Eubank, Calzaghe, Benn: Britain's greatest champions of the last 30 years (Part 2)

In today’s second part, we examine three more of our favourites, all of whom competed against each other during an exciting middleweight era during the 1990s.

Chris Eubank

While he often divided opinion, there can be little doubt that Chris Eubank remains one of, if not the greatest showmen to emerge from the British isles in the modern era.

Love him or hate him, and plenty of boxing fans fell into the latter category, Eubank's impression on British and, indeed, world boxing is one that will not be quickly forgotten.

Known as Simply the Best and boasting a unique image and remarkable brand of showmanship that heavily straddled the line between confidence and arrogance, the London-born entertained, famed for his vault over the top rope when entering the ring, was certainly an individual. Let's not even get started on his attire.

Yet, despite all the posturing and the bravado, Eubank was one hell of a fighter.

Chris Eubank

Having suffered a difficult childhood spent in both East London and Jamaica, Eubank was sent to live with his mother in the rough and tough south South Bronx district of New York at the age of 16. It was here that the now-legendary fighter would get his first taste of the boxing world.

Remaining unbeaten for the first five years of his career, Eubank would truly emerge on the world scene in his 25th fight as he scored a huge TKO victory over now synonymous rival Nigel Benn to claim the WBO middleweight title.

A little under a year later, Eubank would make the final defence of his middleweight title with a successful points victory against Michael Watson. Little under three months later, the pair would come together once more in a bout that would result in near-fatal injuries for the vested Watson. After a devastating 12th round TKO, Watson would spend 40 days in a coma, undergoing six subsequent brain surgeries.

While Eubank had claimed a second world title, this time at the super-middleweight level, he would never again be the same fighter. The scars of the damage inflicted on Watson appeared to have removed his killer instinct.

A rematch with great rival Benn would follow two years later, and a controversial draw underpinned the ferocity of their brilliant rivalry. Sadly, an oft-talked about third bout would never materialise. Eubank's rivalry with Benn is rightly regarded as one of the greatest in the history of British Boxing, with Benn displaying a particularly venomous hatred for the divisive and aloof Eubank.

Yet, for all of his achievements and victories inside the ring, Eubank remained something of an anti-hero. A British version of Floyd Mayweather, if you will.

Unbeaten, but unloved, the Brit would only become a darling of both British fans and media in defeat, particularly following a pair of brutal losses at the hands of Carl Thompson in the final bout of Eubanks storied career.

Eubank would retire with an impressive record of 45-5-2, and while many wondered if he might have achieved more if it were not for that mentally scarring night against Watson, there should be little doubt that the now pòpular and always articulate former champion fully deserves his place in the pantheon of Britain's greatest fighters.

Joe Calzaghe

An unbeaten champion who ruled the middleweight ranks for over a decade, Joe Calzaghe's place on any list of Britains'greatest fighters is a nigh-on cert.

Justifiably known as "The Pride of Wales", Calzaghe made his professional debut in 1993 on the undercard of the Lennox Lewis vs Frank Bruno world title fight but would go on to make his own name in double quick time, winning his first world title against the first man on our list, Chris Eubank in 1997, scoring a unanimous decision to claim the vacant WBO super middleweight Title.

One of only four European boxers to retire as an unbeaten world champion, the "Pride of Wales" was famed for his speed of hand and a brilliant ability to throw punches in bunches. Despite a perceived lack of power, Calzaghe possessed a unique ability to overwhelm his opponents with the sheer volume of his relentless assaults, frequently throwing upwards of 100 punches per round.

Joe Calzaghe

Following that break-through win against Eubank, Calzaghe would defend his WBO super middleweight title on a remarkable twenty-one occasions between 1998 and 2007.

However, despite his continued and dominant success, Calzaghe would have his critics. A rack of title defences against names like Tocker Pudwill, Mger Mkrtchyan and Miguel Angel Jiménez (wasn't he a golfer?) did little to raise the Welshmans stock with proposed fights against the likes of Roy Jones Jnr and Bernard Hopkins only materialising at the back-end of the Welshman's career.

However, in 2006, Calzaghe would claim the IBF and inaugural Ring Magazine super-middleweight titles with perhaps the best performance of his career as he schooled, battered and humiliated the previously unbeaten Jeff "Left Hook Lacy".

Billed as a mini-version of Mike Tyson, Lacy would prove little more than cannon fodder for the brilliant Calzaghe with the Welshmen appearing to win virtually every minute of every round en-route to a lopsided points decision victory. Calzaghe had entered the bout as a betting underdog for the first time.

Stepping up again eighteen months later, Calzaghe would enhance further his status as the greatest super middleweight of the era with an outstanding performance in overcoming unbeaten Danish hardman Mikkel Kessler over a hard twelve rounds to add the WBA (Unified) and WBC super middleweight titles to his resume.

Having conquered the super-middleweight ranks, Calzaghe would finally come face to face with US legend Bernard Hopkins with the American's Ring light heavyweight title on the line in 2008.

Edging a narrow points decision, Calzaghe had cemented his status as perhaps the best pound-for-pound fighter to emerge from the UK. An easy schooling of a faded Roy Jones proved to be a somewhat anti-climactic final bout of the Welshman's remarkable unbeaten career.

Calzaghe would retire having held the WBO, WBA, WBC and IBF super middleweight titles, as well as the Ring Magazine world titles at super middleweight and light heavyweight, ending his career with a perfect record of 46-0 (32 KOs).

While he might have faced better opponents during his peak years, a stellar finale to an unbeaten career ensured Calzaghe's position as one if, if not the best fighter to emerge from the UK in any era.

Nigel Benn

Known as the Dark Destroyer, Nigel Benn's place on our list is perhaps a debatable one with the likes of Prince Naseem Hamed and David Haye missing out. However, the former WBO middleweight and WBC super middleweight champion's ferocity inside the ring was never in doubt.

Brought up in East London, Benn joined the Army at the age of 18 and was stationed in Western Germany for three years before an eighteen-month stint in Northern Ireland. Benn would then turn pro in 1987 and it wasn't long before that now famed ferociousness would become his trademark.

A solider inside and outside of the ring, Benn would suffer an early career setback with a sixth-round stoppage at the hands of Michael Watson.

However, it took a little over three years into his career for Benn to win his first world title with an eighth-round TKO victory against Doug DeWitt in 1990. However, just seven months later, Benn would suffer a second career defeat as he was stopped in the ninth round of his now-legendary first fight with Chris Eubank.

Despite those disappointments, Benn would then embark on a ten-fight winning streak that included a second world title victory, this time overcoming Italian Mauro Galvano with a fourth-round stoppage win in Italy to claim the WBC super middleweight title.

Following three further defences of his WBC title, Benn would face the biggest fight of his career as his long-awaited grudge re-match with Chris Eubank took place, with both champions putting their respective super-middleweight titles on the line.

A brilliant build-up to the fight preceded an outstanding occasion In front of a packed 42,000 crowd at Old Trafford. Global TV figures estimated near to 500 million would also tune in for the bout, and they would not be disappointed.

Entering the bout as a 6/4 betting outsider, many fans and pundits felt Benn had done enough for the win, but a draw left both men retaining their respective titles. If ever a contest deserved a trilogy, this was it, but sadly this would be the last occasion that these two great warriors would share a ring.

Benn would go on to defend his WBC strap on five more occasions, including a tragic yet brilliant win against Gerald McClellan.

Nigel Benn

Having survived a vicious onslaught in the opening stanza, including a knock-down that sent Benn through the ropes and out of the ring, the Londoner would regain his composure to score a remarkable come from behind victory with a TKO in the eleventh round.

Sadly, McClellan would suffer permanent and life-changing injuries that ended his career in the sport.

Much like Eubank, Benn was never again the same force following that fateful night in London in 1995 and would lose his title in a surprise split-decision rematch against South African journeyman Thulani Malinga a year later.

A pair of losses to Steve Collins would send Benn into retirement, and while other Brits might have achieved more in intervening years, the Londoner would retire with a fine 42-5-1 record.

A double-world champion who fought in two of the countries greatest ever fights ensures Benn's place as one of Britain's all-time boxing greats.

Read more: Fury, Lewis, Hatton - Britain's greatest champions of the last 30 years (Part 1)

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