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Heavyweight Battles of Britain


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Heavyweight Battles of Britain


by Ben Dir


When David Haye and Audley Harrison meet in Manchester on Saturday, it will be only the third time in history two Brits have fought for a world heavyweight crown.


Haye, the WBA title-holder, is a big favourite against the former Olympic champion and while many are intrigued by the match-up - the MEN Arena is a 20,000 sell-out - there are some purists who believe it is a pale imitation of all-British match-ups of yesteryear.


BBC Sport looks at five heavyweight 'Battles of Britain' that Haye-Harrison might struggle to live up to.


Lennox Lewis v Frank Bruno, Cardiff Arms Park, 1 October 1993


It is easy to forget the build-up to this fight was an ill-tempered affair, so laconic could Lewis appear at times and so affable seemed Bruno. Bruno laid his trump card when he questioned the Britishness of his rival, who had moved to Canada as a child. But Lewis had a joker up his sleeve, mocking Bruno for "dressing up in girls' clothing" during his stint as a pantomime dame.


The fight at Cardiff Arms Park, for the WBC crown Lewis held, was the first all-British heavyweight world title fight in history and attracted 26,000 fans, most of them pulling for Bruno, who was challenging for a world title for the third time.




Bruno made a strong start, wobbling Lewis with a huge overhand right in round three, and was well ahead on one judge's scorecard and level on two after six rounds.


But Lewis landed with a looping left hook in the seventh, stiffening Bruno, who was stopped 72 seconds into the round. Lewis went on to become arguably the last great heavyweight world champion, while Bruno did eventually realise his world title dream when he beat Oliver McCall in 1995.




Frank Bruno v Joe Bugner, White Hart Lane, London, 24 October 1987


Perhaps mindful he was never going to win any popularity contests back in Blighty, having 'robbed' a national institution in Henry Cooper in 1971, and still bitter at his treatment at the hands of the boxing writers he called "morons", 'Aussie Joe' returned from his adoptive country in 1987 to take on Britain's new heavyweight darling.


Bugner may have been 37 but the bout was not as lacking in credibility as it may seem in hindsight - Bugner had beaten top American heavyweights James Tillis, David Bey and Greg Page in his previous three fights.


However, Cooper gained vicarious revenge through the hulking form of Bruno, who battered Bugner into submission inside eight rounds at White Hart Lane.


Bruno went on to win a heavyweight world title at the fourth attempt but, remarkably, retired three years before Bugner, who won the Australian heavyweight title in 1995 after a nine year lay-off and had his last fight in 1999.




Henry Cooper v Joe Bugner, Wembley, London, 16 March 1971


Cooper had been British champion for almost 11 years when he met Bugner for what was meant to be a farewell address to his adoring public. Unfortunately for Cooper, a couple of party poopers crashed the knees-up.


Cooper later claimed he was so decrepit before the bout that he was unable even to comb his hair with his fabled left hand, while Bugner had only recently turned 21. Still, few thought the Hungarian-born upstart would have the smarts to compete.




Enter referee Harry Gibbs, who, after 15 rounds of combat, confounded everyone else at Wembley and millions watching on TV by raising Bugner's hand. "He's given it to Bugner! And I find that amazing," said BBC commentator Harry Carpenter, as boos rang out around the arena.


Bugner later admitted the result was "one of the most hurtful and painful" he could have had. "I didn't really win, they [the British media] chased me out of England because I beat a legend," he said. A sad way to treat a man who would go the distance with Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali - twice.




Brian London v Dick Richardson, Coney Beach Arena, Porthcawl, 29 August 1960


It seemed that whenever Dick Richardson fought there was mayhem. Henry Cooper remembered the Welshman was fond of "putting the nut in", while Richardson caused a riot in winning the vacant European crown in Dortmund when he flattened his German opponent while the referee was administering a standing count.


The Coney Beach Arena in Porthcawl - described as "a dump" by Cooper - was the scene of some of Richardson's wildest fights, including his contest against American Mike DeJohn in 1960, when the home favourite was disqualified for a blatant head-butt and much bottle and chair-throwing ensued.


London, on the comeback trail following a defeat at the hands of world champion Floyd Patterson the previous year, was Richardson's next special guest. He, too, was treated to that distinctive Porthcawl touch.


London was forced to retire in the eighth round after sustaining serious cuts, which he blamed on Richardson's repeated butts. A furious London then proceeded to punch Richardson's trainer Johnny Lewis to the canvas, triggering a Wild West 'all-off' that would thereafter be remembered as 'The Brawl in Porthcawl'.




Brian London v Henry Cooper, Earls Court, London, 12 January 1959


Back when even respectable old ladies from Pinner knew who the heavyweight champion of Great Britain was, fights for the British title were big beer - and when Our 'Enery was involved, they tended to be even bigger.


Cooper, just starting out in the trade, had disposed of Blackpool's London in one round in 1956, and a beefed-up London was intent on revenge in the rematch, with the British and Empire belts at stake.


After 15 rounds, the two fighters "looked as if they had been hitting each other with meat axes", according to one boxing correspondent. At the final bell, London could barely stand but it was Cooper, his face masked in blood, who got the decision.


By the time the two adversaries met again in 1964, Cooper was on his way to becoming a national institution, having very nearly beaten a certain Cassius Clay the previous year. Cooper triumphed once again after 15 more brutal rounds.




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  • 12 years later...
  • 2 weeks later...

--- Never too late to point out the certain looniness of Brits concerning their fighters.

20 year old Bugner had previously disposed of Jack OHallarhan, the Gigantism fighter a staple of contenders back when, Manuel Ramos, a former title contender, Ray Patterson, brother of Floyd who had KDed Liston in sparring, Brian London, a former title contender, Chuck Wepner, a future title contender who beat up Ali for 14 rounds, so Cooper had no chance in his last fight.

Even the Brit scoring system full loonytunes, ie: ref: Harry Gibbs 73¾-73½


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