The most popular and prolific prizefighters in British Boxing history will be highlighted when Showtime Championship Boxing’s 30th anniversary year-long celebration continues in September with “Britain’s Best.”
The featured fighters –Naseem Hamed, Ricky Hatton, Joe Calzaghe, Carl Froch, Chris Eubank and Nigel Benn– were longtime world champions. Each had a distinctive personality inside and outside the ring, and all helped usher in an era of boxers from Great Britain that currently features a record 14 world champions, including Carl Frampton, James DeGale, Lee Selby and Anthony Joshua.
Of the eight fighters, all but Eubank and Hatton reached dizzying heights by scoring significant victories against distinguished American fighters. Benn blasted out Iran Barkley in 2:57. In his premium network television debut, Hamed dominated Tom “Boom Boom” Johnson and, 10 months later, stopped Kevin Kelly. Calzaghe destroyed Jeff “Left Hook” Lacy. Froch rallied from the brink of defeat to stop Jermain Taylor, and Hatton crushed perennial 140-pound world champion Kostya Tszyu of Australia.
The rivalry between longtime WBO Middleweight and Super Middleweight champion, Eubank, and Benn, a longtime WBC Super Middleweight boss, may have been the most celebrated in U.K. history. Eubank took their savage first fight on a ninth-round TKO; the rematch ended in a draw.
Hamed (2015) and Calzaghe (2014) are members of the International Boxing Hall of Fame.
Below is the schedule of Showtime Extreme premieres for the month of September:
- Thursday, Sept. 1: Chris Eubank-Nigel Benn II
- Thursday, Sept. 8: Naseem Hamed-Tom “Boom Boom” Johnson
- Thursday, Sept. 15: Ricky Hatton-Kostya Tszyu
- Thursday, Sept. 22: Joe Calzaghe-Jeff Lacy
- Thursday, Sept. 29: Carl Froch-Jermain Taylor
Eubank vs. Benn II – Oct. 9, 1993, Old Trafford Stadium, Manchester, Lancashire, England
Three years after Eubank rallied to stop defending champion Benn in an intense, fiercely contested battle for the WBO Middleweight Crown that marked the beginning of a great era for British middleweights and super middleweights, the rivals fought to a controversial 12-round draw in a 168-pound unification bout for Eubanks’ WBO and Benn’s WBC titles.
With more than 42,000 fans in attendance roaring their approval, the two legends went at it again from start to finish. There were lots of close rounds with frenzied flourishes at the end of each. The thrilling 12th round is considered a classic as both boxers were told they needed it to win. At the finish, one judge scoring it for Eubank, 115-113, one judge gave it to Benn by the identical score while the third judge had it 114-114.
Hamed vs. Johnson – Feb. 8, 1997, New London Arena, London, England
The undefeated WBO Champion Hamed unified the featherweight division with an eighth-round TKO over respected longtime IBF titlist, Tom “Boom Boom” Johnson. Hamed dominated Johnson, who was making his 12th defense, from the third round on, scoring the bout’s lone knockdown with a huge uppercut in the eighth. Hamed was ahead by 69-63, 69-64 and 69-65 when it was stopped at 2:27 of the round.
Four starts later, Hamed won his United States debut with a wild fourth-round knockout over Kelly, a former WBC Champion, at Madison Square Garden.
Hatton vs. Tszyu – June 4, 2005, M.E.N. Arena, Manchester, England
The largely unproven but hungry Hatton scored one of the most sizeable stunners in British history and announced his entry to the upper echelons of the world boxing scene by recording an 11th-round TKO over Tszyu for the unified IBF, Ring and lineal light-welterweight titles.
This is regarded as the signature performance in Hatton’s career; the stamina, aggression and heart he displayed is now legendary. A massive underdog against a dominant, feared champion and one of the world’s top pound-for-pound boxers, Hatton won when Tszyu failed to answer the bell for the 12th round. After 11, Hatton was ahead by 107-102, 106-103 and 105-104.
Calzaghe vs. Lacy – March 4, 2006, M.E.N. Arena, Manchester, England
In the most important and anticipated super middleweight match since Roy Jones defeated James Toney in 1994, Calzaghe produced a masterpiece and the performance of his career, thoroughly overwhelming the previously unbeaten IBF kingpin Lacy. It was a Brit Beatdown at its brutal best, a wipeout from the outset. Calzaghe cut Lacy over both eyes and caused blood to flow from Lacy’s nose midway through a fight that could have been stopped several times, and floored him in the 12th.
By impressively prevailing over Lacy, Calzaghe also earned the The Ring Championship, becoming the first super middleweight to be recognized as world champion by The Ring.
Froch vs. Taylor – April 25, 2009, Foxwoods Resort Casino in Foxwoods, Conn.
Froch registered one of the most dramatic finishes to a world title fight since Julio Cesar Chavez, behind on points, stopped Meldrick Taylor two seconds from the end of the 12th round in 1990.
Froch, making his second U.S. start and initial defense of the WBC title, survived a third-round knockdown – the first of his career, amateur and pro – to finish Taylor with 14 seconds left.
Froch hurt and staggered Taylor with a cracking right hand just over a minute into the 12th. Desperate to get the knockout, he continued to belt Taylor all over the ring. With about 90 seconds left, Taylor went down from a barrage of head shots. He barely arose at nine with 0:29 remaining but had no defense for an ensuing barrage of damaging blows.
The British Invasion Boxer Bios
Chris Eubank (45-5-2, 23 KOs), of Brighton, England, was one of the top British super middles of all-time; he was responsible for helping British boxing ride a peak of popularity in the 1990s. After winning the WBO 160-pound title by stopping Benn and making three subsequent defenses , Eubank moved up to 168, captured the WBO crown and retained it 14 times (12-0-2) over a five-year-period. One of the draws came against WBC champion Benn in world title unification in their rematch in October 1993.
Nigel “Dark Destroyer” Benn (42-5-1, 35 KOs), of West Ham, England, went pro in January 1997 and won his first 22 fights by knockout. He took the WBO 160-pound belt with an eighth-round TKO over Doug DeWitt on April 29, 1990, in Atlantic City. In his first defense, he stunned the boxing world by scoring a devastating TKO 1 over former middleweight world champion Barkley on Aug. 18, 1990. In his next outing, Benn fought Eubank the first time. He captured the WBC 168-belt in October 1992 and made nine successful defenses.
Naseem Hamed (36-1, 31 KOs), of Sheffield, England, was a global superstar. He was known, loved, despised and acclaimed as one of the greatest British pound for pound boxers of all time. He was known for his marvelous movement and entertaining, albeit unconventional antics. He held multiple world championships at featherweight and made 16 consecutive featherweight world title defenses. He was considered the linear world champ at 126 pounds for five years (1995-2000) and was The Ring Magazine’s No. 1 Featherweight Fighter from 1997‑2000.
Ricky “The Hitman” Hatton (45-3, 32 KOs) of Manchester, England, is viewed by many as the No. 1 British 140-pounder of all time. He was the 2005 Ring Magazine Fighter of the Year, the first British boxer to receive the award since its inception in 1928. He was also the 2005 ESPN and Boxing Writers Association of America Fighter of the Year. During his15-year career (1997-2012), he held various world titles at junior welterweight and one at welterweight. He reached the pinnacle of his profession in June 2005 when he upset Tszyu to seize the unified IBF, Ring and lineal 140-pound titles.
Joe Calzaghe (46-0, 32 KOs) is the longest-reigning super middleweight world champion in history, having held the WBO title for more than 10 years and making 21 successful defenses before relinquishing it to move up to light heavyweight. As his reins at 168 and 175 pounds overlapped, he retired with the longest continual time as world champion of any active fighter. Calzaghe annihilated IBF Super Middleweight Champion Jeff “Left Hook” Lacy to become world super middleweight champion on March 4, 2006. He held the WBA, WBC, IBF, WBO, Ring magazine and lineal super middleweight titles, as well as The Ring light heavyweight title.
Carl “The Cobra” Froch (33-2, 24 KOs), of Nottingham, England, was a four-time super middleweight world champion who possessed an aggressive, style, toughness and granite chin. Froch won the WBC crown twice and was the WBA titleholder from 2013-2015 and the IBF champion from 2012-2015. In 2013, the BBC listed him as the best British pound-for-pound boxer.
One outing after Froch captured the WBC belt with a triumph over Jean Pascal in May 2008, he rattled the boxing world by producing one of the most remarkable comebacks in history. Rallying from an early knockdown and a four-point deficit on two of the scorecards entering the final round, Froch came on to batter former undisputed middleweight champion Jermain Taylor senseless and knock him out at 2:46 of the 12th on April 25, 2009. A few months later, Froch entered the Super Six World Boxing Classic on SHOWTIME, where he got the only two defeats of his career, losing decisions to Mikkel Kessler, and to Andre Ward in the finals.