Two British boxers are fighting for the right to be the number 1 heavyweight on the planet, and whatever the outcome of Tyson Fury vs Dillian Whyte live on talkSPORT, we’re in a golden age of UK big men.
All of the top 10 neutral world rankings feature at least four British heavyweights, with only one, the undefeated Joe Joyce, missing from talkSPORT.com’s list of the best British heavyweights of the last 50 years. There’s also time for ‘The Juggernaut’ to crash this list in the next couple of years and frankly, talkSPORT isn’t even going to rule out the 57-year-old. john fury either. At least not on his face anyway. Go ahead with the countdown.
10.Herbie Hide (1989-2010)
W: 49 (43 KOs), B: 4
The 6-foot-2 ‘Dancing Destroyer’ was unlucky enough to be active at the start of the super-heavyweight era, as the skillful, punching and speedy Hide could never match the giants. He knocked out Michael Bentt at Millwall’s The Den in 1994 to win the then-low-regarded WBO title. But then came a step up to the elite level and while Hide had no problem hitting Riddick Bowe, he couldn’t withstand the American’s return fire and was stopped in a valiant effort. The KO2 of a young Vitali Klitschko in 1999 ended Hide’s high-profile aspirations.
9. Henry Akinwande (1989-2008)
W: 50 (30 KOs), L: 4, D: 1
The London-born ‘Henry the Hugger’ looked the part, with height, an impressive physique and solid fundamentals. Akinwande built a record of 32-0-1 and picked up the WBO belt before earning a shot at true champion Lennox Lewis in 1997. Unfortunately, that’s a contender for the ugliest heavyweight title fight in the world. history, as Akinwande the octopus held, held, and held some more, before being disqualified in the fifth round. He remained a strong contender for years after that, but, understandably, there was little public desire to see him get another world title shot.
8. Dillian Whyte (2011-present)
W: 28 (19 KOs), B: 2
It may seem strange to place ‘the body snatcher‘ above two men who had a world heavyweight title (even if it was just the WBO version). But by beating top contenders like Joseph Parker, Oscar Rivas and Derek Chisora, Whyte has proven himself to be one of the top five heavyweights in a competitive era. He has improved since his loss to Anthony Joshua and while Alexander Povetkin’s (avenged) KO loss was a huge setback, at least it came in a fight Whyte was dominating. He’s tough, tough with a powerful left hook and he’s earned his world title shot.
7. Joe Bugner (1967-1999)
W: 69 (43 KOs), L: 13, D: 1
The physique of a Greek statue, but with fewer moves (copyright: Hugh McIlvanney) was the tough, humorous version of the Hungarian-born Briton. Bugner rocked the part and possessed an excellent chin, going the distance with Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali (twice). He could box too, but he seemed happy with the fights. Unpopular after controversially outpointing 37-year-old Henry Cooper in his retirement fight, Bugner eventually capitalized on his pantovillain status by returning with Australian citizenship (he was 37 years old himself) to lose to Frank Bruno in 1987.
6. Sir Henry Cooper (1954-1971)
W: 40 (25 KOs), L: 14, D: 1
The only British boxer to be knighted, beloved by the public and, if this list were about pound-for-pound gifts, he’d be a little higher. Our ‘Enry was a small heavyweight even by 1960s standards and had a tendency to cut. However, he did possess a vicious left hook, the ‘Ammer de’ Enry, which sent Ali (then Cassius Clay) flat on his back at Wembley. Challenging for the world title, in the era of a heavyweight champion, was the closest he came, but Cooper won every other belt up to the European level, as well as the hearts of everyone he met.
5. Frank Bruno (1982-1996)
W: 40 (38 KOs), L: 5
The only heavyweight to rival Cooper for the public’s affection, lovable Londoner Bruno was a sculpted Adonis with a dangerous right hand and the heart of a lion. However, he was not a natural boxer and could fall apart when enemies who could take power from him took him into deep water. He was stopped by Tim Witherspoon, Mike Tyson and Lennox Lewis, but in 1995 he finally earned his fourth world title shot, hitting and then wearily grabbing the erratic Oliver McCall to defeat him. A low-action fight, but no one at a euphoric Wembley cared. Big Frank had finally done it.
4. David Haye (2002-2018)
W: 28 (26 KOs), B: 4
Easy to forget, given that he was at his best at cruiserweight and his career ended with two losses to Tony Bellew, who for a time ‘The Hayemaker’ really was one of the best heavyweights around. The agile, quick and talented Haye took the power from him, although his best win was beating the 7ft Nikolai Valuev in Germany. lose by points to a peak Wladimir Klitschko It wasn’t an embarrassing result, but the dull fight and toe injury excuses hurt Haye’s previously booming popularity. Later injuries robbed him of his athleticism, but Haye at his best was a dangerous fighter.
3. Anthony Joshua (2013-present)
W: 24 (22 KOs), B: 2
Losses to Andy Ruiz Jr (Avenged) and Oleksandr Usyk (TBC) have understandably affected Joshua’s standing. But let’s not forget that for several years, during Tyson Fury’s absence, he was widely viewed as the No. 1 heavyweight on the planet, which no one below him on this list could claim. An Olympic gold medalist with an impressive array of power shots, AJ has won a multitude of heavyweight belts beating Dillian Whyte, Joseph Parker, Alexander Povetkin and Wladimir Klitschko. Only 32, let’s not rule it out yet.
2. Tyson Fury (2008-present)
W: 31 (22 KOs), B: 0, D: 1
It’s a compliment to Fury that the gap between #1 and #2 on this list is closing as he moves further away from the pack (provided he gets past Dillian Whyte on Saturday). Fury, a giant, versatile, ambidextrous and constantly improving, would be a handful for any heavyweight in history. Deranged Wladimir Klitschko then, after almost eating and drinking himself into oblivion, he returned to give us a fast-paced trilogy with Deontay Wilder. Undefeated in his first 32 professional fights, a victory over Whyte, and then the winner of Usyk-Joshua II, he cements his all-time greatness.
1. Lennox Lewis (1989-2003)
W: 41 (32 KOs), B: 2, D: 1
The sheer volume of top-level wins keeps Lewis above Fury. For a man with the total package of size, athleticism, stick, fluid skills and KO power, Lewis could be frustrating. He sometimes fought to the level of his opponent and paid twice the ultimate price, with losses by KO. But he avenged both losses and also has wins over (deep breath) Razor Ruddock, Andrew Golota, Evander Holyfield, David Tua, Mike Tyson, Vitali Klitschko and more. Three times world champion, the best heavyweight of his time and one of the greatest in history.
talkSPORT will bring you live coverage of the big world heavyweight title fight between Tyson Fury and Dillian Whyte at Wembley on Saturday night, with our coverage starting at 7.30pm and featuring Ben Davison’s expert ringside analysis