British boxers have taken over the heavyweight division in recent years. WBC and ruler champion Tyson Fury are currently leading the pack, while Anthony Joshua has just dropped the other four division belts for Oleksandr Usyk. Below title level, people like Dillian Whyte, Joe Joyce and Daniel Dubois are all up and running. The domestic heavyweight scene has never been healthier.
But where does the current crop fit in when it faces the best British heavyweights in history? The Sportsman has ranked the 10 best British heavyweights of the modern era. Read on to find out where your favorite is located.
10. Dillian Whyte
Consensus ‘best of the rest’ in the current heavyweight landscape. Whyte has beaten every single fighter he has met, except for Joshua, who he shook in their 2015 showdown. Won 12 of 13 matches since, with the only defeat being a claimed knockout loss against Alexander Povetkin. Has beaten a killer line of world-ranked tongues, including Joseph Parker, Derek Chisora and Mariusz Wach.
9. Henry Akinwande
Another beneficiary of the WBO title’s British popularity in the ’90s, the Dulwich fighter defended the belt twice before leaving it to fight Lewis for the WBC. He lost the match under bizarre circumstances and was disqualified for excessive holding. Victories over Axel Schulz, Orlin Norris and Timo Hoffmann as well as Commonwealth and European titles that come with his world belt make him top 10 worthy.
8. Herbie Hide
‘The Dancing Destroyer’ is a double WBO heavyweight champion, albeit at a time when the belt was not as highly regarded as it is today. However, Hide still faced solid opposition throughout his career, 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 everything he could handle, toppling him in their 1963 classic. The future Ali triumphed after Cooper was stopped due to wounds and was not for his tendency to soft, he was perhaps higher on this list. The Lambeth fighter went undefeated in British and Commonwealth title fights for twelve years, and is the only boxer to have won three Lonsdale Belts directly.
6. Joe Bugner
Respected more than loved by virtue of a controversial decision wins over the wildly popular Henry Cooper. However, Bugner’s record was solid. The Hungarian-born British-Australian was part of the world’s top 10 and beat 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 loving 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 best nights.
4. David Haye
Perhaps a better cruiserweight than a heavyweight, ‘Hayemaker’ still boasts an admirable resume in the boxing banner department. Wladimir Klitschko was a bridge too far, but his WBA title victory over Nikolai Valuev showed patience and quality.
3. Anthony Joshua
The former WBO, WBA and IBF champion has become a reviled figure after losing two of his last four matches. Defeats to Andy Ruiz Jr and Usyk should not tarnish what ‘AJ’ has achieved. Victories over Wladimir Klitschko, Ruiz in a rematch, Alexander Povetkin and Joseph Parker provide a strong CV.
2. Tyson Fury
The people’s champion, as well as the WBC and ruler king, the hugely popular Fury is the number one number of people. Victories over Wladimir Klitschko and twice over Deontay Wilder have put him on pound-for-pound lists, but matches with Oleksandr Usyk and Anthony Joshua could seal his legacy.
1. Lennox Lewis
The last undisputed heavyweight champion in the world, Lewis overcame setbacks against Hasim Rahman and Oliver McCall to knock them out in rematch. Victories over Evander Holyfield, Vitali Klitschko and Mike Tyson solidify ‘The Lion’ as the best Britain has produced.