The 15 Greatest British Heavyweight Boxers In History
Anthony Joshua is well on his way to cementing his place in the pantheon of great British boxers, but there is some serious competition amongst his peers. There have been plenty of great British heavyweight since the very beginning of professional prize fighting and we have brought together the 15 very best of them.
15. William Hague (21-9-1)
Long before ‘Iron’ Mike Tyson was ripping through the heavyweight division, William ‘Iron’ Hague was making a big impression of his own on the big men in boxing. The Yorkshireman smashed his way to a shot at the British title in 1909 which he won by knocking out Gunner Moir in the first round, setting a record for the quickest ever title win. He fought the great Canadian Sam Langford in the same year and knocked his opponent down with a punch Langford described as the hardest he ever took – considering Langford finished with a record of 180-29-39, that was some accolade.
14. Herbie Hide (49-4)
The achievements of Herbie Hide can be forgotten, but he was doing great things in the early 1990s and held a world title and an undefeated record at one stage. The Dancing Destroyer got himself to 26-0 and his hands on the WBO world title after knocking out Michael Bentt in Millwall in 1994. He may have lost it in his next outing against Riddick Bowe, but he regained the vacant belt by beating Tony Tucker in 1997. Hide defended it twice before being cleaned out in two rounds by Vitali Klitschko in 1999, but a two-time world champ during a time of some very solid heavyweight contenders is not to be sniffed at.
13. Don Cockell (66-14-1)
The Londoner may never have got his hands on a world title but it was somewhat harder to do so in his pomp in the 1950s. Cockell did have one shot at world glory, but was knocked out by the legendary Rocky Marciano in San Francisco in 1955. Cockell was only 5’11” and had held the British and European champion at light heavyweight before winning the British and Commonwealth championships at heavyweight.
12. Henry Akinwande (50-4-1)
Another forgotten British world champion who does not quite get the credit he deserves, but who once held a massive unbeaten record and a world title. Akinwande was 32-0-1 in 1997 and had defended his WBO title twice having knocked out Jeremy Williams for the strap in 1996. A disqualification against Lennox Lewis in ’97 cost him that belt and that undefeated record and he never regained that glory at world level, but throughout the early and mid-90s when he picked up Commonwealth, European and world honours – Akinwande was one of the most feared men on the planet.
11. Bombardier Billy Wells (41-11)
The first man to hold the heavyweight Lonsdale belt and the holder of the British title from 1911-1919, Bombardier Billy Wells is a legend of the early days of prize fighting in Britain. The Londoner defended his British title 14 times and also picked up the Commonwealth belt during his legendary career. He never went further than that, losing to the great Georges Carpentier for the European title in 1913.
10. Bruce Woodcock (35-4)
The Doncaster man moved up from light heavyweight to capture the British and Commonwealth heavyweight titles by stopping the vastly experienced Jack London in 1945. He racked up a record of 25-0 before losing on his American debut to The Bronx Barkeep Tami Mauriello, but Woodcock recovered well, winning the vacant European strap in the same year (1946). Woodcock only got one shot at world glory for himself, being stopped by Lee Savold in 1950, but he was a powerhouse in British boxing throughout the 1940s.
9. David Haye (28-3)
The Hayemaker is in danger of damaging his legacy somewhat, but at one stage he was one of the biggest stars in boxing as he moved up from a unified cruiserweight champion to winning the WBA world heavyweight title in 2009. Haye is a small heavyweight and he beat the tallest heavyweight champion in history in Nikolay Valuev, which was an eye-catching win to say the least. He managed two defences of his world belt before losing disappointingly to Wladimir Klitschko in the summer of 2011. He has since managed one impressive win over Dereck Chisora but his high point came in beating Valuev and earns him a spot on this list.