Darrel Church: My top 10 British light-heavyweight champions

Published On Friday, August 28, 2015By
Light-heavyweight prospect, Darrel ‘The Baptist’ Church (2-1) takes time out from his busy training schedule to list his top 10 British light-heavyweight champions of all time.   The Tiptree boxer is preparing for his fourth professional fight on October 17th to exact revenge upon Angelo ‘Concrete’ Crowe, who left the only blemish on his record in his last fight in June this year.   The Baptist has spent a lot of time looking back at the old legends from the 175lbs category to draw inspiration with ambitions to one day add his name to this esteemed list and lift the coveted Lonsdale belt to also earn a place in British boxing history.  
10. Tony Bellew (24-2-1) Tony Bellew Lonsdale Belt ‘The Bomber’ was a three time ABA heavyweight champion. I didn’t have an amateur boxing background but I know that feat alone is worthy of placing him within the top 10 as not many have managed that. One of the few on my list still active, he trains out of the Rotunda Gym in Liverpool and is promoted by Eddie Hearn's Matchroom Sport. As a pro, he has won the Commonwealth light-heavyweight title as well as the WBC Intercontinental belt and in 2011 Bellew picked up the vacant British strap with a repeat victory over Ovill McKenzie. His first career loss came at the hands of bitter rival Nathan Cleverly in Liverpool in October 2011 losing out on the WBO light heavyweight title via majority decision. After losing to Clev, Bellew took on former World title challenger Edison Miranda for the WBC International belt stopping him in the ninth round. Then, in November 2012, he beat highly rated Argentine Roberto Bolonti for the WBC Silver title. After a second failed World title bid, this time against Canadian WBC World light-heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson, Bomber finally moved up to cruiserweight where he remains now and has enjoyed a successful stint already by picking up the WBO International cruiserweight strap and avenging his loss to old foe Nathan Cleverly at the Echo Arena in Liverpool where he has won his last four fights in his new division. He pips Chris Finnegan to number 10 on my list because of the faith that I have in him becoming a World champion.
9. Chic Calderwood (44-9-1) Chic Calderwood Scotsman Chic Calderwood is right up there on my list because he can boast a truly world-class win over legendary World champion Willie Pastrano. He was 6ft 3” tall and had a venomous punch, winning many of his fights by knockouts. His career was cut short when he was killed in an automobile accident. Calderwood notably went undefeated in his first four years as a pro, amassing a slate of 29-0 by the end of 1960. He won the British light-heavyweight strap in his 24th fight beating Arthur Howard in January 1960 and added the Commonwealth title just five months later. He was the first Scottish boxer to ever hold the British light-heavyweight title which firmly cements him into boxing history.
8. Jock McAvoy (132-14-1) Jock McAvoy Jock McAvoy makes me laugh, to be honest! His real name was Joseph Patrick Bamford, born in Burnley but was billed as being from Rochdale, he adopted the name of Jack McAvoy so that his mother did not catch him boxing but the ring announcer botched the job and announced him to the crowd as Jock instead and it forever stuck! Despite the botched beginnings to his boxing career, he held the British and Commonwealth middleweight titles before deciding to move up to campaign as a light-heavyweight in America. After failing to capture the light-heavyweight World crown, he returned home to beat Eddie Phillips for the British light-heavyweight title knocking him out in the 14th round in 1932. McAvoy was a ferocious puncher who scored 88 KOs in his 132 wins and was included in Ring Magazine's list of 100 greatest punchers of all time. BoxRec rates Jock as the 10th best British boxer of all time, the second best British boxer of all time in the middleweight division, and the 39th best middleweight in the history of boxing.
7. Nathan Cleverly (29-2) Nathan Cleverly ttles Born in February 1987, Welshman Nathan Cleverly is a former European, British, Commonwealth and WBO light-heavyweight World champion. Cleverly made his first defence of his WBO title on 15th October 2011 with a hard fought majority points decision against bitter rival Tony Bellew in Liverpool with one judge scoring the contest a draw. Cleverley defended his WBO honours four times successfully eventually losing the title to Russian Sergey Kovalev on 17th August 2013 at the Motorpoint Arena in Cardiff. The formidable ‘Krusher’ Kovalev is still undefeated today. Cleverly moved up to cruiserweight and quickly collected the vacant WBA Inter-Continental title but a revenge defeat at the hands of old foe Tony Bellew has seen ‘Clev’ move back down to 175lbs where he is currently operating and next fights for the vacant WBC International light-heavyweight belt against Andrzej Fonfara in Chicago.
6. Clinton Woods (42-5-1) Clinton Woods IBF Sheffield’s success story Clinton Woods is the former IBF, European and British light-heavyweight champion and a Commonwealth titleholder at light-heavyweight and super-middleweight. Growing up in tough surroundings, he was involved in a life of drugs and crime before taking up boxing as a way out. After compiling a 19-0 record and collecting the Central Area and Commonwealth super-middleweight title, Woods found himself opposite former British champion David Starie, resulting in the first defeat for Woods. He moved up to light-heavyweight and secured a crack at British, Commonwealth and European light-heavyweight champion Crawford Ashley, knocking him out in the eighth round to capture all the three belts. After another 12 wins on the trot, capturing the WBC International light-heavyweight title, the Sheffield man got a crack at ring legend and undisputed 175lbs champion, Roy Jones Jr., suffering his second career defeat and first ever stoppage. It wasn’t until his fourth crack at the World crown against Rico Hoye for the vacant IBF World light-heavyweight title that Woods was successful. Finally capturing the title, he held it for three years and made four successful defenses against World class opponents. In his career, Woods went in with the world’s finest including Roy Jones Jr., Antonio Tarvar, Tavoris Cloud, Glenn Johnson.
5. Dennis Andries (49-14-2) Dennis Andries Born in Guyana in November 1953, Dennis Andries is a former British light-heavyweight champ known as ‘The Hackney Rock’. The Hackney Rock turned pro in 1978 and looked fairly ordinary losing two of his first 10 fights as well as his first two challenges for the British light-heavyweight title, defeated by Bunny Johnson in 1980 (for the second time) and then to Tom Collis for the same title vacated by Bunny Johnson in 1982. But then, a remarkable 15 fight winning streak saw Andries defeat Tom Collins for his Lonsdale belt whilst also collecting the WBC World light-heavyweight Title in 1986. Eventually losing his World crown to the legendary Thomas Hearns, he decided that if you can’t beat them, join them and ended up staying in Detroit to train at the Kronk Gym under the late, great Manny Steward. He reclaimed the vacant WBC belt in 1989 before losing it to Australian icon Jeff Harding. Andries then recorded a rare feat for a British fighter by winning the title back overseas in a Melbourne rematch. He also managed to win the Brit belt at cruiserweight level in the penultimate year to his retirement aged 41!
4. Len Harvey (117-14-10) Len Harvey Cornish Len Harvey won British titles in three divisions – the middleweight, light-heavyweight and heavyweight divisions – a feat that would be almost unthinkable in today's era. Born in 1907, he is recorded to have started fighting professionally aged 13! By the age of 16 he had fought the 20-round distance, as was the standard back then, and was held to a draw in a British welterweight title bout aged 18 in 1926. He grabbed hold of the light-heavyweight title in 1932 beating Eddie Phillips on points in London. Astonishingly, he held the middleweight, light-heavyweight and heavyweight British belts all in the same year of 1933! I appreciate that both Andries and Woods went on to be champions of the World at 175lbs but Leonard Austen Harvey gets a place above them for his domestic dominance and remarkable record-breaking achievements across three weight divisions.
3. Freddie Mills (77-18-6) Freddie Mills Freddie Mills was one of the most popular British fighters of all time, drawing big crowds at huge venues including White Hart Lane, White City Stadium and Earls Court. Born in Bournemouth, Hampshire, Mills was only 5ft 10" tall and did not have a sophisticated boxing style so he relied on two-fisted aggression, relentless pressure, and the ability to take punishment to carry him through, and in more cases than not, these attributes were sufficient. 'Fearless Freddie' grabbed the British and Commonwealth light-heavy titles with a second round KO over Len Harvey in June 1942 having defeated Jock McAvoy in the first round of their final eliminator meeting four months earlier. Mills excelled as a light-heavyweight boxer, but occasionally fought as a heavyweight. He was described as Britain's biggest boxing idol in the post-war period and was the World light-heavyweight champion from 1948 to 1950. Friends with the Kray Twins, he was found shot dead in his car outside the nightclub that he owned in South London in what was ruled as a suicide. He is clearly rated as one of the best British light-heavyweights of all-time and is even included in people’s lists as one of the best light-heavyweights in the world.
2. Randy Turpin (66-8-1) Randy Turpin Considered by some to be Europe's best middleweight boxer of the 1940s and 1950s, he is most noted for his win over arguably the greatest boxer in history – Sugar Ray Robinson to win the World middleweight title. Turpin was inducted into the International Boxing Hall Of Fame in 2001, he first began his career with a string of 16 wins in a row. In a rematch with Albert Finch, who was the first to inflict a loss on Randolph’s record, he avenged his defeat to win the British middleweight title in October 1950 at Harringay Arena. Turpin became an instant national hero after beating Sugar Ray in London in July 1951. Less than a year later, he grabbed both the British and Commonwealth light-heavyweight titles from Don Cockell, hence the reason he is sitting so high up on my list.
1. John Conteh (34-4-1) John Conteh boxer Born in May 1951, John Conteh was a British light-heavyweight champion who went on to be a World light-heavyweight boxing champion. At 19, he won the middleweight gold medal at the 1970 British Commonwealth Games. In his 20th contest, he beat Chris Finnegan for both his British and Commonwealth light-heavyweight straps to add to his maiden title, the EBU (European) picked up in his previous contest. Conteh established himself as the best in Europe with wins over Chris Finnegan, the German champion Rudiger Schmidtke and Denmark's Tom Bogs. He won the WBC light-heavyweight crown in October 1974 and held the title until 1977 when he was eventually stripped for not going through with a mandated defense. At one time, Conteh was undoubtedly the best light-heavyweight on the planet boasting an impressive four years at the top. According to Conteh, it was Muhammed Ali that persuaded him to fight at 175-pounds as ‘The Greatest’ believed that Conteh was too small to be a heavyweight.
Honourable Mention: Tony Oakey (29-6-1) I loved to watch the hugely popular Tony Oakey from Portsmouth, a former British, Commonwealth and WBU light-heavyweight boxing champion. Also a Prizefighter winner in 2009, Tony began his career with 18 straight victories capturing the Southern Area, Commonwealth and WBU World light-heavyweight titles. He attained the Lonsdale belt in his 26th contest and enjoyed a glittering 12 year career ending in 2010. Remarkably, ‘Oakey Kokey’ has been drawn out of retirement and fights in his hometown of Portsmouth in November this year in an attempt to call out Roy Jones Jr! I really hope that he gets his swansong against the light-heavyweight ring legend.
  To follow Darrel ‘The Baptist’ Church on Twitter click here @Darrel_Church89 Darrel would like to thank his sponsors MB Surfacing and Incredible Pixels and PR Manager, Tim Rickson  

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