From Area Champion to King of the World?
It’s been done you know!
As boxing begins to return to normal and we start seeing some small hall shows being advertised soon, I thought it would be nice to look to see how many fighters had won the small hall’s favourite Title in the form of the Area Title and then gone on to win world honours. I already knew of four, but I was shocked to find out that 17 fighters have won both the BBBofC Area Title(s) and a version of the World Title.
Before I go on, can you guess any of them? Don’t cheat and scroll down – there’s no prizes here, just test yourself and have a think…
Right, finished thinking? Is your head hurting? It’s not as obvious as you may have thought.
The most recognised name to win an Area Title and then go on and pick up world honours is no doubt Ricky Hatton, who won the BBBofC Central Area Light-Welterweight Title. The Hitman faced off against then unbeaten Tommy Peacock in 1999 for the vacant Area strap on the undercard of Paul “Silky” Jones’ DQ loss of his Commonwealth Middleweight Title against Jason Matthews. If you somehow didn’t know, Ricky Hatton went on to win the IBF and Lineal Light-Welterweight World Titles from Kostya Tszyu, then unify them with the WBA Light-Welterweight World Title when he stopped Carlos Maussa in 9 rounds before stepping up to win the WBA Welterweight World Title against Luis Collazo.
Coincidentally, the man who headlined the card that Ricky Hatton won his Area Title on, Paul “Silky” Jones, is also a member of the “Area and World Champion” Club, having won the BBBofC Central Area Super-Welterweight Title over 10 against Jason Rowe in 1990, before going on to win the WBO Super-Welterweight World Title when he got a Majority Decision against reigning champion Verno Phillips. Jones never defended his Title, returning to the ring 13 months later in a losing attempt to win the BBBofC British Super-Welterweight Title against Ryan Rhodes. In more recent years, it was revealed that Silky never got his World Title belt from the WBO. After an online petition to get him his belt, it was presented to him by his former trainer at an event set up to honour Jones’ achievement.
Only two men on this list who have been undisputed World Champion and Area Champion beforehand (Hatton was Lineal and unified, never undisputed). One of them was the Ragamuffin Man; Lloyd Honeyghan. Honeyghan won the BBBofC Southern Area Welterweight Title when he beat Sid Smith in 1983 over 10 at the Royal Albert Hall. Honeyghan would go on to upset the heavily favoured Donald Curry to win the WBA, WBC and IBF Welterweight Titles (It was actually Curry who dubbed Honeyghan a “Ragamuffin”, resulting in Honeyghan taking the name on from that point).
Honeyghan vacated his WBA world Title when they tried to order him to fight South African Harold Volbrecht during the apartheid period, but would defend his WBC and IBF Titles three times against two former Light-Welterweight World Champions Johnny Bumphus and Gene Hatcher, with a defence against future Welterweight World Champion Maurice Blocker sandwiched in the middle before losing his and then regaining his WBC Title to/from Jorge Vaca. Honeyghan made one more successful defence of his WBC Title.
The other Undisputed World Champion to have picked up an Area Title was none other that Ken Buchanan, who picked up the BBBofC Scottish Area Lightweight Title when he beat John McMillian in 1967 over 10. Unlike Honeyghan, Buchanan would make himself undisputed rather than beating the reigning undisputed champion. Buchanan became the WBA and NYSAC Lightweight world champion when he beat Ismael Laguna via split decision in Puerto Rico. At the time, the WBA and the BBBofC were having a feud, meaning one of the UK’s greatest fighters never got to defend his Title(s) at home.
Buchanan became the Undisputed Lightweight World champion when he beat Ruben Navarro for the American’s WBC Title. Buchanan would be stripped of his WBC Title soon after and eventually lose his WBA World Title to Roberto Duran in Madison Square Garden. Duran would go on to break contract with Buchanan twice, never giving the Scottish legend a rematch.
One man fought for a now defunct Area Title and went on to win the world Title. All the way back in 1948 Terry Allen won the BBBofC South East Area Flyweight Title, winning via DQ against Dickie O’Sullivan. Allen would go on to fight for the World Title, first in a draw against John Joseph “Rinty” Monaghan. Monaghan retired after his defence against Allen and Allen got his shot at the vacant Title against his former conqueror – Frenchman Honore Pratesi, with the bout taking place at the same venue that Allen won his area Title in – the Harringay Arena. Pratesi wouldn’t win any of his fights after his loss to Allen and he unfortunately died from injuries he sustained in his final bout. Allen wouldn’t hold on to the World Title for long, losing it in his next fight against Hawaiian boxer Dado Marino.
The closest anyone has come to winning an Area Title and World honours at heavyweight is Tommy Farr. Farr won both the BBBofC Welsh Area Light-Heavyweight and Heavyweight Titles. Farr’s brush with the World Title came when we challenged Joe Louis for the Heavyweight Title (1937). Farr gave Lewis one of the hardest fights of his career, losing on a narrow points decision. The crowd jeered the decision such was the belief that Farr had done enough the dethrone Lewis. The “Tonypandy Terror” fought heavyweight legends Jim Braddock and then Max Baer in his following two bouts, losing both on the cards.
With all this success, let’s think outside the box. Two men actually lost in their attempts to win an Area Title but went on to win world honours. The first to have this unique honour was Scotsman Walter McGowan, who in 1961 lost for the BBBofC Scottish Area Flyweight Title in only his third professional fight against Jackie Brown (not the Jackie Brown who won an Area and World straps). McGowan went on to become the Lineal Flyweight World Champion when he outpointed his former conqueror Salvatore Burruni. Burruni had been stripped of his WBA and WBC World Titles for not defending against his mandatory challenger Hiroyuki Ebihara. McGowan would step up to Bantamweight and win the vacant British and Commonwealth Titles before losing his Lineal title in a unification with the WBC champion Chartchai Chionoi.
The other man to lose in their bid to win an Area Title but go on to win world honours is Carl “The Cat” Thompson. Thompson lost to Crawford Ashley for the BBBofC Central Area Light-Heavyweight Title by TKO in the 6th round of the scheduled 10 in 1989. Thompson would find world success waiting for him a weight division above, at Cruiserweight, but wouldn’t win his world Title at the first attempt. The Cat lost to Ralf Rocchigiani by 11th round TKO for the vacant WBO Cruiserweight World Title. Unlike with the Area Title, Thompson would have revenge, beating Rocchigiani in a rematch two years later by split decision, picking up the aforementioned WBO World Cruiserweight Title. Thompson would successfully defend his World Title twice against the legendary Chris Eubank before losing his belt to Johnny Nelson; another Area and World champ who had succeeded in his attempt to win an Area Title, picking up the BBBofC Central Area Cruiserweight Title in 1988 when he scored a TKO victory over Danny Lawford.
So next time you see a show with “only” an Area Title on the card, just remember you might be seeing a future world champion in action. All these warriors deserve praise and respect, all boxers do. Winning Areas and Worlds is something a bit special.
To finish, Lee Selby is a unique beast, unmatched when it comes to Area Titles, deliberately not talked about in detail here because his achievements are an article of their own! Respect, Lee.
A list of all the fighters who have won a BBBofC Area Title and a World Title:
Dennis Andries – Two Time BBBofC Southern Area Light-Heavyweight Champion and Three Time WBC Light-Heavyweight World Champion
Billy Joe Saunders – BBBofC Southern Area Middleweight Champion and WBO Middleweight & WBO Super-Middleweight World Champion
Darren Barker – BBBofC Southern Area Middleweight Champions and IBF Middleweight World Champion
Lloyd Honeyghan – BBBofC Southern Area Welterweight Champion and Undisputed WBA WBC & IBF Welterweight World Champion
Terry Marsh – BBBofC Southern Area Light-Welterweight Champion and IBF Light-Welterweight World Champion
Terry Allen – BBBofC South East Area Flyweight Champion and Lineal Flyweight World Champion
Lee Selby – BBBofC Welsh Area Featherweight Champion and IBF Featherweight World Champion
Steve Robinson – BBBofC Welsh Area Featherweight Champion and WBO Featherweight World Champion
Robbie Regan – BBBofC Welsh Area Flyweight Champion and WBO Bantamweight World Champion
Johnny Nelson – BBBofC Central Area Cruiserweight Champion and WBO Cruiserweight World Champion
Clinton Woods – BBBofC Central Area Super-Middleweight Champion and IBF Light-Heavyweight World Champion
Paul Jones – BBBofC Central Area Super-Welterweight Champion and WBO Super-Welterweight World Champion
Ricky Hatton – BBBofC Central Area Light-Welterweight Champion and IBF, WBA, Ring and Lineal Light-Welterweight World Champion, and WBA Welterweight World Champion
Jackie Brown – BBBofC Northern Area Flyweight and Bantamweight Champion, and NBA Flyweight World Champion
Ken Buchanan – BBBofC Scottish Area Lightweight Champion and Undisputed WBA & WBC Lightweight World Champion
Pat Clinton – BBBofC Scottish Area Flyweight Champion and WBO Flyweight World Champion
Benny Lynch – BBBofC Scottish Area Flyweight Champion and NBA Flyweight World Champion