Boxing fans love nothing better than a good list to sink their collective gum shields into, a juicy top 10 to dissect and debate in order to study a boxer’s internal and external merits. Here’s one that might wet the appetite.
Debate, it’s almost a fundamental part of a boxing fan’s psyche.
In light of the fact that European fighters are blazing a trail across the boxing landscape at the moment, and at the expense of the more traditionally dominant power brokers of the sweet science like America and Mexico, European boxing is in great shape at the moment with current world champions, contenders, and many future prospects waiting in the wings.
With that in mind, I would like to pay respect and pay homage to some of the European greats of the past. Here’s my top 10 European boxers of all time:
#10 Ken Buchanan 61-8-27KOs (Scotland)
The tough as teak man from Edinburgh captured the WBA lightweight title with a 15-round split decision victory over Ismael Laguna in September 1970 in Puerto Rico, in scorching temperatures.
Buchanan then added the WBC lightweight title to his WBA belt with a 15-round unanimous decision victory over Ruben Navarro in 1971.
The always brave Buchanan then lost his WBA lightweight title when he was stopped by Roberto Duran in thirteen rounds in 1972. Buchanan was never really the same fighter after his loss to Duran .
A real life brave heart .
#9 Laszslo Papp 27-0-2-15KOs (Hungary)
Laszlo was a Hungarian boxer born in Budapest. He turned professional in 1957 and immediately began stamping his authority on the European Middleweight ranks.
Unfortunately, Hungary was a communist country at the time and professional boxing was not tolerated and this in time would prove fatal for Papp’s aspersions of becoming a world champion.
Papp was undefeated in the ring. So taking into account, both his short professional and glorious amateur career, I have to include him really.
Papp won Olympic gold three times – middleweight in London 1948, light-middleweight in Helsinki 1952 and Melbourne in 1956.
A fighter who truly had the potential to be an all time great and should of had the chance too, only for politics to get in the way.
#8 Finbar Patrick McGuigan 32-3-28KOs (Ireland)
The “Clones Cyclone” named after his native town of Clones in County Monaghan, Ireland. He was at one time WBA featherweight world champion.
McGuigan was a fan favourite on both sides of the religious and political divide in Ireland. His neutrality and boxing skills united both communities in a troubled time.
His crowning glory as a fighter came against the long reigning WBA featherweight champion at the time, the formidable Eusebio Pedroza of Panama.
McGuigan was more than a boxer to the peoples of the island of Ireland in truth, he was a bridge over troubled waters in a boxing sense.
#7 Marcel Cerdan 113-4-66KOs (France)
Cerdan considered by many to be not only France’s greatest boxer but an ever present on any top 10 list of great European boxers.
The sport of boxing was sadly denied his special talents due to the tragic circumstances of October 1949, when a French boxing masterpiece of a career, never got a chance to be finished.
#6 Benny Lynch 88-14-17-34KOs (Scotland)
Benny Lynch was a student of the hard streets of the Gorbals area in Glasgow, a boxer who fought in the flyweight division.
He is considered by some to be one of the finest boxers in this division in any era, and is arguably the greatest fighter that Scotland has ever produced.
Nat Fleischer of Ring Magazine rated Lynch as the No. 5 flyweight of all-time, and Ring Magazine placed Lynch 63rd in it’s 2002 list of the “Best Fighters of the Last 80 Years”.
Lynch cemented his claim to greatness when he out-pointed Small Montana in London in 1936 and established himself as the undisputed world flyweight boxing champion. A true flower of Scotland.
#5 Joe Calzaghe 46-0-32KOs (Wales)
Joe was actually born in Hammersmith, London but is a fiercely proud Welshman.
Calzaghe holds the record for the longest-reign as champion in the super middleweight division, holding the WBO super middleweight title for a staggering ten years and had 21 successful title defenses.
Roy Jones jr , Mikkel Kessler Bernard Hopkins, Jeff Lacy and 42 others entered the dragons den – but none could slay this welsh dragon and he remanded undefeated throughout his professional campaign.
#4 Rinty Monteghan 52-9-8-19KOs (Ireland)
John Joseph “Rinty” Monaghan was a world flyweight champion from Belfast.
The boy from Belfast had it all British, European, Commonwealth and undisputed world championship titles to his name.
In 1947, the NBA world crown was secured by outpointing the American, Dado Marino for the vacant title.
“Rinty” would sometimes celebrate a victory by singing “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling”, you couldn’t help but smile when watching this Belfast boy.
#3 Lennox Lewis 41-2-1-32KOs (England)
Lennox was undisputed world heavyweight champion during the peak of his powers.
With dual British and Canadian citizenship, as an amateur in 1988 he won gold representing Canada at the Olympic Games.
Lewis is regarded as an all time heavyweight great, having beaten the best heavyweights of his era like Riddick Bowe, Shannon Briggs, Evander Holyfield, Mike Tyson and Vitali Klitschko.
Many tried to tame this lion and only two succeeded – but both where to to be savaged in their return bouts with Lewis.
#2 Jimmy McLarnin 54-11-3-21KOs (Ireland)
A legendary Irish fighter. McLarnin actually lost his first title shot in 1928 against then world lightweight champion Sammy Mandell in nNw York.
McLarnin’s second title shot was against welterweight champion Young Corbett III. In a surprisingly easy fight McLarnin won by knockout.
McLarnin is probably best remembered for his epic trilogy against fellow great Barney Ross and his last two fights against all-time greats Tony Canzoneriand and Lou Ambers.
This Celt certainly was capable of delivering an Irish Lullaby in the ring.
#1 Jimmy Wilde 139-4-1-5 no contest’s 99KOs (Wales)
At 5 feet 2 inches tall, Wilde was a small man (his weight never exceeding 8 stone in his career) but they didn’t call him the “The Mighty Atom” for nothing.
With courage in spades, blurring hand speed and a truly devastating punch, it’s not hard to see why he was also called “Ghost with the Hammer in his Hand”.
On the 18th of December 1916, Wilde was recognised as the first Flyweight world Champion (his IBU title was only recognised in Europe) by beating Giuseppe Di Melfi in the eleventh round.
In 2014, Jimmy Wilde was voted the Greatest bantamweight ever, an honour bestowed on him by The HBHOF (Houston Boxing Hall Of Fame) – an organisation composed of current and former boxer’s.
“The Mighty Atom” proved the old saying “size doesn’t matter” to be true, time and time again.
(Note: This article is dedicated to the loving memory of Eamonn O’Connor)
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