March 8, 2023
To say Mark Jorgensen is a boxing fan is like saying Mike Tyson can handle himself. DAZN Bet’s resident boxing-obsessed writer is letting everyone know who the best British heavyweight boxers are ahead of Anthony Joshua’s fight in April 2023. In his learned opinion of course.
Top 10 Best British Heavyweight Boxers of all Time
With world champions, pound-for-pound list fighters and contenders in almost every division, the last few years have been a stellar period for British boxing.
The heavyweight division is one which Britain has traditionally had a particularly strong heritage and the current crop of British heavyweights are arguably up there among the strongest we’ve ever seen.
Off the back of the boxing belt-unifying achievements of Joshua and more recently Fury, perennial contenders through the likes of Whyte and a host of top prospects on the horizon such as Dubois or Adeleye, there are plenty of upcoming boxing fights for British fans to get excited about.
Ahead of Anthony Joshua’s first step back towards the title trail against Jermaine Franklin on April 1st, we look at the top 10 British heavyweight boxers of all time.
Record: W: 50 (30 KOs) L: 4 D: 1
Perhaps one of the lesser-known names on the list, but Akinwande held and retained the WBO heavyweight title between 1996-7. An imposing figure with impressive technical skills, Akinwande had claimed both European and Commonwealth heavyweight titles prior to his first world championship belt against Jeremy Williams in 1996. It was a scrappy fight, with Williams doing much of the pressing, but Akinwande floored the American with a left right combination in the third round to claim the strap. He went on to defend the belt twice against Alexander Zolkin (TKO) and Scott Welch (Decision) to set up a showdown against fellow Brit Lennox Lewis for the WBC title. Unfortunately for him, this is where his promising career took somewhat of a dent. Appearing to be cautious over the evident dangers of his opponent, the referee repeatedly warned him about holding Lewis and he was eventually disqualified in the fourth round. Despite this setback, Akinwande continued to have a successful career later winning the WBC international heavyweight and IBF Inter-Continental titles.
Record: W: 53 (43 KOs) L: 4
Herbie Hide aka the Dancing Destroyer made his professional debut aged just 18, and rapidly became a rising star in British boxing. Known for his punching power, fleet footwork and unorthodox style, Hide claimed his first title in 1992, knocking out Conroy Nelson for the vacant WBC International heavyweight title. In the following years, he continued undefeated at 25-0 (24 KOs) and added the British heavyweight title along the way leading to his shot at the WBO belt in 1994 against Michael Bentt at Millwall’s football stadium. It had been a tempestuous build up, with the pair scuffling at a pre-fight meeting leading to a heightened interest in the fight. Hide comprehensively outboxed Bentt and knocked him out in the seventh round to claim the belt. In his first title defence, Hide faced former undisputed champion Riddick Bowe and started well, outboxing Bowe in the early rounds, before the disparity in size and class started to take its toll. Hide had picked himself up from the canvas several times before finally being knocked out in round six. Following the defeat, Hide went on a tear, winning the WBO belt again in 1997 with a second-round knockout of Tony Tucker. He defended the belt twice before losing to Vitaly Klitschko and subsequently moved down to a his more natural cruiserweight division, where he claimed the vacant WBC international title.
Record: W: 28 (26 KOs), L: 4
Despite his somewhat underwhelming exit from the sport, consecutive stoppage losses at the hands of Tony Bellew, David Haye’s skill and his accomplishments as a world champion cannot be overlooked. Naturally, a cruiserweight, the sheer lack of a bigger body of work at heavyweight prohibits him appearing higher in the list. He fought less than 50 combined rounds in the weight class and yet still managed to attain and defend a world title. Haye lost his first shot at a world championship, losing to Carl Thompson for the IBO cruiserweight title in 2004. He then went on a 12-fight winning streak, claiming the unified cruiserweight title along the way before stepping up to heavyweight. After one win against Monte Barrett, Haye faced the (literal) biggest heavyweight in the sport in 7ft tall Nikolai Valuev for the WBA heavyweight title. Dubbed the David vs. Goliath fight, Haye weighed nearly 100 lbs less than the Russian, and fought a smart fight, circling and jabbing his way to a majority decision. As a spectacle, the fight left quite a bit to be desired, but it was nevertheless a great performance and gameplan by Haye. He defended his belt twice, with consecutive TKO wins against John Ruiz and Audley Harrison before a unification showdown against superstar Vladimir Klitschko. The Ukrainian dominated the fight in typically efficient fashion, winning by a comfortable majority decision. Haye temporarily retired from the sport but returned the following year to claim an impressive TKO win over fellow British heavyweight Derek Chisora. He returned again four years later and claimed two more victories across the following years before his losses to Bellew called time on his career.
Record: W: 40 (27 KOs), L: 14 D: 1
He never won a world championship, but Henry Cooper is considered one of the greatest ever British boxers. He remains the only British boxer to receive a Knighthood for their services to the sport. Cooper won the British and Commonwealth heavyweight titles twice, first in 1959 and again in 1970. He was also the European heavyweight champion, which he won in 1964 by defeating the German Karl Mildenberger. Cooper is probably best known for his two fights against Muhammad Ali (then known as Cassius Clay). In their first fight in 1963 at Wembley Stadium, Cooper famously knocked Ali down with a powerful left hook in the fourth round but Ali was able to recover and win the fight by technical knockout in the fifth round due to a nasty cut above Cooper’s right eye. The fight has long been the subject of conspiracy around the actions of Ali’s corner, including alleged glove tampering to buy Ali more recovery time. Speculation aside, it’s undeniable that heavy underdog Cooper’s skill and power took both Ali and the world by surprise. In their second fight in 1966, Ali won by technical knockout again due to cuts, this time in the sixth round.
Record: W: 69 (43 Kos) L: 13 D: 1
Bugner fought some of the very best heavyweights of his era, including Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, Earnie Shaverz and Ron Lyle. Born in Hungary but later moving to the United Kingdom where he became a British citizen, much of Bugner’s stardom actually came from his high-profile losses rather than his wins. However, this shouldn’t discredit his considerable achievements. Despite losing his first-ever professional fight, Bugner built an impressive record and gained his first big break in 1971 with a shot at the British, Commonwealth and EBU heavyweight titles against a Henry Cooper in the twilight of his career. It was an extremely close and gruelling 15-round contest, with Bugner edging out a razor thin decision thanks in no small part to his ability to absorb punishment and keep fighting. His next big break came in 1971 when he fought Muhammad Ali in a non-title fight in Las Vegas. Although he lost the fight by unanimous decision, he was able to go the distance with Ali, which was a rare feat at the time. Bugner fought Ali again in 1975 for the WBA/WBC heavyweight belts but he again lost by unanimous decision. Later that same year, he lost another hard-fought decision against former unified champion Joe Frazier and it was his performance in those high-profile fights that propelled Bugner’s name on the global stage. In the latter stages of his career Bugner fought out of Australia under the moniker Ozzie Joe and claimed the Australian heavyweight title in the process, but the prime years of his career came as a British heavyweight.
Record: W: 84 (24 KOs) L: 34 D: 17
Tommy Farr is arguably Wales’ finest ever boxing export who had a fantastic career during the 1930s-40s. Farr began his professional career in 1931 at the age of 18 and had built a steady if not spectacular record beginning at light heavyweight before moving up and claiming the Welsh heavyweight, followed by the British and Commonwealth championships. Particularly considering he started out at a lower weight class, Farr was never a knockout artist. He finished just 24 of his 84 career wins by stoppage but still managed to etch his name in the history books as one of the UKs best heavyweights. His most notable performance came against the legendary Joe Louis in 1937 for the heavyweight championship at Yankee Stadium in New York. Although he lost the 15-round fight by unanimous decision, he was the first fighter to go the distance with Louis in a championship bout. Farr was praised for his toughness and his ability to take punishment from Louis, who was known for his devastating power. Some even made a case that Farr had a legitimate claim to have won the fight. Farr also fought other top heavyweights of his era, including Max Baer, Jack Sharkey, and Ben Foord.
Record: W: 40 (38 KOs), L: 5
One of the most highly revered and best British heavyweight boxers in history, it’s perhaps Bruno’s durability and longevity in and around the title picture that underpins his legacy. He finally won a world championship at the fourth attempt in 1995, but almost always competed at the upper end of the heavyweight division and faced some of the biggest names of his era, including Mike Tyson (twice) and Lennox Lewis. Bruno turned professional in 1982 and quickly established himself as a rising star in the heavyweight division. He won his first 21 fights, including 19 by knockout, before suffering his first defeat to James “Bonecrusher” Smith at Wembley in 1984. Bruno rebounded from the loss and went on to win the European heavyweight title in 1985. He continued to fight and win, earning a shot at the WBC heavyweight title in 1986, but lost to Tim Witherspoon in a hard-fought battle. Bruno finally captured a world title in 1995 when he defeated Oliver McCall to win the WBC championship. He successfully defended the title against Mike Tyson in 1996 but lost in the rematch later that year and retired shortly after.
Record: W: 24 (22 Kos) L: 3 (still active)
While Anthony Joshua has faced a recent skid by his own high standards, losing three of his last five fights, his status among British heavyweight royalty is unquestionable. Entering his professional career as an Olympic gold medal winner, he was quickly earmarked as a huge prospect and potential future champion. He lived up to this hype, rapidly rising through the heavyweight ranks by winning his first 20 fights by knockout to become the unified heavyweight champion of the world two years shy of turning 30. In only his ninth professional fight, he dispatched Denis Bakhtov in just the second round to claim the WBC international heavyweight title. After two successful defences, his biggest challenge to date came in 2015 when he defeated fellow Brit Dillian Whyte with a thunderous uppercut in the seventh round to add the British heavyweight title to his CV. In 2016, he won the IBF championship when he defeated Charles Martin. Later that year, he successfully defended his title twice against Dominic Breazeale and Eric Molina to set up his announcement on the global stage against unified champion Wladimir Klitschko in 2o17. Joshua ultimately won by knockout in the 11th round, but both fighters faced considerable adversity throughout, picking themselves up from the canvas in an epic back and forth war at Wembley Stadium. The bout was named the Fight of the Year by many boxing pundits, publications and fans alike. Joshua went on to defend his titles against some tough challengers, including Carlos Takam, Joseph Parker, and Alexander Povetkin before suffering a shock defeat to Andy Ruiz Jr. in 2019, losing his titles in the process. AJ regained his titles in a rematch against Ruiz later that year with a disciplined and measured performance to claim a decision victory. Following a defence against Kubrat Pulev, Joshua then lost back-to-back fights against former Cruiserweight champ and pound for pound contender Oleksandr Usyk, both by decision. While undoubtedly the most challenging moment of his career, it’s by no means the end of AJs story.
Record: W: 33 (24 Kos) D: 1 (still active)
Undefeated, current holder of the WBC belt and former unified champion of the world, the only blemish on Fury’s record is a highly debatable draw against Deontay Wilder, remarkable in itself for what he overcame both prior to and during that fight. Fury is an enigma both inside and outside of the ring. His well-publicised personal troubles have both hindered and harnessed his frankly baffling skillset for such a huge man. Standing 6ft 7in tall, Fury moves like a middleweight and proved he has both the talent and the minerals to raise his game on the biggest stages against the biggest fighters. Fury won his first 18 fights before facing off against Dereck Chisora in a high-profile bout in 2011. Fury won the fight and went on to earn a shot at the world heavyweight title. In 2015, Fury became the first boxer to defeat Wladimir Klitschko in over a decade to win the WBA, WBO, IBF, and IBO heavyweight titles. He did it unexpectedly comfortably, too. In the aftermath of this victory, Fury’s career was temporarily derailed by personal issues and struggles with mental health leading to a hiatus from the sport. He returned to the ring in 2018 and has since built his star power bigger than before. After just two fights back, Fury fought to a controversial draw against Deontay Wilder for the WBC heavyweight title. Despite winning most of the fight, Fury was floored twice, including an eleventh-round combination that lay Fury flat on his back and looking out for the count. You know the rest. Fury inexplicably rose like The Undertaker before proceeding to win the next round against a visibility shocked Wilder and was unlucky not to take the decision. The rivals faced off in a highly anticipated rematch in 2020, with Fury claiming an emphatic TKO victory in the seventh round to capture the WBC title. The pair completed a trilogy in 2022, Fury winning in dramatic fashion with an eleventh round knockout following a back and forth battle with both fighters being picking themselves up from the mat multiple times. With an undisputed fight against Oleksandr Usyk mooted for mid-2023, Fury could have the opportunity to top the list.
Record: W: 41 (32 KOs), L: 2, D: 1
At the time of publishing, Lewis remains the only undisputed British world champion of all time. A three-time heavyweight world champion, he defeated every opponent he faced, albeit by way of three rematches. Lewis made his professional debut in 1989 and quickly became a formidable force on the British and European scene, earning his first world title fight against Riddick Bowe, whom he had fought and defeated in the Olympics in 1988. Bowe turned down the fight, handing the WBC belt to Lewis. After three successful defences, including a seventh round TKO of Frank Bruno, he lost his first fight; a second-round TKO upset against Oliver McCall. After winning his next four fights and claiming the IBC title, he got his revenge against McCall and reclaimed the WBC belt with a fifth-round stoppage. In 1999, Lewis faced off against Evander Holyfield in what was considered one of the biggest fights of the decade. The fight ended in a highly controversial draw with many feeling that Lewis had done enough to win. In the rematch the following year, Lewis emerged as the clear majority winner to pick up the WBA, IBF, and IBO heavyweight titles in the process. Lewis continued to dominate the heavyweight division over the next few years, defeating notable opponents such as Mike Tyson and Vitali Klitschko. He did suffer one of the biggest upsets in the history of the sport, being knocked out by Hasim Rahman in 2001. He avenged the loss in emphatic style the same year with a fourth-round knockout, cementing his unblemished record of overcoming every challenger he faced.