Top 10 British Boxing Grudge Matches
As David Haye and Tony Bellew embraced following their contest in London on Saturday night, the world was left wondering, ‘was the animosity in the build-up all an act?’ Boxers famously hype their fights for ticket and pay-per-view sales and sometimes the animosity is all an act. However, with testosterone flying around, there are plenty of occasions when the hatred is very real. FREEbets.org.uk looks at 10 all-British boxing bouts that have seen some genuine bad blood between the men involved.
Carl Froch v George Groves II
When the first Froch v Groves contest was made it didn’t exactly capture the imagination of the British public. Groves wasn’t well known and it seemed a bit of a mismatch between the youngster and the reigning super middleweight world champion. However, Groves’ mind games before the first scrap seemed to really wind up the Cobra and his skills in the ring clearly bothered him. Froch was down in the first round and looked in serious bother for much of the fight before it was controversially stopped in his favour in the ninth round. The clamour for the rematch was huge and the animosity between the two was clear, but Froch left no room for controversy, knocking the Londoner out in the eighth to retain his IBF and WBA belts again.
David Haye v Dereck Chisora
Haye is no stranger to a grudge match having battled London rival Dereck Chisora back in 2012. After Chisora was beaten by Vitali Klitschko, Haye turned up at the press conference to wind up Del Boy – it worked. Fists and bottles were thrown and a tasty heavyweight contest was set up. After an acrimonious build-up the pair met at Upton Park and Haye destroyed Chisora with a crushing fifth round knockout.
Tony Bellew v Nathan Cleverley II
The rivalry between Tony Bellew and Nathan Cleverley bubbled away for years and has likely not been put entirely to bed despite their two fights. Cleverley won the first bout in 2011, retaining his WBO light heavyweight title but Bellew never accepted the decision. After both had lost again at the 175lb limit they each moved up to cruiserweight and their paths crossed once more. The second fight was disappointing but Bellew got his revenge and took the win via a split decision. That leaves the score at 1-1 so we cannot rule out a third meeting at some stage.
Chris Eubank v Nigel Benn
A rivalry so bitter, the two men are still talking about fighting again, 27 years after their first clash – Chris Eubank and Nigel Benn is arguably the greatest feud in British boxing history. Eubank fought and talked his way into the first contest with Benn in 1990 and the enmity between the two was palpable. Benn could not stand the challenger for his WBO middleweight title thanks to his cocky and bizarre antics and statements. The fight in Birmingham is an all-time classic which Eubank won with a ninth round stoppage in hugely dramatic style. The pair would meet again in 1993 when they both held super middleweight world titles and although the rematch was not as action-packed, it was dramatically fought to a draw. Which is why Benn still wants a piece of Eubank, even at the age of 53.
Mark Kaylor v Errol Christie
Probably the nastiest build-up to a fight in British history as it was not just a grudge match between the fighters, but set amid a worrying backdrop of racism and social unrest across the country. There were great fears of a National Front and racist football hooligan presence at the fight and tensions were raised thanks to a wild pre-fight photoshoot. After Kaylor whispered something in Christie’s ear (Christie claims he was called racially abused) punches were thrown and shirts ripped off. There was an enormous police present at the fight at Wembley and it was an action-packed contest with Kaylor claiming a stoppage win in the eighth. Kaylor has since admitted regretting his actions, but it does make what could have been a forgettable 1985 British title eliminator an extremely memorable occasion.
George Groves v James DeGale
George Groves has an ability to annoy people and he certainly irritates James DeGale. The pair came through Dale Youth Boxing Club together and were not exactly friends. They were matched early in their professional careers for the British and Commonwealth super middleweight titles and both the build-up and the fight were superb. Their appearance on Sky Sports’ Ringside is well worth a re-watch, as is the scrap which Groves pinched on a razor thin majority decision. The two are bound to meet again and it should be another cracker.
Henry Cooper v Joe Bugner
There wasn’t great animosity between the two fighters in this case, but Cooper was so wildly popular, the fans made it into a situation where Cooper was the hero and Bugner the villain. Cooper announced that he was to retire after the fight against a 21-year-old Bugner who was 15 years younger than him. His adoring support wanted to see ‘Enry go out on top and were baying for Bugner’s blood throughout the contest. The youngster took a narrow points decision to claim the British, Commonwealth and European titles. Cooper took defeat very well but Bugner claims he was never forgiven by the British public and remained a hated figure for the rest of his career.
Lennox Lewis v Frank Bruno
The first time a world heavyweight title had been contested between two British fighters got personal on the very notion of being British. Lewis represented Canada in the 1988 Olympics and Bruno used that as a stick to beat him, claiming he was not a proper Brit and that people in the UK didn’t care about him. Lewis responded by calling Bruno an ‘Uncle Tom’ – it was an unsavoury build-up for two usually likeable and popular men. The fight in Cardiff in October 1993 was an even one until Lewis pounced in the seventh to knock out Frank and defend his WBC belt. Lewis would go on to unify the division whilst Bruno eventually won a world title at the fourth time of asking, beating Oliver McCall in 1995.
Billy Joe Saunders v Chris Eubank Jr
Chris Eubank Jr is not a very popular man in boxing but his reputation did him a favour as Billy Joe Saunders offered him a chance at his European, Commonwealth and British titles because he really, really wanted to knock him out. Saunders didn’t manage that but he did beat Eubank Jr via a split decision to retain his three straps. The fight was a lot closer than many expected and if Eubank Jr had started quicker he could well have won. Saunders got the bragging rights but the rivalry is far from done and we can expect a rematch at some stage.
Randy Turpin v Albert Finch
A real family rivalry built up between the Turpins (Randy and Dick) and Albert Finch in the late 1940s and early 50s with Finch fighting a Turpin brother five times in just two years. First Finch outpointed Randy over eight rounds in 1948, but then lost to Dick over 15 rounds a year later, for the British and Commonwealth middleweight titles. He would get his revenge over Dick, beating him twice in 1950, outpointing him in April and then knocking him out in July (winning two more fights in between those meetings). However, Randy would have the last laugh, knocking out Finch for the British title 1950 in a year which Finch fought an incredible 11 times. A year on and Randy Turpin would pull off one of the greatest wins in British boxing history, beating Sugar Ray Robinson for the world middleweight title at Earls Cout.