England versus the USA is the oldest rivalry in prizefighting history and this Saturday at Manchester Arena the Limey’s renew acquaintance with their star spangled cousins in two world title spats. Manchester’s Terry Flanagan defends his world title against tough yank Diego Magdaleno whilst Liverpool’s Liam Smith gets his shot at gold against another, American John Thompson.
BoxNation celebrates five occasions when our lads came out on top.
1. Randolph Turpin (v Sugar Ray Robinson)
Harlem based Sugar Ray Robinson had lost just once in 216 fights (amateur and pro combined) when he landed at London’s Earl’s Court to defend his world middleweight title in July 1951.
But the 23-year-old ‘Leamington Licker’ was completely unfazed by his daunting reputation. While Robinson – embarking on a European tour to celebrate his talent – became a little too fond of Parisian nightspots, the unassuming Midlander had beasted himself into brutal fighting fettle at Gwyrch Castle, north Wales.
When battle commenced, the 18,000 sell out witnessed the relentless Turpin outhustle ‘the greatest ever’ in a gruelling 15 rounder to become England’s first world middleweight champion since Bob Fitzsimmons 60 years earlier.
2. Lloyd Honeyghan (v Donald Curry)
Twenty-five year old Texan Donald Curry was not only the undisputed world welterweight king but widely considered the sport’s leading pound-for-pound operator when he defended against Bermondsey’s ‘Ragamuffin Man’ at an Atlantic City casino in September 1986.
‘The Lone Star Cobra’ had successfully retained his belt on seven occasions but master matchmaker Mickey Duff correctly deduced that Curry was losing his battle to make 147lbs.
Honeyghan ravaged the weight-weakened champ like a Rottweiler and, after six one-sided rounds, Camp Curry raised the white flag.
3) Frank Bruno (v Oliver McCall)
The national sporting treasure’s three prior attempts at bagging the world heavyweight title had all been scuppered by emphatic stoppage defeats to Messrs Witherspoon, Tyson and Lewis.
And the big-hitting but board stiff south Londoner was given scant chance of upsetting iron-chinned Lennox conqueror Oliver McCall when 35,000 patriots assembled at Wembley Stadium in September 1995.
But big Frank jabbed and grabbed his way to an unassailable early lead against an inexplicably sedate ‘Atomic Bull’ then clung like a leech down the home straight to collect only the second points win of his 40-5 career.
Que Elgar, showers of red, white and blue confetti and tears all round, ‘know what I mean’?!
4) Lennox Lewis (v Mike Tyson)
These former teenage spar mates were both well into their mid-30s when they finally squared off for real in June 2002 at The Pyramid, Memphis for the highest grossing fight, up to that point.
During a fraught build-up, Tyson threatened to eat Lewis’ (as yet unborn!) children then sank his gnashers into ‘The Lion’s’ thigh at a chaotic presser.
But once a ring and gloves brought some civility to their beef, the West Ham born Lewis proved the clear master, beating ‘Iron Mike’s’ face to a pulp with his ramming jab then flattening him for the full ten with booming right hands in round eight.
5) Joe Calzaghe (v Jeff Lacy)
The Newbridge southpaw was unbeaten in 40 and had reigned for eight years on the WBO Super-Middle throne yet, despite home court at Manchester’s MEN Arena, was still considered an underdog against Florida’s IBF king Jeff Lacy.
The 28-year-old Yank was himself undefeated in 21 and touted by the US press as a mini Mike Tyson, but the man dubbed ‘Left Hook’ Lacy proved a one-trick pony.
London-born Calzaghe was punch perfect and – bar a point deduction for gratuitous showboating in round eleven – pitched a shut-out in a fight screened live on ITV in the UK and on Showtime in the US.