When one is trying to decide on any sort of list regarding the greatest from a certain era, in a particular weight class of all time, pound for pound, from a certain place, whatever it might be, I think you have to think very long and hard when your talking about the top guys. You've got to factor in things like record, opponents faced, adversity outside the ring overcome, quality of performances, longevity of career, to name but a few.
As an Irishman I grew up watching some of the big fights on TV from just across the water in the UK during the era of Prince Naseem, Lennox Lewis, Nigel Benn, Chris Eubank, Ricky Hatton and a certain Welshman called Joe Calzaghe. It's warriors like them that in essence started my love of boxing (along with Mike Tyson and Steve Collins) and so when trying to figure out in my own mind who I feel is the best ever from the UK, perhaps I lean more towards these guys as they were from when I grew up myself.
Of course, over the years you've had many other legendary champions from the UK including names like Henry Cooper, Jon Conte, Llyod Honeyghan, Ken Buchannon, Jim Watt, Duke McKenzie, Barry McGuigan, Ted "Kid" Lewis, to name just a few of the great Brits For me though, one man stands out among the list as a guy who achieved something that no one else ever did in the UK and that was to go through an entire career undefeated, reign supreme in his division, overcome countless injuries and then at the end of his career travel to America to defeat both Roy Jones and Bernard Hopkins.
The man I'm referring to of course is Joe Calzaghe.
A close second for me would be Lennox Lewis and third probably Ted "Kid" Lewis. I just feel that Joe dealt with every style ever put in front of him and had that unique ability like all the greats in the all time list globally did, which is the ability to adapt and switch things up when needed. He also had the ability to get up off the floor when put down by a shot, keep his cool and carry on like nothing ever happened. This is a very rare trait that you see in the great fighters and it just makes a guy very difficult to beat.
His career had tremendous longevity to it, racking up a record number of WBO super middleweight title defenses over a period that stretched a remarkable decade. Stylistically the guy had lighting fast combinations, great footwork, a lovely jab when he wanted to use it and above all, an unmatchable work rate that often saw him throw over 1000 punches per fight. This pace was simply too hard to keep with for most guys who he overwhelmed with, along with his stamina and dazzling speed.
In the beginning of his career he packed quite the punch too but after suffering so many injuries to his hands he began to adapt a new style later in his career that saw him use more combinations and less power. That adaptability again shows what he was prepared to change in order to become the best. For me, it will be hard pressed to see another British fighter go 46-0 and retire at the top of his game. Joe Calazaghe, a legend of boxing who will never be forgotten - certainly no average Joe.