The Best Fighters in Britain

ricky hattonBy Neil Thompson (03.10.07) - For a small set of islands the United Kingdom of Great Britain doesn’t do too bad in the sport of boxing. We have 2 fighters who currently make most peoples top P4P lists, along with a decent enough collection of various alphabet champions and tough contenders. Below is my list of the best P4P British fighters of today. Obviously its all subjective and all about opinions so almost everyone will see it slightly differently. My list is as follows:

1. Ricky Hatton 43-0 (31)

If you were to ask 100 British boxing fans as to who is the best P4P fighter in Britain, the vote would be split, almost evenly, between Ricky Hatton and Joe Calzaghe. My vote would be for Hatton. The Manchester ‘Hitman’ is arguably the most popular fighter in the UK. Prior to his win over Kostya Tsyzu, the critics were saying “Hatton's protected”, “he only wants to fight in Manchester”, “he only fights old, blown up lightweights” and “he’s scared to fight Mayweather." Over the past 3 years he’s proven every one of those frequently used comments to be wrong. Hatton has come out of the comfort zone that was Manchester’s MEN arena to fight in the USA, he’s become a 2-weight champion, and he’s beaten a top 3 P4P fighter in Kostya Tsyzu. He’s stopped the ever-dangerous Castillo with a single body punch, and last of all he’s accepted a fight with the P4P kingpin Floyd Mayweather. Ricky Hatton has earned the right to be called the best fighter in Britain. People’s perception on how he will compete with Floyd Mayweather is mixed to say the least. My view is that the style match-up works more in Hatton's favour and win, lose or draw, Mayweather will be in one of the toughest fights of his life. Those that know me will know my prediction for Mayweather v Hatton; I predict a huge upset win Ricky Hatton.

2.Joe Calzaghe 43-0 (32)

Putting the Manfredo farce to a side, Joe Calzaghe’s career is still going strong at the ripe age of 35 and there are still no signs of the Welsh Dragon slowing down. Despite a few embarrassing match-ups, the idea that Calzaghe hasn’t fought anyone of note is a popular misconception and the idea that his best opponent to date being Jeff Lacy is another frequently used ill-educated comment. Over the course of Calzaghe’s reign, he has beaten 6 world champions in Charles Brewer, Byron Mitchell, Richie Woodhall, Chris Eubank, Robin Reid and Jeff Lacy, as well as beating some tough contenders that were not based, and therefore unknown, in the states. The problem is that Lacy was the only ‘star’ Calzaghe has fought simply because there have been no stars in this division for many years. However, being a star doesn’t make you great and being great doesn’t make you a star. Reid, Eubank, Brewer, Mitchell and Woodhall all gave Calzaghe much more trouble than Lacy did. When people say, “Lacy was Calzaghe’s best opponent to date” all they are showing is their lack of knowledge on the super middleweight division as a whole. It is a popular trait in the states to assume a fighter is poor, over hyped or protected simply because they have not heard of them or because they are based on foreign lands. In actual fact the opposite is sometimes true. People have also complained about Joe’s reluctance to fight outside of the UK, well you fight where the money is, and if Calzaghe can attract 60,000 spectators why fight anywhere else? It doesn’t really matter where Calzaghe fights. How many times have Mayweather, Hopkins, Roy Jones, and De La Hoya etc fought outside of their own country? Calzaghe’s toughest challenge to his undefeated career is in November against the undefeated and fellow super middleweight champion Mikkel Kessler. This is a fight that really excites me. Its good too see the 2 dominant super middleweight fighters in the world are both based in Europe. I think Calzaghe will capture a close decision and seal his position as one of the best Super Middleweight champions the division has seen.

3.Junior Witter 36-1-2 (21)

Over the past 2 or 3 years Junior Witter has proven himself to be a world class fighter, a good champion and one of the top 2 or 3 fighters in the 140 LB division. Victories over N’Dou, Kotelnik, Harris and Corley have proven Witter’s worth. Witter would love the chance to prove himself the best at 140 by fighting Ricky Hatton but will probably have to settle with a contest at MSG, New York against Paulie Malignaggi. Its been a long time since Witter's disappointing showing against Zab Judah all them years ago but he’s come back well and the way he dispatched Vivian Harris was hugely impressive. A fight with Malignaggi will be a tough one and I cannot help but think that a unification fight with Torres would be an easier assignment but I still favour Witter to beat both Torres and Malignaggi.

4.David Haye 19-1 (18)

I think most people would expect this position to be filled by Clinton Woods but I have to favour David Haye. In November Haye gets his shot at the real world cruiserweight championship against Jean Marc Mormeck, a fight I expect Haye to win by stoppage. It may prove to be premature to have Haye this high in my list but Haye has been mixing with fringe-world class for some time now and I expect him to be just as impressive against the very top of the division. The upcoming Mormeck-Haye fight will be one to watch and should Haye capture Mormeck’s title then an immediate move to Heavyweight will be next. With the right people behind David Haye he can become a big star in this sport.

5.Clinton Woods 41-3 (24)

My fellow Yorkshireman has done well since his stoppage defeat to Roy Jones. He’s captured the IBF 175 title, has 4 defenses under his belt and is now hoping for a fight with former champion Antonio Tarver or a big pay day against Joe Calzaghe. My one gripe against Woods is that in his 3 fights with Glen Johnson (which stands at 1 win 1 draw and 1 defeat) I feel he lost them all. Unlike Hatton and Calzaghe, I do not consider Clinton Woods to be the best in his division, nor do I consider him to be in the top 3. As good as Woods is you have to rank him behind Hopkins, Dawson, Tarver and Erdi. That being said, Woods looked good in his 2 defenses against Gonzales and with the right match-making he could be a champion for a while yet.

6.Enzo Maccarinelli 27-1 (20)

For a long while I critised Maccarinelli for being the most over protected and carefully matched champion in Boxing. Although I still think this criticism was justified (at the time) I have to admit that in his first fight against a world class cruiserweight (Wayne Braithwaite) he looked excellent. Enzo has now proven his quality and hopefully his next defence will be against another worthy opponent. A unification fight with IBF champion Cunningham would be a great fight and apparently it shouldn’t be too hard to make. If Enzo can keep this momentum going he can go far. He’s big, strong, powerful, has good workrate, throws a nice array of shots while boxing nicely behind a solid ‘ram-rod’ left jab. He has a typical European style and is very effective with it. It’s a shame a domestic showdown with David Haye will never happen. Both fighters wanted it but the promoters and ITV ruined the chances of it happening. Despite this, with the nationwide terrestrial TV exposure that David has enjoyed, he has become one of the most popular fighters in Wales and in the UK as a whole.

7.Carl Froch 21-0 (17)

Next up for Nottingham’s Carl Froch is a contest against former WBC champion Robin Reid. Although Robin Reid is well past his best, it’s still a good assignment for Froch. He has a good chin, has power in both hands, an awkward style and a good counter puncher. At times he can look lazy and sometimes his defence looks leaky but there is no doubting his talent. Despite a high world ranking, Froch being 30 years old needs a crack at a title soon. Froch will be hoping he can get a crack at Calzaghe in the same way that Witter wants a crack at Hatton. However, whilst Witter has been proving his credentials at world level, Froch has yet to taste that kind of competition. A crack at the European belt would help Froch’s cause but he needs to get a move on. To be fair, injury problems rather than reluctance has held Froch back. 2008 is the year when Carl should be aiming for a crack at a legitimate title. I don’t think Froch would be out of his depth against anyone at 168. He’s definitely one to watch.

8.Gavin Rees 27-0 (13)

Where the hell did this guy come from? In one of the upsets of the year the little know Welshman, Gavin Rees captured the WBA 140 title by beating the heavily favoured and world class M’baye over 12 rounds. I find it hard to rate him any higher than number 8 simply because my knowledge of him is limited and I have only seen him once. Did he just get lucky? Was he just in the right place at the right time? And can he maintain this type of performance against the best the division has to offer? All I know is that I cant wait to find out. Rees is small for the weight and looks like he’d be more suited to a division or two below 140 LB’s. That being said, against M’Baye he looked fast, aggressive and employed a fanatical work ethic to completely out fox and outbox the more established, well known and respected former world champion.

9.Alex Arthur 25-1(19)

Alex Arthur should get a crack at one of the major titles soon. The memories of his shocking defeat to Michael Gomez seem a long time ago now. He has proved himself against fringe world class opposition and now its time to test himself against the best lightweights in the world. Arthur has a typical stand-up European style of boxing. He fights behind a solid left jab, has good power and sound boxing skills. Time will tell if Arthur has the toughness and ability to compete among the elite of the division. If Alex Arthur can capture a ‘world’ title within the next 2 years, expect an all-British world title fight against Amir Khan.

10. Nicky Cook 27-1 (15)

Unsuccessful in his first shot at a world title, this quality featherweight has the talent to work his way into contention for another shot. Having been scheduled to face Scott Harrison for his WBO belt, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for Cook when Harrison’s numerous problems forced him out of the fight. Taking into account the problems Scott Harrison had, Nicky Cook’s chances of capturing the WBO belt would have been good. As Scott Harrison was stripped of his title, Nicky Cook faced Steve Luevano for the vacant belt. Unfortunately, Nicky came up second best getting stopped in the 11th round. ‘Cookie’ is scheduled to fight again in October against an opponent yet to be named. Expect Nicky Cook to get another title shot in the next 18 months.

11.Jamie Moore 26-3 (18)

I added an 11th spot just so that I could get Jamie Moore into this list. I consider myself a fan of Manchester’s Jamie Moore as you always get your money’s worth. When Jamie Moore fights on television I stay in to watch it. At domestic level, Jamie Moore has proven himself the best light middleweight in Britain. As an undeserved underdog against Mathew Macklin, Jamie Moore proved the pundits wrong to win by a 10th round stoppage in a classic contest. Jamie Moore is now eager to test his skills at world level and hopefully he’ll get his chance soon. Can he operate effectively at world level? I have my doubts but I would love him to prove me wrong. No matter where his career goes from here, I will still enjoy watching him fight.

Thank you for reading

Article posted on 03.10.2007

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