Nigel Benn and Chris Eubank
Nigel Benn and Chris Eubank

Watch the great fights and rivalries in domestic boxing history

Anthony Joshua will face Dillian Whyte in August - but how will it rank alongside other great all-British bouts down the years?

Here, shines a light on a select handful of those epic all-British showdowns:

Great British boxing fights

Settling on just a handful of great fights from the entire history of the sport is never easy, and finding the context and rationale is perhaps the hardest part. Define ‘great’ or ‘greatest’ or ‘best’.

Our list is not just based on how ‘big’ the fight was or how ‘great’ it eventually turned out to be. It is something of a mix. A pugilistic odyssey which is as much personal as it is definitive.

So here goes…

Chris Eubank vs Nigel Benn

Often two fighters are tied to each other in boxing history - it’s difficult to mention one without the other. X vs Y is as powerful as either fighter in isolation.

Chris Eubank and Nigel Benn absolutely fit that narrative, and they faced each other twice in a glorious era for British boxing in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

The build-up and hype before their first meeting in Birmingham in November 1990 was off the charts. Benn was the deadly ‘Dark Destroyer’ who had wrecked just about everything put in front of him en route to a 27-1 pro record. Eubank meanwhile was the cerebral, poetry-spouting enigma with a 24-0 ledger. It was the perfect clash of egos, and fireworks would be the result.

Nigel Benn vs Chris Eubank 18.11.1990 - WBO World Middleweight Championship

The countdown to fight night was beautiful - with the highlight being their joint appearance on ITV’s Midweek Sports Special to sign the contracts. Eubank refused to look at his opponent, sitting with his back to Nigel as they traded opinions on what would happen on November 18.

On fight night though, in front of a passionate crowd and a nationwide TV audience, Eubank would show zero fear to face down Benn as he eventually dismantled the ‘Dark Destroyer’.

Eubank also showed significant cojones after biting his tongue when eating a ferocious Benn uppercut in the fourth. The bout could have been stopped thanks to the resulting cut, but Eubank survived and would soon turn the tide in a brutal encounter.

Chris by now was landing plenty of leather of his own, and Benn’s eye was swollen and threatening to close by the fifth. The war raged on with both men wounded but with neither willing to submit.

Eubank was down momentarily in the eighth and would take a standing eight count despite claiming it was the result of slip. But he roared back to regain control by the bell.

Round nine would be the crucial moment, as a quiet session exploded in the final 30 seconds. Eubank landed a left and quickly followed up with a right which exploded off the chin of Benn. He was severely wounded and on very shaky legs.

Eubank followed up to pin Benn in the corner and land another brutal right which led to Richard Steele waving the fight off right at the end of the session.

Not surprisingly after this terrific fight, the clamour for a rematch was enormous. It finally happened in October 1993 at Manchester United’s Old Trafford football stadium. Some 42,000 fans were on hand inside the stadium, with half a billion more reportedly watching around the world on TV.

Nigel Benn vs Chris Eubank II

It was another fascinating encounter, but lacking perhaps in the raw brutality and excitement of their first meeting. The bout would end somewhat unsatisfyingly in a draw with both men winning on a card each and the other level.

There was talk of a third meeting, but despite the eye-watering sums of money mentioned it never happened. Both men would enjoy sensational careers and their legacies remain inextricably linked.

Carl Froch vs George Groves

Carl Froch vs George Groves provided a worthy successor to the Eubank vs Benn rivalry. Two terrific British fighters providing two huge fights in the super-middleweight division.

The rivalry would produce career-defining moments for both men, and both would emerge from it with their reputations undoubtedly enhanced. It also arguably was the rivalry which truly catapulted one Eddie Hearn to promotional superstardom.

The first meeting between Froch and Groves was the better fight, the second was the bigger show. The first built the second, and led to massive paydays for both men.

Manchester Arena on November 23, 2013 was the setting for the first clash between the two Brits - with Froch putting his WBA and IBF super-middleweight titles on the line.

The Archive | Carl Froch vs George Groves 1

The build-up had spanned the entirety of 2013, culminating in a famous Sky Sports ‘Ringside’ show in which Froch refused to look at Groves and George called Froch only by his second name. Shades again of Eubank and Benn.

Often acrimonious build-ups in boxing are then followed by a letdown when the fighters step between the ropes. Not this time, and any thoughts that the power of Froch would just steamroller Groves were quickly dispelled.

George came out firing in Round 1 and his aggressive approach clearly took Froch by surprise - it ended with him decking ‘The Cobra’ with a lovely overhand right which really hurt the Nottingham man. Froch made it out of the round though and it was very much game on now.

Groves continued to box brilliantly and land at will as Froch desperately tried to find a foothold in the fight. He employed powerful body shots to weaken his opponent, and gradually began to assume some level of control as the fight approached the final quarter.

The bout reached a controversial conclusion in Round 9 when Groves was forced to defend against a furious and sustained assault from Froch. During this assault referee Howard Foster waved the bout off, clearly believing Groves had endured enough punishment, but to many the stoppage was premature. George had been ahead on all three scorecards at the time of the stoppage. The answer was obvious - they needed to do it again.

Dislike and violence are the two best promotional tools in boxing to sell a fight, so after what went down in Manchester it was obvious the rematch would be a huge seller. And so the venue moved to Wembley Stadium, with a crowd of 80,000 and a huge PPV audience on Sky Sports.

The date for the rematch was set for May 31, 2014 - and anticipation was at fever pitch when the two men climbed into the ring in London. Groves had gained a huge new fanbase thanks to his performance in the first fight.

Carl Froch-George Groves II 2014-05-31 highlights

Early in the bout the two men went back and forth, but without the outright fireworks Manchester had produced. Until Round 5 that is, when they opened up and produced terrific action.

Groves was impressive in Rounds 6 and 7 and led on one card going into the eighth, with Froch slightly ahead on the other two. But the judges would not be needed.

Froch came on strong in Round 8 and closed the show with a highlight-reel knockout - a devastating right hook which landed flush and left Groves in a crumpled heap on the canvas.

While Groves fought on afterwards, he would never again reach that height of public fame which his rivalry with Froch generated.

For Froch meanwhile, it was a fitting way to sign off on a glorious career at the highest level.

Lennox Lewis vs Frank Bruno

Two Englishmen fighting for the title of world heavyweight boxing champion in the middle of the night in a packed stadium in Wales - what a time to be alive.

This was the scenario in early October 1993 when WBC heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis defended his title against Frank Bruno at Cardiff Arms Park in the Welsh capital.

Lewis had ascended to the WBC throne when Riddick Bowe famously threw the belt into a trash can rather than fight the British star. This was his second defence of the belt.

Despite his undoubted brilliance, Lewis still struggled for acceptance in Britain. He had moved to Canada at the age of 12 and wore a maple leaf when he fought at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles and then again when he claimed gold in Seoul in 1988.

Bruno meanwhile was a British hero - much loved and craving the world title had searched so long for. It was the first time two British fighters had met with a world heavyweight title on the line in the modern era, but it almost didn’t feel like that. It felt like Lewis was the away fighter.

Most of Bruno’s defeats during a distinguished career played out in the same way (we are discounting the pair at the devastating hands of Mike Tyson). He was very much in control, until he wasn’t.

When Frank had lost to Tim Witherspoon at Wembley in his first world title challenge in 1987, he appeared to be in control until late in the fight, when things went south very quickly and irrevocably. This wasn’t quite as stark, but it had those vibes.

With a raucous crowd roaring on every punch, Bruno more than held his own in the early going, sending the 25,000 fans in attendance wild when he smacked Lennox with a beautiful right in the third. Lewis would later claim the blow did not hurt him.

Frank continued to give Lennox all he could handle to the halfway point of the bout - and two judges had it level at that stage with the other - somehow - scoring Bruno ahead by four rounds.

While Bruno may have been having visions of finally donning that elusive belt at this stage, in reality his hopes were about to be shattered. As soon as Lewis really opened up, things escalated very very fast.

Bruno’s key mistake here may have been thinking he had Lewis in trouble with a furious flurry of punches early in the seventh. Lewis would later say he was not hurt, but merely lost his footing. Frank smelled blood, but within a few seconds it would be his own.

Lennox Lewis vs Frank Bruno (Highlights)

As Bruno readied for another assault he dropped his right hand momentarily - it was enough for Lewis to land a terrific left hook which immediately had Bruno on wobbly legs. Lewis followed up with a sustained assault which paused only when Lennox was warned by referee Mickey Vann for stiff-arming.

When the action resumed Lewis proved he was a terrific finisher. With Bruno unable to stem the tide of punishment, Vann stopped the bout less than halfway through Round 7. The end, when it came, had been remarkably swift.

Lewis would soon lose his title in stunning circumstances to Oliver McCall, but that defeat would be avenged as he became Britain’s greatest ever heavyweight, and eventually, a three-time world champion.

For Bruno, it appeared the wait for a world heavyweight title would never end, that is until that unforgettable Wembley night in 1995 when he somehow survived to outpoint the aforementioned McCall.

For those who were at the Arms Park in the middle of that October night in 1993, it was a spectacular and unforgettable event. We can only hope that Tyson Fury vs Dillian Whyte, and then maybe one day Fury vs Anthony Joshua, can reach such heights.

Henry Cooper vs Joe Bugner

The meeting of Cooper and Bugner was a seminal moment in British heavyweight history - a passing of the torch. It was the end of one man’s career, and it would colour every second of the other’s.

While Cooper’s narrow points defeat on a huge night at Wembley’s Empire Pool on March 16, 1971 was the final fight of his glittering career, for Bugner it turned out to be equally important. The Hungarian refugee was never forgiven for denying Cooper a winning farewell, and he later became so disillusioned with life in the UK that he eventually moved away to Australia.

Cooper, like Frank Bruno after him, was a national hero and a national treasure. He was also the reigning Sports Personality Of The Year. Bugner, like Lennox Lewis after him, was seen as the outsider.

It seems amazing now but the big showdown between the pair in the capital was not even televised live in the UK. No PPV or live streams back in the day. Just a packed crowd in the arena and people at home listening on transistor radios.

There were British, Commonwealth and European titles on the line - but in reality way more than that. The gravity of the outcome that night would only become truly clear as the years passed.

Joe Bugner vs Henry Cooper HD

If you think scoring controversies are a big deal right now - and you’d be right - imagine the furore after this one some 51 years on. The result continues to divide opinion.

Cooper was undoubtedly the more aggressive fighter but Bugner - an underrated heavy from a skill perspective - was technically excellent and his left jab was a productive scoring shot.

The bout went the full 15 rounds (this was way before the switch down to 12 for title fights) and it was inevitable when the final bell sounded that there would be controversy.

Only referee Harry Gibbs would score the bout - no ringside judges for this one - and his card would split national opinion. The blue touchpaper was lit when he raised Bugner’s arm following the final round.

Gibbs’ scorecard had the two fighters dead level after 14 rounds, and the fact he handed Bugner the 15th and final session also gave Joe the win. Cooper though felt hard done by and even commentator Harry Carpenter issued one famous rhetorical question to his national audience:

“How in the world can you take away the man’s three titles like that?”

The difference between the two men according to Gibbs was tiny - just one quarter of a point with the final verdict 73¾ to 73½. The ramifications though would be enormous for decades afterwards.

Michael Gomez vs Alex Arthur

Okay this is where the personal really comes in. This might not have had huge build-up and crossover appeal, but it remains one of THE great fights in recent British boxing history.

If you haven’t seen it, then 20 minutes to acquaint yourself on YouTube would be time eminently well spent. It is epic in its breathless violence and raw pugilistic beauty.

The bout took place in Meadowbank Stadium in Edinburgh in October 2003, in front of a frenzied sellout crowd.

Michael Gomez vs Alex Arthur - 25/10/2003

Scottish star Arthur, the bright young thing of British boxing back then, was undefeated and expected to stay that way. Gomez, the ‘Manchester Mexican’ who had been born in Ireland, had a huge personality and a venomous left hook. But after many battles both in and out of the ring he appeared to be the fall guy and on the downside of his career.

This was classic England vs Scotland with a little bit of Ireland and Mexico thrown in. It did not disappoint. The British featherweight title was on the line, but in reality the belt became almost meaningless in comparison to the memories the two men left in the ring that famous night.

Arthur perhaps made the mistake of standing toe to toe with Gomez and not trying to use his terrific boxing ability to win the fight from the outside. The result was raw and spellbinding action for five incredible rounds.

Neither man would take a step back as both stood in the pocket and blitzed each other with a never-ending flow of power shots which seemed likely to close the show at any time.

Gomez in particular could not seem to miss with that deadly left hook and he had Arthur in trouble within 20 seconds of the opening bell. This was just the start, and the first was all Gomez as he battered a bewildered Arthur repeatedly with that left hook.

Round two saw Arthur do what he needed to do - and it worked as he boxed superbly at range to school Gomez to deafening cheers from the home crowd. Round three promised more of the same but for some reason Alex decided to ditch the gameplan.

The result was a resumption of that toe-to-toe fury from Round 1, and this type of fight favoured Gomez and that left hook. He landed heavy blow after heavy blow and a bleeding Arthur somehow survived to hear the bell.

Round 4 was epic stuff with first Arthur and then Gomez holding sway with blistering attacks. Alex was buckled and on wobbly legs yet again by the time the bell sounded.

The fifth would be Arthur’s last stand as he again refused to give an inch, instead trying to wage war with the brutal Gomez. He did have Michael in trouble with a terrific body shot, but within seconds the Manchester man responded with a powerful flurry of his own. This culminated in yet another left hook, which this time landed Arthur on his back.

Not only was Arthur swiftly up to his knees, but he was smiling at the TV cameras. In reality it was bravado and once the action resumed he was easy meat for the marauding Gomez, who rained down punches to leave referee John Coyle with no option but to stop the bout.

If you ask any boxing fan now about either man, they will likely start their response by talking about this fight. A hidden gem to the larger British population, but an all-time classic for diehard aficionados.

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