven times on the way to a knockout victory. Hide would rebound well, winning a second WBO title two years later.


Frank Bruno (L TKO3 Mike Tyson)


The beloved nearly man of British boxing, Bruno finally captured a world championship at the fourth attempt, decisioning Oliver McCall for the WBC portion of the crown in 1995.

He would defend it against a familiar foe when he rematched a post-prison ‘Iron’ Mike Tyson. Bruno had rocked Tyson in that 1989 collision before succumbing to the Catskills man’s power in the fifth. Mike would get the job done two rounds quicker on this occasion, and without meeting the same resistance, as a visibly distressed Bruno capitulated in Las Vegas. His title mission accomplished, Frank Bruno retired after the fight.

Ricky Hatton (W KO9 Carlos Maussa)

Hatton pulled off one of the great British title wins, battering the great Kostya Tszyu to an eleventh-round retirement to capture the IBF strap. ‘The Hitman’ would claim another title in his first defence when he met WBA boss Carlos Maussa.

Roared on by a packed Sheffield Arena, Hatton picked up where he left off with a swarming body attack on his taller foe, but incurred a first round cut that would bother him throughout. Battling through adversity, Ricky emphatically closed the show with a ninth-round left hook to unify the titles.


David Haye (W TKO2 Enzo Maccarinelli)


It is not common to see a genuine superfight take place in a champion’s first defence. That is exactly what happened when David Haye defended his newly-won WBC, WBA and The Ring Cruiserweight titles against WBO Champion Enzo Maccarinelli. 

An all-British unification between two consummate knockout artists, this is as good as boxing match-making gets. The fight however, was over quickly. ‘Hayemaker’ lived up to his name and wiped out the Welshman to take home another piece of the cruiserweight crown.

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