By Alan Hubbard
My good friend and BoxNation sparring partner Colin Hart – we’re back in action together when Boxing Matters resumes next month – provoked a lively debate for pub, club and gym when his online Sun column recently asked: Who is Britain’s greatest living world champion?
His selection was as follows, in order of merit.
Joe Calzaghe; Ken Buchanan; John Conteh; Lloyd Honeyghan; Lennox Lewis; Nigel Benn; Carl Froch; Naseem Hamed; Ricky Hatton and Barry McGuigan.
Almost the Perfect Ten, you might argue. He and I often do. So I have a few observations of my own.
I agree wholeheartedly with Calzaghe’s top spot, the outstanding British world champion of probably this or any post-war era. But it is pretty hard to separate the top three.
For me, Conteh deserves to be his number two, running Calzaghe close, losing out perhaps by a split decision largely because of the super-middleweight’s fantastic unbeaten record both as a world champion and throughout his career.
But Conteh, sleek and gritty, had charisma as well as a class which puts him slightly above the technically brilliant Buchanan in my book, the Scot’s career slithering to four successive defeats…
No argument about Welshman Calzaghe though. As Colin says Joe retired after a sensational 15-year career having won every one of his 46 fights and holding the world super-middleweight title for a record-breaking 10 years.
His victims included super-stars like Bernard Hopkins and Roy Jones Jnr. And when he beat Jeff Lacy in Manchester it was unquestionably the best pure boxing performance from a Brit for many years. Simply sublime.
He dismantled Lacy, a world class opponent, with such a masterful display of box-fighting, the American, psychologically never recovered.
If I was nitpicking – which of course I am – I would put Nassem Hamed, personality warts and all, in fourth slot just ahead of Lloyd Honeyghan (whose conquest of Don Curry in the United States was a phenomenal upset) and I’d try to find a place for three-weight world champion Duke McKenzie. But at whose expense?
Certainly not Ricky Hatton but maybe, just maybe, Barry McGuigan?
Difficult one that.
This still leaves the likes of Frank Bruno, Chris Eubank, John H. Stracey, Amir Khan, and Terry Downes (at 80 our oldest surviving world champ) on the subs’ bench.
Some debate, eh?
And I wonder who of the current dozen British world champions would be eligible for that top ten in say a decade or so?
Carl Frampton looks the best bet, followed by Anthony Joshua. Then there’s Tyson Fury (assuming he makes it back to full health in mind and body) and if he continues to look sharp, Terry Flanagan.
Harty’s piece was inspired by an article in the November issue of Ring Magazine whose main feature was their selection of the top ten living world champions.
Had this been penned before June 3 this year it would have been no contest for pole position. But sadly Muhammad Ali passed away on that date.
So now the Ring’s number one choice is Sugar Ray Leonard. Fair enough. Pound-for-pound he remains the supreme living ring artist of our time.
In order of merit Leonard is followed by: Roberto Duran; Pernell Whitaker; Evander Holyfield; Marvin Hagler; Julio Cesar Chavez; Floyd Mayweather Jnr; Jake La Motta; Manny Pacquiao and Larry Holmes.
Plenty of room for healthy discussion there. Where the hell is Mike Tyson, the youngest man ever to win the world heavyweight championship and at his peak surely the most fearsome of all modern champions.
Ok, so he lost to Lennox Lewis but by then Iron Mike was in meltdown, a shadow of the fighter he once was – just as Sugar Ray Robinson was when he was beaten by Terry Downes.
I’d certainly take issue with the Ring rankings. Pernell Whitaker at number three well ahead of Floyd Mayweather jnr? Surely not.
Of course these ‘who’s best?’ lists are subjective, and meant to be provocative. They are what helps make the game go round.
There’s no Brit in the Ring’s roll of honour but I think they should have squeezed in Calzaghe. Don’t you?
Catch up with Alan Hubbard’s Punchlines tomorrow