10 greatest British heavyweights of all time. Is Tyson Fury on list?

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Tyson Fury is still building his resume.

The two-time heavyweight champ, who will defend his WBC title against Dillian Whyte on pay-per-view Saturday at Wembley Stadium in London, is only 33, after all.

For example, he could still face the winner of a tentative rematch between Oleksandr Usyk and Anthony Joshua, which would enhance his legacy considerably.

As it is, however, Fury must be considered one of the more accomplished heavyweights in British boxing history.

Where does he rank? Here are the 10 greatest heavyweights from the U.K. of all time.

Bruce Woodcock

Place of birth: Doncaster, England
Record: 35-4, 31 KOs
Title reigns: None
Key victories: Freddie Mills (twice), Gus Lesnevich, Lee Savold, Lee Oma
Key losses: Tami Mauriello, Joe Baksi, Savold
Background: The Yorkshire fighter was a perennial contender during his prime – he also ended up the cover of The Ring Magazine in 1945 – but he never got a shot at a widely recognized world title. Woodcock got off to impressive start in his career, winning his first 25 fights (24 by knockout). He then traveled to the U.S. to face American contender Tami Mauriello in 1946, losing by a fifth-round knockout. He spent the remainder of his career fighting in the U.K., with one bout in South Africa. He ended up winning European, Commonwealth and British championships before losing back-to-back fights against Lee Savold and Jack Gardner in 1950 and then retiring. The fight against Savold was for a world title not recognized in the U.S., which was as close as Woodcock got to a world championship. He reportedly fought with damaged eyes in his last few fights.

Joe Bugner

Place of birth: Szoreg, Hungary
Record: 69-13-1 (41 KOs)
Title reigns: None
Key victories: Manuel Ramos, Brian London, Chuck Wepner, Henry Cooper, Mac Foster, Jimmy Ellis, James Tillis, Greg Page
Key losses: Muhammad Ali (twice), Joe Frazier, Ron Lyle, Earnie Shavers, Marvis Frazier, Frank Bruno
Background: The Hungarian-born Briton, who also holds Australian citizenship, had a long career (1967-99) that was divided by extended hiatuses and he always came to fight. He had considerable success – winning European, Commonwealth and British titles – but he might be best remembered for three fights in the 1970s against Muhammad Ali (twice) and Joe Frazier, neither of whom was able to take out the durable blonde underdog. A unanimous-decision loss to Ali in 1975 was his only shot at a world title. His greatest victory might’ve been a close decision that ended fan favorite Henry Cooper’s run as British heavyweight champion in 1971. Bugner made a comeback in Australia in the 1990s and acquitted himself well at an advanced age before finally walking away from the sport. He was 49 when he last fought in June 1999, a disqualification victory over Levi Billups.

Tommy Farr

Place of birth: Blaenclydach, Wales
Record: 88-34-19 (25 KOs)
Title reigns: None
Key victories: Tommy Loughran, Bob Olin, Max Baer
Key losses: Joe Louis, Jim Braddock, Baer, Lou Nova, Lloyd Marshall, Don Cockell
Background: The Welshman demonstrated in one well-noted unanimous-decision loss that he was one of the better heavyweights of his era. Farr was on a terrific run of victories (and a few draws) when he traveled in 1937 to New York to take on newly crowned heavyweight champion Joe Louis before 37,000 at Yankee Stadium. The challenger didn’t win – Louis wouldn’t lose for many years – but he pushed the great champion to his limits and might’ve had his hand raised if he could punch harder. As a result, he left the ring with a lot more respect than he had when he stepped into it. “I gave them a good go, didn’t I?” he said. Indeed, he did. He followed that fight with a split-decision loss to former champ Jim Braddock in the first of four consecutive fights at Madison Square Garden. He also lost the next three, after which he returned to Europe to close out his career. He’ll always be remembered by British fans for his effort against Louis.

Frank Bruno

Place of birth: London
Record: 40-5 (38 KOs)
Title reigns: 1995-96
Key victories: Gerrie Coetzee, James Tillis, Carl Williams, Oliver McCall
Key losses: James Smith, Tim Witherspoon, Mike Tyson (twice), Lennox Lewis
Background: Bruno was one of the most popular figures in the history of British boxing because of his jovial personality and considerable success in the ring. He also demonstrated that perseverance can pay off. He turned pro in 1982, knocked out his first 21 opponents to create a sensation and then had his ups and downs. Most notably, he failed in three attempts to win a world title between 1986 to 1993. He kept punching, though. And, at 33 and in the twilight of his career, a dream came true. Bruno outboxed then-beltholder Oliver McCall (who had stopped Lewis to win the title) to win a decision and a world heavyweight championship. His countrymen celebrated his good fortune but it didn’t last long. He agreed to face post-prison Mike Tyson in his first defense and was knocked out in three rounds, which cost him his newly won belt. Bruno never fought again but remains a fan favorite.

Henry Cooper

Place of birth: London
Record: 40-14-1 (27 KOs)
Title reigns: None
Key victories: Brian London (three times), Zora Folley, Karl Mildenberger, Jack Bodell, Jose Manuel Urtain
Key losses: Muhammad Ali (twice), Floyd Patterson, Folley, Ingemar Johansson
Background: Cooper is best known for decking—and hurting – a young Cassius Clay (later Muhammad Ali) with his vaunted left hook in the fourth round of their 1963 fight at Wembley Stadium. However, his opportunity to make history passed. Ali recovered and won on cuts the following round, thus avoiding what would’ve been a career-changing disaster. Cooper also lost to Ali on cuts in his only world title fight three years later. He was more than his two fights against a legend, though. “Our Henry” was British heavyweight champion for more than a decade, which remains a record. And his victories over capable contenders like Zora Folley and Karl Mildenberger were an indication of his ability. He lost his British title on a razor-thin decision against 21-year-old Joe Bugner in 1971 and never fought again. He’ll never be forgotten.

DAVID HAYE

Place of birth: London
Record: 28-4 (26 KOs)
Title reigns: 2009-11
Key victories: Nikolai Valuev, John Ruiz, Audley Harrison, Derek Chisora
Key losses: Wladimir Klitschko, Tony Bellew (twice)
Background: Haye was one of the best cruiserweights of all time. He was also a good heavyweight, to which he carried his punching power. He made the transition from 200 pounds to heavyweight in 2008, stopping Monte Barrett in five rounds to set up a title shot against towering titleholder Nikolai Valuev the following year. Haye outboxed the 7-footer from Russia to win a majority decision and a portion of the heavyweight championship. He knocked out former multi-time beltholder John Ruiz and Audley Harrison in two defenses and then agreed to take on Wladimir Klitschko for the inaugural WBA “super” title. Things didn’t go well. Klitschko outclassed the much smaller Haye to win a wide decision, after which Haye made the mistake of blaming the setback in part on a sore toe. He bounced back to stop Derek Chisora in his next fight but that was his last hurrah. He followed that with victories over two journeymen and then lost back-to-back fights to Tony Bellew. He left his mark at heavyweight, though.

Anthony Joshua

Place of birth: Watford, England
Record: 24-2 (22 KOs)
Titles: 2016-19; 2019-21
Key victories: Dillian Whyte, Charles Martin, Dominic Breazeale, Wladimir Klitschko, Joseph Parker, Alexander Povetkin, Andy Ruiz, Kubrat Pulev
Key losses: Ruiz, Oleksandr Usyk
Background: Some might question Joshua’s inclusion on this list but he has one of the strongest resumes among British heavyweights past or present. The powerful 2012 Olympic super heavyweight champion seemed to be all but unbeatable at one time. He started his career 22-0 (with 21 KOs), won a version of the heavyweight title by stopping Charles Martin in 2016, successfully defended six times and added two more belts. Wladimir Klitschko and Joseph Parker were among the unsuccessful challengers. Then disaster struck. Pudgy American Andy Ruiz Jr. hurt Joshua in the third round, stayed after the champ and finally stopped him in seven. Joshua seemed to be more confused than hurt but he couldn’t go on. He rebounded by outpointing Ruiz in the rematch six months later to regain his titles only to fall short against the smaller, but talented Oleksandr Usyk in his most-recent fight this past September. The rematch, tentatively set for later this year, will have a significant impact on Joshua’s legacy.

Bob Fitzsimmons

Place of birth: Helston, England
Record
: 61-8-4 (57 KOs)
Title reign: 1897-99
Key victories: Peter Maher (twice), James Jr. Corbett, Gus Ruhlin, Tom Sharkey
Key losses: Sharkey, James J. Jeffries (twice), Jack Johnson
Background: Bob Fitzsimmons was an odd looking man – thick on top with spindly legs – who had great success between the modern divisions of welterweight through heavyweight. And he was a true man of the world, having lived in England, New Zealand, Australia and the United States. Fitz (167 pounds) had already been middleweight champ when he challenged the legendary James J. Corbett (184) for the heavyweight title in 1897. “Gentleman Jim” seemed to be winning the fight in the 14th round when the challenger landed his famous “solar plexus” punch, which hurt Corbett badly and he couldn’t continue. Fitzsimmons was the heavyweight champion. He held onto the title for two years – fighting only once – but lost it by an 11th-round knockout against bigger, stronger Jim Jeffries (206) in 1899. Fitz wasn’t finished, though. He went on to win the newly instituted light heavyweight title by outpointing George Gardner in 1903. The great Fitzsimmons was 40 at the time.

Tyson Fury

Place of birth: Manchester, England
Record: 31-0-1 (22 KOs)
Title reigns: 2015-16; 2020-present
Key victories: Derek Chisora (twice), Wladimir Klitschko, Deontay Wilder (twice)
Key losses: None
Background: The one-time student of Emanuel Steward probably isn’t as great as Bob Fitzsimmons pound-for-pound but he has accomplished more as a heavyweight. The 6-foot-9 behemoth used his remarkable athleticism and ring acumen to end long-reigning champion Wladimir Klitschko’s run as heavyweight champion by a wide decision in 2015, Fury’s break-through victory. However, shortly after that he took 2½ years off to battle personal demons. He returned in 2018 with warm-up victories over Sefer Seferi and Francesco Pianeta before agreeing to tangle with big-punching titleholder Deontay Wilder. Most observers thought Fury did enough to win a decision – in spite of two knockdowns – but he had to settle for draw. A bigger, more aggressive Fury left no doubts in the rematch, stopping Wilder in 2020 and then survived two knockdowns to do it one more time last October. If he defeats Whyte, he could face the winner of the tentative Oleksandr Usyk-Anthony Joshua rematch. If he gets and wins that fight and continues to succeed, he could end on top of this list.

Lennox Lewis

Place of birth: London
Record: 41-2-1 (32 KOs)
Title reigns: 1992-94; 1997-2001; 2001-04
Key victories: Tony Tucker, Frank Bruno, Ray Mercer, Oliver McCall, Evander Holyfield, Hasim Rahman, Mike Tyson, Vitali Klitschko
Key losses: McCall, Rahman
Background: Lewis’ punishing jab, crushing right hand and the ability to use them effectively under the tutelage of Emanuel Steward made him one of the best heavyweights of all time regardless of citizenship. The strapping 1988 Olympic gold medalist for Canada, his second country, was a heavyweight titleholder for most of a 15-year period in which he defeated all the top heavyweights except amateur rival Riddick Bowe, who Lewis believes wanted no part of him. Lewis slipped up twice, getting knocked out by Oliver McCall in 1994 and Hasim Rahman in 2001 but, more focused and determined, he avenged both setbacks by stoppage. He also drew with fellow Hall of Famer Evander Holyfield in 1999 but most observers thought Lewis was robbed. He handily outpointed Holyfield in the rematch eight months later. He sensationally knocked out a faded version of Mike Tyson in 2002 and then defeated a stubborn Vitali Klitschko in 2003. Perhaps sensing that he was beginning to slip, Lewis then retired as champion.

 

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