British boxers have taken over the heavyweight division in recent years. WBC and lineal champion Tyson Fury currently leads the pack, while Anthony Joshua has only just dropped the other four divisional belts to Oleksandr Usyk. Below title level, the likes of Dillian Whyte, Joe Joyce and Daniel Dubois are all making moves. The domestic heavyweight scene has never been healthier.
But where do the current crop fit in when pitched against the best British heavyweights from history? The Sportsman has ranked the top 10 British heavyweights of the modern era. Read on to find out where your favourite placed.
10. Dillian Whyte
The consensus ‘best of the rest’ in the current heavyweight landscape. Whyte has beaten every fighter he has faced apart from Joshua, who he rocked in their 2015 clash. Won 12 of 13 fights since, with the sole defeat an avenged knockout loss against Alexander Povetkin. Has beat a murderer’s row of world-ranked heavies, including Joseph Parker, Derek Chisora and Mariusz Wach.
9. Henry Akinwande
Another beneficiary of the WBO title’s UK popularity in the 90s, the Dulwich fighter defended that belt twice before vacating it to fight Lewis for the WBC. He lost that fight in bizarre circumstances, being disqualified for excessive holding. Wins over Axel Schulz, Orlin Norris and Timo Hoffmann, as well as Commonwealth and European titles to go with his world belt, make him top 10 worthy.
8. Herbie Hide
‘The Dancing Destroyer’ is a two-time WBO heavyweight champion, albeit at a time when that belt was not as highly-regarded as today. Hide still beat solid opposition during his career though, including former heavyweight champion Tony Tucker, Michael Bentt and James Pritchard. There was no shame in losing his WBO belts to Riddick Bowe and Vitali Klitschko.
7. Henry Cooper
‘Our ‘Enry’ gave a young Cassius Clay all he could handle, knocking him down in their 1963 classic. The futute-Ali triumphed after Cooper was stopped on cuts, and were it not for his tendency to bleed he might be higher on this list. The Lambeth fighter went undefeated in British and Commonwealth title fights for twelve years, and is the only boxer to win three Lonsdale Belts outright.
6. Joe Bugner
Respected more than loved by virtue of a controversial decision win over the wildly popular Henry Cooper. Bugner’s record was solid, however. The Hungary-born British-Australian was a fixture in the world top 10, beating quality names like Jimmy Ellis and Brian London. ‘Aussie Joe’ also twice went the distance with Muhammad Ali, as well as taking ‘Smokin’’ Joe Frazier to the scorecards.
5. Frank Bruno
A beloved figure who transcended boxing to become one of Britain’s foremost celebrities, the affable Bruno failed in his first three attempts to win a heavyweight title. Finally won the WBC championship from Oliver McCall on one of British boxing’s greatest nights.
4. David Haye
Perhaps a better cruiserweight than a heavyweight, ‘Hayemaker’ still boasts an admirable CV in boxing’s banner division. Wladimir Klitschko was a bridge too far, but his WBA title win over Nikolai Valuev showed patience and quality.
3. Anthony Joshua
The former WBO, WBA and IBF champion has become a maligned figure after losing two of his last four fights. Defeats to Andy Ruiz Jr and Usyk should not tarnish what ‘AJ’ has accomplished. Wins over Wladimir Klitschko, Ruiz in a rematch, Alexander Povetkin and Joseph Parker make for a strong resume.
2. Tyson Fury
The people’s champion, as well as the WBC and lineal king, the immensely popular Fury is many people’s number one. Wins over Wladimir Klitschko and twice over Deontay Wilder have put him on pound-for-pound lists, but fights with Oleksandr Usyk and Anthony Joshua can seal his legacy.
1. Lennox Lewis
The last undisputed heavyweight champion of the world, Lewis overcame setbacks against Hasim Rahman and Oliver McCall to knock them out in rematches. Wins over Evander Holyfield, Vitali Klitschko and Mike Tyson solidify ‘The Lion’ as the best Britain has produced.