Froch’s ego recovers, Joshua shown more respect and Hatton overrated – welcome to the best of British boxing 1990-2020


Carl Froch just cannot seem to let it go.

Last month, the tabloid newspaper The Sun assembled a top 10 pound-for-pound list of successful British boxers spanning from the past three decades. That alone was guaranteed to provoke debate, yet that was only the start of it.

As your eyes descend down that list, from the top all the way to the bottom, you notice one chasmic-sized absentee. Carl ‘the Cobra’ Froch was missing.

Not one to blow his own trumpet in silence, Froch himself was taken aback and made damn sure he let everyone that would listen, know about it. To aggravate the matter, his bitter foe (from his perspective anyway) Joe Calzaghe was at number 1.

For a self-professed egotistic, who once used third person to refer to himself as a “international superstar,” the thought of not being picked at all, was just too much. To him, it felt like the act of treachery had been committed, a misplacing of justice. In his own mind, he assumed the boxing fraternity randomly decided to ignite an armageddon and were tasked with the sole intentions of destroying his boxing legacy.

Like a drunk going back into the bar not long after being barred, Froch wasn’t going to take this relatively trivial list with a pinch of salt. Instead, he chose to take a swipe at Anthony Joshua, ranked at number 10.

The 42-year-old was so bruised, he was willing to stoke a fire with 6ft 6′, 250lbs, Joshua. Speaking to IFL TV’s Kugan Cassius, Froch said:

“Not putting me in the top ten is bad news, and I don’t know how you can have AJ in the top ten. I’m not giving AJ stick, but he got knocked out by a little fat kid from Mexico. I’ve never been knocked out in my life, amateur or professional.

“AJ got beat up by a fat Mexican who, we don’t even know how good the Mexican is because he’s not done anything really. And they’ve got him in the top ten.”

Following four ‘deleted’ midnight WhatsApp messages from Joshua, Froch sensed he perhaps overstepped the mark on taking it out on the unified heavyweight world champion. Especially when the victim in question is 6 foot 6 and seems a little irritated – it was probably a smart idea from Froch to do so.

He later seeked to clarify his comments on his eponymous podcast, ‘Froch on fighting’ (*Insert AJ breaking Froch’s pantomimic 80,000 joke here*).

In the thick of a global pandemic, there is obviously not a lot of boxing going on, which subsequently brings the caveat of no newsworthy headlines. This meant Froch’s remarks were always bound to fill the little amount of boxing columns that currently exist. They do carry some weight though, as The Sun’s top 10 rankings were dubious, to say the least. 

Photo: The Sun

So in an attempt to strike a list with as little dispute as conceivably possible, Prost are going to put into action a self-modified formula, to shape Britain’s top 10 from the past three decades.

Formula in use:

Overall résumé + standout win longevity

The custom-made blueprint will base a fighter’s strength of record and match it with their best victory, assessing how long they reigned dominant.

10. Ricky Hatton (45-0-3)

Ricky Hatton comeback: Six key fights from his career | Daily Mail ...

Photo: PA

A fan’s favourite that drove a working class crowd to turn up in their thousands and cement himself as Britain’s most popular fighter of the noughties. Hatton became a human noise creator, using the rapturous Mancunian support to his advantage as he went on to become a two-weight world champion. The Hitman’s historic night will always be his win over then pound-for-pound star Kosta Tszyu, who had been on a 13-fight winning streak before he locked horns with the UK star. Hatton’s relentless pressure proved too much for an ageing Tszyu, quitting on his stool in the 11th round.

Hatton’s title run extended with solid victories over Luis Collazo, an albeit faded Jose Luis Castillo and Paulie Malignaggi. While Hatton’s apex was entertaining and brought boxing to the masses, Hatton could never quite reach the elite of the light-welter and welterweight divisions to be considered a true conqueror of those weights.

Two devastating knockouts to all time greats Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao put paid to that, with each loss seeming to take something away from Hatton. The fight that never was against slippery, Wincobank fighter Junior Witter also goes against him, with it widely perceived Hatton ducked the Sheffield resident.

9. Nigel Benn (42-1-5)

It is rare to have such a plethora of fighters all so rich with talent, all at a similar weight and all in the same generation; Britain in the 1990’s had just that. Between the trio of Benn, Chris Eubank and Michael Watson, they produced some of the most memorable fights in British history.

Not only were their battles stoic and all out wars, each had a personality and an stylistic approach that simply captured the public’s imagination. The rough and ready of the triplex Benn, was blessed with all the ingredients to make for compulsive viewing. Possessing unceasing aggression, tremendous power and a touch of vulnerability, you could not afford to miss a fight of his.

Just watch the first round of his 1995 tragic classic against Gerald McClellan to see why. Those three minutes alone typified the Dark Destroyer. His comeback victory over the aforementioned McClellan is his standout win, while his dispatching of Iran Barkley in one round to raid the WBO super-middleweight title another. Throw in the fact that everyone apart from the judges thought he beat Eubank in the rematch, Benn is without doubt in the top 10.

7b. Tyson Fury (30-1-0)

Photo: Forbes

This is where it gets a little sticky. Fury is ranked at joint 7 with (disclaimer) Anthony Joshua, who both currently hold the four heavyweight belts. But given the pair are the only two fighters on the list still active, their career optics may change, therefore retired fighters are granted more leeway. Let’s be honest, no one knows how a match-up will go between these two, so for arguments sake they both hold the same standing.

Fury’s rise wasn’t quite as rapid as Joshua, nor as expected. He struggled early on in his career with a contentious points decision win against John McDermott and also went life and death with relative non-punchers Neven Pikaj and Steve Cunningham. But with a two-and-a-half-year lay-off sandwiched in between, the Gypsy King has transformed into an altogether different fighter since.

Two wins over Dereck Chisora continue to look better as time goes on and his first world title fight against the second most dominant heavyweight in history Wladimir Klitschko was a win that shook up the division as we knew it. A master boxer, Fury bamboozled the Ukrainian in a one-sided points victory. Fury showed he can punch as well with his win against Deontay Wilder in February an emphatic one.

7a. Anthony Joshua (23-0-1)

Photo: Getty Images

Just 24 fights in, Joshua continues to learn on the job and doing so under the most enormous pressure. One of world boxing biggest superstars, AJ has drove the sport in Britain forward with sold-out stadium events now the norm.

Still way off from being the finished article, Joshua is already a unified, two-time world champion. Wins over Dillian Whyte, Charles Martin, Dominic Breazeale, Wladimir Klitschko, Carlos Takam, Joseph Parker, Alexander Povetkin and then revenge against Andy Ruiz Jr, make for a rock-solid resume that’s only going to get better.

6. Chris Eubank (45-2-5)

Photo: The Fight City

As he and his personal impressionist Eddie Hearn likes to remind us, Chris Eubank Sr was indeed a warrior. Holding victories over Nigel Benn and Michael Watson, Eubank proved his career had substance to compliment the eccentric style. A character that had never been seen before, ‘English’ encapsulated what changing into a different person once stepping throughout the ropes meant. A sometimes infururiating softly-spoken man, suddenly turned into an animalistic, wild savage inside the ring, relying on his supreme chin to take batterings while also giving plenty out.

The lack of depth in his record aside from Benn and Watson does stop Eubank from ranking higher, with the occasional dalliance around Europe fighting no hopers denting things somewhat. Three successive defeats at the back end of his career curtailed any hopes of being the best fighter of the last 30 years.

5. Naseem Hamed (36-0-1)

How apt to have Naseem Hamed follow Eubank. Hamed largely based his thrilling style and outlandish character on him, even replicating the infamous summersault rope flip when entering the ring. Hamed transcended the sport beyond these shores, becoming a household name in US boxing; ring walks were an event in itself. His popularity still remains in recent times – American sports network ESPN pushed for Hamed to be in the boxing hall of fame 12 years after he retired.

Hamed’s surge of stardom was centered around an zany bravado, where he possessed a languid arrogance and more importantly, the skill to embarrass opponents and take risks no one else would dream of doing. Hamed punched like a mule and pushed further away from the conventional than Eubank ever dared.

His knockdown-fuelled classic win against Kevin Kelley was the highlight of his short career, with victories over Wilfredo Vazquez and Wayne McCullough proving solid. But a lack of overall names and his hasty, churlish exit from the sport at just 28-years-old does hinder his legacy.

4. David Haye (28-0-4)

Photo: RTE

Yes admittedly David Haye’s play-boy persona and regular tendency to delve into reality TV has perhaps overshadowed what a fantastic fighter he was back in the day. Nowadays, the younger casual audience may know Haye as the guy who stood up on a table to offer his little toe to the camera, a pardon for his defeat to Wladimir Klitschko. Or the flash harry that couldn’t care less if he showered naked on I’m a Celebrity. Or heck, even the man that seemed to get injured at every turn.

While Haye has become a pantomime figure in recent times, you mustn’t forget the formidable competitor Haye was particularly at cruiserweight, where he’s unquestionably an all time great. An undisputed champion, Haye captured his first world belt against Jean-Marc Mormeck in Paris, climbing off the canvas in the fourth to stop Mormeck three rounds later. In the city of love, Haye proved although he loved the cash and fame, he had the heart for fighting. He then unified the division in an all-British two round blitz against Enzo Maccarinelli, before moving up to heavyweight.

The win to become WBA heavyweight champ against Nikolai Valuev is a little overrated, perhaps due to Valuev looking like a character from the Rocky franchise. But nonetheless, a victory in a fight that still holds the record for the biggest disparity in weight and height between two fighters can be classed as solid, if not spectacular. Haye also got rid of Dereck Chisora in 5 rounds amid acrimonious circumstances. But a misfired comeback and failing to deliver on his tirade of trash talk against Klitschko – A.K.A toe gate – does put a dent in the Hayemaker’s translucent, glittering achievements.

3. Carl Froch (33-0-2)

Photo: Getty Images

Froch can now relax. Wally Downes’ piece in The Sun which left the Cobra out of the top 10 is pretty incomprehensible. His run of 12 back-to-back world title fights were staggering. From the moment Froch drowned Jermaine Taylor in a come-from-behind 12th round stoppage win to defend his world strap for the first time, only boxer now turned pornstar Yussuf Mack (yes really) can be viewed upon as a soft touch.

The rest? Well they were 168 pound killers. Lucian Bute was Froch’s best night, smashing the Canadian southpaw to pieces (to coin a famous Cobra phrase) in his hometown of Nottingham. Beating Mikkel Kessler in the rematch meant only the mercurial Andre Ward has got the better of Froch in the end.

Further wins over Jean Pascal, Andre Dirrell, Arthur Abraham and of course, settling the feud against George Groves. 80,000 you say? What a way to go out of the sport.

2. Joe Calzaghe (46-0-0)

Photo: Sports Break

The only fighter with an unblemished record on the list. Joe Calzaghe was a Welsh wizard that mesmerised with hand speed and shocked with underrated power. His 36 minute beatdown of US superstar in waiting Jeff Lacey derailed the hype train and sealed Calzaghe’s place as a super-middleweight great. He then glided up to light-heavy and headed stateside to silence two legends of the sport in Bernard Hopkins and Roy Jones Jr.

But the lack of unifications and competitive match-ups available to Calzaghe at the time does leave minor doubts. His 46 win record is good, but definitely could have been better.

1. Lennox Lewis (46-1-2)

Photo: Getty Images

With wins over every man he’s ever stepped in the ring with, Lennox Lewis tops the list. Avenging both of his defeats to Oliver McCall and Hasim Rahman and the fashion of which he carried out those retributions, cemented his legacy as a heavyweight for the history books. Lewis was the 1990’s ruler of the giants, holding victories over virtually every top contender. Shannon Briggs was dispatched, as was Andrew Golota, Frank Bruno and David Tua. Mike Tyson got dealt with too.

With Riddick Bowe scared stiff of fighting Lewis, it left the Canadian-Brit unbeaten in two bouts over Evander Holyfield and a changing of guard victory over soon-to-be great Vitali Klitschko. Lewis went out on top. And for that reason, he’s at the summit of our list.

Honourable mentions:

Michael Watson, Johnny Nelson, James Degale, George Groves, Amir Khan, Tony Bellew.


About Author

Football, Boxing and Cricket correspondent from Hampshire, covering southern sport. Editor and Head of Boxing at Prost International. Accreditated EFL & EPL journalist.

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