Glorious failures: Ranking the 5 ballsiest British boxing defeats
After Anthony Crolla's valiant performance against Jorge Linares, we remember some other heroic efforts...
5. Derek Chisora v Vitali Klitschko (2012)
Derek Chisora was at his obdurate best inside the ring when he fought Vitali Klitschko in February 2012, and his antagonistic worst outside of it.
The Zimbabwe-born heavyweight was already a notorious trouble-maker before he slapped Klitschko at the weigh-in and spat water at the champion’s brother, Wladimir.
When the bell sounded, however, Chisora produced a rugged, admirable performance.
He walked Klitschko down for 12 rounds, putting up more of a fight than anyone would have expected and never allowing the Ukrainian to settle.
What followed was the infamous post-fight brawl with David Haye, which thrust Chisora into the public eye and set him up as the villain for future fights against Haye, Tyson Fury and Dillian Whyte.
Regrettably, though, it overshadowed a fine performance that would have received more recognition had he been more liked.
4. Frank Bruno v Mike Tyson (1989)
Up until February 1989, ‘Iron’ Mike Tyson lived up to his nickname.
The heavyweight knockout artist had never been beaten, knocked down or even shaken in the first 35 fights of his professional career. He was unstoppable.
That changed, however, when Frank Bruno challenged for Tyson’s four world title belts.
The Londoner withstood an early barrage of punches before landing a perfectly timed left hook that wobbled the champion’s legs and left him holding on for the bell.
Tyson recovered and dominated the remainder of the fight, eventually stopping Bruno on his feet at the end of the fifth round.
But the Englishman had uncovered a weakness in Tyson that had never been seen before, which fighters like Buster Douglas, Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis would go on to exploit.
3. Kell Brook v Gennady Golovkin (2016)
Kell Brook’s decision to move up two weight divisions to fight Gennady Golovkin was a refreshing display of bravery that is becoming increasingly rare in boxing.
A quick scan of the Kazakh’s highlights on YouTube reveals just why he is the world’s most-feared fighter.
A monstrous puncher with an unshakeable chin, GGG has either beaten or been avoided by every one of the world’s top middleweights.
But Brook took the challenge, and shook off the criticism that he had never faced a top-tier opponent.
Beating Golovkin was – as many expected – an impossible task.
Brook did as well as he could even if the latest boxing odds were stacked against him, however, landing plenty of his own blows and taking everything his opponent had.
A shattered eye socket proved the Sheffield-born welterweight’s undoing, and his own corner threw in the towel in the fifth round.
That he stood up to the middleweight champion and did not hit the canvas was, nevertheless, a moral victory.
2. Ricky Hatton v Floyd Mayweather (2007)
Ricky Hatton was the archetypal plucky British fighter.
The Hitman never had blinding hand speed or knockout power, but he was gritty, relentless and had a phenomenal chin.
Those attributes were on full display when he and 30,000 fans travelled to Las Vegas for a welterweight title fight against the world’s top pound-for-pound fighter, Floyd Mayweather.
Hatton lasted 10 rounds against arguably the best boxer of the 21st century, walking through countless counter-punches and constantly applying pressure.
Hamstrung by an overly officious referee, he was unable to disrupt Mayweather’s rhythm and there was evidently a huge gulf in class between the fighters.
But beating Hatton was certainly the signature win of the American’s career.
Few others gave him as tough a fight.
1. Henry Cooper v Muhammad Ali (1963)
A split glove and some smelling salts were all that prevented Henry Cooper from shocking the world.
The English heavyweight welcomed Muhammad Ali – then Cassius Clay – to Wembley in June 1963, and came close to handing the Greatest his first defeat.
Cooper poleaxed Ali with ‘Enry’s ‘Ammer – his famous left hook – in the fourth round, and the champion staggered to his corner after being saved by the bell.
But some wily delaying tactics from trainer Angelo Dundee gave Ali time to recover, and he got off his stool to win in the fifth after a huge gash opened above Cooper’s eye.
Coming so close to beating Ali was a tremendous achievement, particularly considering Cooper’s huge size disadvantage.
The Englishman claimed to have been 27 pounds lighter than his opponent at fight time, and had lead inserted in his shoes for the weigh-in.
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