Punching Above Their Weight: A History of British Boxers

Britain is once again the focal point of boxing fans worldwide, as a handful of newcomers continue their meteoric rise to superstardom. The likes of Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury have become the hottest property heavyweight boxing has seen for years. Meanwhile, the rising stars of James DeGale, Kell Brook and Chris Eubank Jr. show the world what British boxing grit is all about.

Throughout the history of the sport, Britain has produced some of the most incredible boxers ever to have lived. But despite showing immense prowess on a national and international level, some of Britain’s best talent went somewhat under-appreciated overseas. Stars like John Conteh, Chris Eubank, Nigel Benn and Paul Hodkinson, never quite reached the superstar levels of today’s British boxing elite.

While their posters may grace the walls of boxing fans all over the world, Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury are far from the first megastars to come out of this tiny island floating in the ocean. Brits may be renowned worldwide for stiff upper lips, but the following 10 athletes have demonstrated the country’s capacity to produce no less than the ultimate in professional boxing talent:

  1. Amir Khan

amir khan

Showcasing some of the most incredible footwork and speed during his career, Amir Khan shot to fame after taking home an Olympic silver medal at the age of just 17. His professional record of 31-4 with 19 KOs remains an extraordinary achievement.


  1. Ricky Hatton

Ricky Hatton

Also known as the ‘Hitman’, Ricky Hatton came out of nowhere to prove a whole world of critics wrong. He may have lacked a certain amount of technical ability in the ring, but he more than made up for it with a lot of heart and even more power. By the time he retired, he’d achieved an impressive record of 45-3 with 32 knockouts.


  1. Barry McGuigan


Former champion turned coach extraordinaire, Barry McGuigan was the face of British boxing throughout much of the eighties. He’s credited with pulling off one of the biggest upsets of the decade when he beat Eusebio Pedroza to pick up the Lineal and WBA Featherweight Titles in 1985. He retired with a record of 32-3 with 28 knockouts.

  1. Naseem Hamed


You either loved him or you loathed him, but there was no denying the flamboyancy or raw talent of Prince Naseem Hamed. He spent less time focusing on traditional boxing technique as he did showing off doing back flips, but this was all part of his charm.  At the height of his career, he became Lineal, WBO, IBF, IBO and WBC World Featherweight Champion.


  1. Ken Buchanan

ken-buchanan-3 Hailing from Edinburgh, Ken Buchanan is widely considered to be the best boxer Scotland has ever produced. He became the Undisputed Lightweight Champion of the world in the early 1970s, ultimately going on to achieve a record of 69-8 with 27 knockouts to his name.

  1. Carl Froch


The pride of Nottingham, Carl ‘The Cobra’ Froch had his work cut out for him throughout his entire 12-year professional career. Despite having been pitted against some of the most ferocious talent in the world – Arthur Abraham, Andre Dirrell, Lucian Bute, Glen Johnson, Jermain Taylor – he chalked up an extraordinary record of 33-2 with 24 knockouts by the time he retired.  


  1. Joe CalzagheCalzaghe

It’s the dream of every profession boxer to retire undefeated, but simply isn’t within the capabilities of most. Joe Calzaghe being one notable exception to the rule, who managed to win every single one of his 46 professional fights during a career spanning 15 years. He’s one of the only world champions to have retired having beaten every opponent he ever faced.


  1. Bob Fitzsimmons


During his career, Bob Fitzsimmons became the first and only professional boxer to ever pick up world titles in three different weight divisions. He won the middleweight championship, before stepping up to win the light heavyweight championship and ultimately the world heavyweight title. He was also the lightest boxer ever to win the world heavyweight championship at just 172lbs.


  1. Lennox Lewis

lennox lewis

A legendary name in British heavyweight boxing, Lennox Lewis became the undisputed King of the sport during his incredible career. A three-time world champion, Lennox Lewis also became the British, European and Commonwealth champion during his reign, masterfully overcoming the likes of Frank Bruno, Razor Ruddock, Oliver McCall, Hasim Rahman and Evander Holyfield along the way. He was only defeated three times, but then went on to defeat all three of these opponents once again in rematches.


  1. Jimmy Wilde

Last but not least, Jimmy Wilde seriously does not attract the acclaim he truly deserves. Despite weighing in at a super-slender 96lbs, he went on to chalk-up perhaps the single most impressive record in the history of professional boxing.  An incredible 132-3-1 with 99 knockouts. Precisely why he became known as the ‘Ghost with the Hammer in his Hand’.



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Jonny Stapleton

Irish-boxing.com contributor for 15 years and editor for the past decade. Have been covering boxing for over 16 years and writing about sport for a living for 19 years. Former Assistant Sports editor for the Gazette News Paper Group and former Tallaght Voice Sports Editor. Have had work published in publications around the world when working as a freelance journalist. Also co-founder of Junior Sports Media and Leinster Rugby PRO of the Year winner. email: editoririshboxing@gmail.com