Great Britain is a small country, smaller than some US states, yet we have managed to punch above our weight (pun intended) at world level in boxing, with some brilliant fighters picking up world honours in the past 10 years. Here is my list of who were the best of Britain from 2010 to 2019. If you think I’ve missed anyone out, please let me know! I enjoy hearing other people’s opinions.
10. David Haye
Haye went into the decade as the WBA Heavyweight Champion of the world – our first Heavyweight World Champion since Lennox Lewis retired back in 2003. He also was a forbearer for the “boom” in British boxing, helping to bring a tired looking sport back to the forefront of everyone’s minds. Haye was entertaining, articulate and had explosive power to boot. He only just makes this list though as his best days were in the decade before, “toegate” and all of Haye 2.0…
9. Josh Taylor
Taylor could easily be placed higher on this list and if his career and star continues to rise at the rate it has since he entered and won the WBSS, he’ll be a shoe in for everyone’s top 10 fighters of the next decade. Taylor has always blown expectations out of the water – every time he’s stepped up people have thought “this is too soon” but the Tartan Tornado has proved those people wrong.
His empathic demolition of Ohara Davis and his emotional win to become the WBSS winner as well as the unified WBA and IBF Super-Lightweight champion stand out as Taylor’s two go to wins; and that’s leaving out the likes of his first world title win against Ivan Baranchyk, his first title win against Dave Ryan and his brilliant performance against former world champion Viktor Postol.
8. George Groves
One time stablemate of our number 10 entry, Groves comes into this probably with a bit of a cloud – I don’t think he’d make many people’s lists. Groves won the world title on his fourth attempt having twice lost to Froch and once to Badou Jack, taking losses to either of these two (however they happened) shouldn’t be looked down on. Groves had an emotional rollercoaster of a career from the first Froch fight to his final fight in the WBSS final against Callum Smith, but he never failed to entertain the crowds with his exciting counter punching style
7. Amir Khan
Another like Haye who helped usher a new era of boxing popularity, Khan also entered the decade as a world champion having won the WBA Super-Lightweight World Title in the July of 2009 against Andriy Kotelnik. High profile defences against world renowned fighters like Marcos Maidana and Paulie Malignaggi led Khan to a unification bout against the great Zab Judah, who although wasn’t in his prime was still a world class fighter and the reigning IBF champion at 140lbs.
Two losses followed against Peterson and Garcia and then the step up to welterweight followed where we all expected the eventual showdown with Kell Brook to happen… and how wrong we all were. Khan hasn’t won a world title since, but it’s not through want of trying, losing to Canelo for the WBC Middleweight title and Bud Crawford for the WBO Welterweight in more recent times. Khan is unusual for this list as he is still active and many still believe he can win another world title.
6. Ricky Burns
Britain’s third three weight world champion and Scotland’s first, Burns often sailed under the radar for many. It could be said that Burns’ career was hurt by sticking with Warren for too long when the money and the fame was under the big lights of the recently returning Matchroom banner but I’m sure he won’t be complaining, having written himself into the history books when he stopped Michele Di Rocco in the 8th round to win the vacant WBA Super-Lightweight World Title. Burns could easily have featured a lot higher if he’d had some bigger names on his record and unified one of his three world titles along the way, but what a career!
5. James DeGale
It comes to something when you say the two time IBF Super-Middleweight World Champion never fulfilled his potential, such was the level of our 2008 Olympic Gold Medalist. DeGale became British champion in 2010 and many thought he would take off from there. But George Groves had something to say about that. After the Groves fight DeGale went quiet and worked his way back up, and after his relationship with Warren finished he went with Mick Hennessy. DeGale proved his character in this time, he wasn’t fighting in the big arenas on the big shows – many of his fights were at the Glow in Bluewater. But “Chunky” kept plugging away until the big lights called again and he eventually won the IBF Super-Middleweight title away from home against Andre Dirrell.
DeGale was a road warrior; only one of his IBF world title fights came on home soil when he dropped the strap to Caleb Truax in a huge upset. DeGale never had that shining light moment, the closest he came was his draw against Badou Jack. If he’d won there it would have been clear that he was a superstar and the number 1 Super-Middleweight on the planet at that time.
4. Carl Frampton
Where many of the above fighters didn’t have a defining fight, or did but lost, Carl Frampton won his. Scott Quigg and Frampton had been verbally sparring since they were the British Champion and the Commonwealth champion respectively. Many wanted them to fight then, but it made sense that they never fought until they were both world champions. Frampton gave up home advantage and went to Manchester, which was basically Quigg’s back yard and walked out the unified Super WBA and IBF Super-Bantamweight World Champion.
On the world scene Frampton’s defining fight was probably his next when he went and out pointed Leo Santa Cruz to become a two weight world champion. Legal issues between Frampton and his former promoters Cyclone left him out of the ring for a while and missing some important time in his career. Frampton is still campaigning though and is hoping to become a three weight world champion as he eyes a shot at a Super-Featherweight world title.
Before I get to the top three, I want to give a shout out to the fighters who almost made the list:
Lee Selby, Josh Warrington, Callum Smith, Nathan Cleverly, Ryan Burnett, Kell Brook, Tony Bellew.
All of whom achieved some amazing feats in their careers and some of who can achieve more going forward.
The next three will cause controversy any way that they are listed. So buckle up and have a read.
3. Tyson Fury
Fury could have been number one, he could have been number two. But he gets the number three spot because this list is trying to keep it to the boxers’ achievements in the ring. Fury shocked the world when he beat the dominant 10 year long reign of Wladimir Klitschko. The reason he only takes third is because he never defended those titles. Yes it was because of personal demons that he hasn’t but those are the facts. If he’d been given the nod over Deontay Wilder in their December 2018 clash he’d have been put at number 1 without a shadow of a doubt. If this list was down to beating personal demons, bringing yourself back from the brink and getting yourself back to the top of the tree, Fury would win by a canter.
2. Anthony Joshua
“The first time was so nice, I had to do it twice!”. If it wasn’t for his dominant rematch win against Andy Ruiz Jr earlier this month, he’d have been given the number three spot, but what Joshua proved in that rematch was that he can come back from a crushing defeat, learn from what he did wrong and correct those wrongs. It’s been mentioned before about defining fights for the boxers on this list and like a few others, Joshua has more than one: Dillian Whyte, Wladimir Klitschko and now both Ruiz fights give you a good representation of Joshua’s career and how entertaining he’s been. All three of those fighters hurt Joshua, but Joshua eventually found a way to beat them, even if the last one needed a whole new fight.
1. Carl Froch
Wembley Stadium, 80,000 fans. Froch Groves 2. It took possibly the worst performance of Froch’s career in his questionable win against George Groves in their first meeting to cement Carl Froch as a modern day British Boxing icon. If there was any doubt after the first fight, Froch made sure there wasn’t at the end of the second. His stoppage of Groves probably goes down and the best last punch thrown by a fighter in their career. Again, as with many on this list, Groves isn’t the only defining fight on Froch’s career; dismantling Lucian Bute when many believe he was the number 1 Super-Middleweight (he wasn’t, it was Andre Ward), his rematch against Mikkel Kessler or his last second win against Jermaine Taylor all spring to mind