British Invasion: The 5 Greatest Fights That Took Place in the U.K

03.06.05 - By Enrique Nuńez: Legendary rock promoter and impresario Bill Graham once said, “Every city the Rolling Stones come to becomes the rock and roll capital of the world.” Because of the economics of the sport, Las Vegas has been the undisputed Boxing Capital of the World, a title that used to belong to Madison Square Garden when it was affectionately known as the Mecca of Boxing. This weekend, if for one night only, the collective eyes of boxing degenerates everywhere will be focused on the MEN arena in Manchester, England.

The Kostya Tszyu-Ricky Hatton fight has become a big event. The million dollar (or pound) fight has captured the imagination of fight fans everywhere. Tickets for the fight sold out in less than an hour. Although pound-for-pound candidate Tszyu is a solid favorite to retain his title, Hatton has an excellent chance to win this fight. With fans from both camps going back and forth on who will win, one thing is certain – their styles and the anticipation of this event make this a potentially great fight.

This is also an instance where Las Vegas will not hold the big fight, but will be staged in England. Here then, is a list of five of the greatest fights ever held in the U.K. I’m sure there have been many great fights in the land where the Marquis of Queensbury rules were introduced into modern boxing, but the criteria I have chosen to list these fights include the significance of the event, match up, and the result.

1. Cassius Clay-Henry Cooper

June 18, 1963

Wembley Stadium


Clay, who later changed his name to Muhammad Ali, faced England’s Hammerin’ Hank to decide who would face Heavyweight Champion Sonny Liston. Cooper dropped Clay with a perfect left hook at the end of the fourth round as the British fans exploded with joyful amazement. Clay looked out on his feet as he stumbled to his corner and wild as it may seem, close to being knocked out. Somehow, a “torn” glove was discovered by Angelo Dundee and Clay was given some time to get a new glove. More importantly, he had time to recover and stop Cooper in the fifth round on cuts. This fight is very significant because as Ali turned out to be the Greatest, a game Henry Cooper came within one more punch of knocking

out the most famous athlete of the 20th century.

2. Sugar Ray Robinson-Randolph Turpin

July 10, 1951

Earl’s Court


When Sugar Ray went to England in 1951, he was treated like a star celebrity. Large crowds gathered around his hotel and followed his every move. On the night of the fight 18,000 fans packed into Earl’s Court to watch him defend his middleweight title against local favorite Randy Turpin. During the introduction, Robinson was cheered out of admiration, but the cheer for Turpin evolved out of pure emotion. From the first round Turpin was all over the great Sugar Ray and Robinson couldn’t get his punches off. When the decision was announced, Turpin was declared the new Middleweight Champion. Ray immediately said, “I have no alibis. I was beaten by a better man.” Robinson would win the rematch a few months later. This was the first time ever Sugar Ray Robinson lost a title fight and only the second loss in 131 bouts.

3. Barry McGuigan-Eusebio Pedroza

June 8, 1985

Queen’s Park Rangers Football Ground


Eusebio Pedroza successfully defended the WBA featherweight title 19 times when he entered this bout against McGuigan. In front of a partisan crowd, the “Clones Cyclone” dropped Pedroza in the eighth round of an exciting fight that was filled with action and emotion. McGuigan poured it on in the championship rounds and won the decision and the title. This gallant performance against the highly regarded Pedroza instantly made McGuigan one of Ireland’s most beloved boxers of all time.

4. Vicente Saldivar-Howard Winstone

September 7, 1965

Earl’s Court


Vicente Saldivar’s name unfortunately gets lost among the Ruben Olivareses and Carlos Zarates when talking about the many great Mexican fighters of the past. In his prime, 2-time featherweight champ Saldivar was one of the best Mexican fighters of all time and one of the greatest pound-for-pound fighters of the 1960’s. In 1965 Saldivar and Winstone met for the first time in a brutal 15 round war that saw Vicente rally in the final rounds to win the decision. Both fighters put on an excellent display of skill and courage that left fans clamoring for a rematch and then a third fight between the Mexican and the Brit with the featherweight title on the line. Saldivar won all three fights but Winstone proved to be a very brave and talented fighter in the trilogy. The first fight was as close and exciting as they come.

5. Nigel Benn-Chris Eubank

November 18, 1990

White Hart Lane Football Ground


There are a couple of other Benn and Eubank fights that should be on this list but the results were very tragic and disturbing. In 1991, Eubank fought Michael Watson in a punishing fight that left Watson in a coma for 40 days. He underwent six brain surgeries and was left permanently paralyzed. In 1995, Benn knocked out Gerald McCellan in another brutal war that also sent McClellan into a coma and left him permanently confined to a wheelchair. However, in 1990 Benn and Eubank fought each other in a battle of British stars that saw Eubank stop Benn in the 9th round in an epic battle that had the tide turning several times. The rematch in front of 42,000 fans ended in a draw but left the fans with another memorable action-packed fight.

Article posted on 03.06.2005

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