From Lennox Lewis to Joe Calzaghe, Britain boasts some of the best athletes in the sport. We look at the best British boxers of all time, counting down the top Hall of Famers hailing from the UK.
Over the past few years, British boxing has seen a notable resurgence and now features some of the top talents in boxing. Its roots can be traced back to the 18th century when people would fight each other in bare-knuckle brawls without any formal rules set in place.
The sport underwent a huge change in 1867, however, when the Marquess of Queensberry Rules were introduced. This set the core foundation of what boxing is today and includes several fundamental stipulations, such as the inclusion of gloves, three-minute rounds, and the 10-second knockout count.
Boxing has become a global phenomenon ever since. Today, there are several top athletes in the sport with many heralding from Britain. Fighters like Tyson Fury, Callum Smith, and Anthony Joshua are frequently considered the best British boxers right now. But who are the actual greats? The true legends of British boxing? Well, that is what we are here to discuss as we rank the best British boxers to ever have stepped into the ring.
Top 10 Best British Boxers of All Time
Considering that there are so many legends of the sport to choose from, condensing this list to the greatest British boxers in history was no easy task. That said, this is what we finally settled on after much thought and scrutiny:
10. Ken Buchanan
Let’s start this list off with one of the legends of the sport. Ken Buchanan was a British lightweight boxer who professionally competed from 1965 to 1982. He was born in 1945 and hails from Edinburgh, Scotland. Ken Buchanan picked up 61 wins and eight losses throughout his career, with 27 knockouts.
Although he wasn't the hardest hitter of his era, fans gravitated toward him because of his enchanting personality, outstanding defense, and incredibly fast jabs. His legacy has stood the test of time, solidifying his position as one of the greatest British boxers. This recognition was underscored when he was elected to the International Boxing Hall of Fame in the year 2000.
9. Amir Khan
Amir Khan once said, “I want to be one of the best boxers in England”. To say he lived up to that claim would be an understatement. After earning an Olympic silver medal at the age of 17 and becoming the light-welterweight world champion at 22, the King quickly established himself as an elite boxer at a very young age.
He would defend his title against some of the best in the sport, like Marco Antonio Barrera, Paulie Malignaggi, Marcos Maidana, Zab Judah, etc., and would always come out on top. The Bolton wonderboy was also in the running for becoming a two-weight champion after rebuilding himself to 147lbs. But that would be short-lived as he would then go on to retire from boxing with a record of 34-6 and 21 knockouts.
While his exit from the sport left many of his fans wanting more, Khan’s legacy and accolades cannot be ignored and he goes down as one of the best British boxers of all time.
8. Anthony Joshua
Anthony Joshua is a supreme talent among the very best heavyweight boxers of modern times. As of 2023, he has competed in 30 matches where he won 27, lost three, and has an incredible 24 KOs. He is a former two-time unified WBO, IBF, and WBA Heavyweight Champion and also won the gold medal in the 2012 Summer Olympics, representing Great Britain in the super heavyweight division.
Many pundits of boxing have proclaimed Anthony Joshua to be nearing the yesteryears of his professional boxing career. This claim was further substantiated by Anthony himself as he would step into the ring only once in 2022, 2021, and 2020, with his last win being in 2020.
In 2023, however, Anthony would go on to show the world why he is one of the best British boxers by taking on and winning against Jermaine Franklin Jr., Robert Helenius, and Otto Wallin.
7. Nigel Benn
Although Nigel Benn ended up hanging up his boxing gloves in 1996, there is a reason why he was known as the “Dark Destroyer” in his prime. Known for his extraordinary speed and power, there were very few fighters who could go toe-to-toe with Nigel Benn at his peak. With a record of 45 wins and five losses with an eye-watering 35 knockouts, Nigel Benn is undoubtedly one of the best English boxers the world has ever seen.
Nigel had an illustrious career. He won the WBO Middleweight Championship by knocking out Doug DeWitt and then successfully defended his title against Iran Barkley. However, his most iconic rivalry would be against Chris Eubank where he would lose the title fight against him. He would then go on a six-fight winning streak before taking the WBC Super-Middleweight Title away from Mauro Galvano.
Unfortunately, he could never best his rival Eubank as their last match would end in a draw. Nigel Benn was a working-class hero in his generation and is a true legend in British boxing.
6. Ricky Hatton
You don't get to face off against Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather as a nobody. Ricky “The Hitman” Hatton was far from being just a nobody.
Hatton is arguably one of the greatest British boxers in history. Everywhere he fought, he would be accompanied by an army of passionate Manchester fans who would support him through loud chants and deafening cheers. The fighter would go on to win several titles throughout his tenure, including the WBU Light Welterweight Title, WBA World Welterweight Title, and also received the prestigious Ring Magazine “Fighter of the Year” award for 2005.
He has a record of 45-3, with 32 KOs, which means he finished his fights at a staggering rate of 66.7%. His only losses were served to him by Pacquiao, Mayweather, and Vyacheslav Senchenko, two of whom are the absolute best boxers in the world. So, when talking about the best British boxers of all time, we could not overlook the one and “only oooooooone Ricky Hatton!”
5. Naseem Hamed
“Prince” Naseem Hamed is arguably one of the most charismatic and entertaining British boxers of all time. His unique style and swagger made him stand out as one of the greatest showmen of his era. Not only was he very entertaining to watch, but he was also extremely skilled inside the ring. Hamed was one of the very few individuals who could back up what he said.
While fans of Prince Naseem remember him for his extravagant ring entrances, he was a top athlete from the get-go. Hamed became a professional boxer in 1992 and took only three years to win the WBO Featherweight title. From there, The Prince continued his winning streak and made his debut in the USA against former world champion Kevin Kelley, which won Ring Magazine's coveted “Fight of the Year”.
Naseem Hamed finished his career with an astounding record of 36 wins and only one loss, with a ridiculous 31 KOs. Fast on his feet, fast with his hands, and with a flamboyant attitude, Naseem Hamed had it all and is undoubtedly one of the greats in British boxing.
4. Ted “Kid” Lewis
It doesn’t get much better than the legacy left by Ted Lewis. Aptly named “The Kid”, Ted Lewis was in a league of his own. He was one of the most outstanding English boxers of his time and is still regarded as an icon of the sport. He fought in every division throughout his illustrious career, from bantamweight to heavyweight, and participated in more than 300 recorded fights.
The Kid began his professional journey as a boxer at the young age of 14 and within five years he won the British and European Featherweight World Titles. Lewis then moved to the US and won the world title twice after engaging in a legendary 20-fight rivalry against Jack Britton.
Lewis also became the first Englishman to win a world title in the United States after he beat his rival for the belt. He would later return to England and win six more British and European World titles after World War I.
The Kid retired from the sport after racking up a historical record of 189-32-14 with nine world titles under his belt. After hanging up his gloves, Ted Lewis was elected into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1992, memorializing his legacy as an icon of British boxing.
3. Lennox Lewis
Lennox Lewis fought Mike Tyson and won! We don’t think there’s anything more that needs to be said about why Lennox Lewis deserves to be regarded as one of the best British boxers of all time.
If you're not convinced yet, here's some more context about Lennox Lewis. Born in London, he moved to Canada at the age of 12. There, he won the gold medal at the Olympics before returning to his homeland. At the start of his career, he remained unbeaten, securing the European Heavyweight Title and the British Heavyweight Title on his path toward greatness. On 14 January 1993, Lewis became Britain's first World Heavyweight Champion of the 21st century.
Lennox Lewis competed in 44 bouts, where he won an astonishing 41 matches with one draw and only two losses. To further cement his standing as one of the most powerful heavyweight strikers of all time, he won with a total of 32 knockouts. That is a 78% knockout rate if you haven’t done the math.
Lewis held several titles throughout his robust career, fought against some of the greatest names in boxing, and came out on top in most cases. And if that doesn’t make him one of the all-time best, we repeat, he beat Mike Tyson!
2. Tyson Fury – The Second Greatest British Boxer in History
What can we say about “The Gypsy King” that hasn’t been already said before? Tyson Fury is an absolute machine in the ring and his record of 34 wins and one draw speaks for itself. In other words, Tyson Fury has not lost a single bout in his 12-year tenure as a professional boxer.
At a glance, Tyson Fury may look like an average English bloke with a dad bod. When he steps inside the ring, however, he is a completely different beast. His wit, sharp reflexes, and boxing IQ are deadly when combined with how much power he can generate in each swing. Moreover, his charisma and unorthodox fighting style make him a front-runner for the title of the greatest British boxer in history.
Speaking of titles, Tyson Fury is currently the holder of the WBC Heavyweight Title. He also held the Unified WBA (Super), IBF, WBO, and IBO titles from 2015 to 2016, the WBA Super World Heavyweight Title, the Commonwealth Boxing Council Heavyweight Title, etc., to name just a few.
Tyson Fury may look clumsy on his feet with an awkward stature, but when the punches start raining down, there aren’t many who can withstand his wrath.
1. Joe Calzaghe – The Best British Boxer of All Time
From everyone we mentioned on this list, there’s no doubt that any one of them could have claimed the number one spot. But for our money, there is only one man who could claim the crown of the best British boxer of all time, and that is none other than Joe Calzaghe.
There aren’t many boxers who could retire as an undefeated world champion. That accolade belongs to only those who have superseded the sport of boxing and elevated themselves to the throne of greatness. Superstars like Floyd Mayweather, icons like Rocky Marciano, and legends like Joe Calzaghe are the select few who were capable of this incredible feat.
Joe Calzaghe made his professional debut in 1993 and then went on to win the Young Boxer of the Year Award in just two years. He won his first championship in 1997 when he beat Chris Eubank in round one to secure the WBO Super Middleweight Title. He would then go on to win several other championship belts, including the WBO, WBA, WBC and IBF Super Middleweight Title, the Ring Magazine Super Middleweight Title, and the Ring Magazine Light Heavyweight Title.
It’s honestly incredible the legacy Joe Calzaghe left. He held his WBO title for more than 10 years before vacating the belt and retiring. When he left, he had a record of 46 wins and no losses or draws.