The five Sheffield fighters who claimed boxing world title glory

Written by Tom Hardwick

Credit: Geograph

Kid Galahad has the opportunity to join the pantheon of Sheffield boxing legends on Saturday 8 May. He is bidding to become the city’s sixth world champion by claiming the vacant IBF Featherweight belt against Jazza Dickens in Texas.

With the prospect of further sporting success for the city, here are the five fighters who have previously represented Sheffield on the global stage and sealed world title glory.

Naseem Hamed: WBO Featherweight title 1995-2000, IBF title 1997, WBC title 1999-2000, IBO title 2002-2003

Credit- Wikimedia Commons

Prince Naseem was a man of spectacle, whose showmanship began before even touching gloves with his opponents. Whether dancing his way to the ring, arriving on a flying carpet or somersaulting over the top rope, Naz was the epitome of cool. His interviews were explosive and entertaining in equal measure – he would promise opponents that he was going to ‘knock them spark out’, and almost always stayed true to his word.

There was a danger that his antics might overshadow his ability, but Naz was also an incredibly talented boxer, coming out of the famous Ingle Gym in Wincobank. He possessed frightening speed, often ducking and dodging punches with his arms by his side, as though he had not a care in the world. His agility did not come at the expense of power – the southpaw’s left hand was arguably the most dangerous in the featherweight division, something to which his KO percentage of 83.78% can attest.

Naz’s cultural impact cannot be understated. While his outlandish persona may have riled boxing purists, he was at the forefront of an emerging, exciting generation of British boxers. Alongside the likes of Chris Eubank and Nigel Benn, he captured the public’s imagination, captivating them with his performances and ensuring the sport’s popularity did not wane.

Kell Brook: IBF Welterweight 2014-2017

Kell Brook is the most recent world champion to have emerged from the Steel City. Another fighter who cut his teeth in the Ingle Gym, Brook stormed his way through the Welterweight division before winning the IBF title against Shawn Porter in 2014.

That performance was one of Brook’s defining moments – heading into the lion’s den to face the undefeated American in California, Brook executed his gameplan to perfection, with his solid defensive work nullifying Porter’s aggressive approach. Having been written off by most, Brook won the belt by majority decision, sealing one of the greatest boxing upsets and writing his name into Sheffield sporting folklore.

Indeed, Brook’s refusal to shy away from big fights may well have been his downfall. After climbing two weight categories to face Gennady Golovkin in 2016, Brook suffered a broken eye socket, which saw his corner throw in the towel in the fifth round. Brook struggled recover from the injury, the recurrence of which saw him lose his IBF title to Errol Spence Jr in a hard-fought clash at Bramall Lane.

After his defeat by Terence Crawford in a WBO Welterweight title bout last November, Brook’s future looks uncertain. However, even if he fails to secure another world championship, his bravery in the ring has sealed his status as one of the greatest boxers Sheffield has produced.

Johnny Nelson: WBO Cruiserweight title 1999-2005

Credit: Photographer695 (Flickr)

Another product of the Ingle Gym, Johnny Nelson dominated the cruiserweight division in the early 2000’s. He still holds the world record for the longest reign as cruiserweight champion, defending his title a remarkable 13 times over 7 years.

After an insipid showing against James Warring in 1992, which saw Nelson miss out on the IBF title courtesy of a unanimous decision, it seemed as though he had missed his opportunity for glory. By 1996, after enduring six losses in his following ten fights, which took place over five continents, the rot certainly appeared to have set in.

It is testament to his mental fortitude that Nelson came back swinging. He never lost again in his career, earning the British and European Cruiserweight titles before securing another title bout against Carl Thompson for the WBO title. He produced a composed performance to win by TKO in the fifth round, finally claiming the title that looked likely to allude him.

After winning the belt, he resolved never to relinquish it until retiring in 2006. While critics might argue that he should have attempted to unify the division, he remains one of Sheffield’s most successful champions, and his place in the history books is assured.

Clinton Woods: IBF Light-Heavyweight title from 2005-2008

Clinton Woods burst onto the scene as a super-middleweight, winning a Commonwealth title at this weight before moving up to light-heavyweight.

He won the British, Commonwealth and European titles with an eighth-round TKO of Crawford Ashley in 1999, before embarking on a run of ten consecutive wins, which culminated in a colossal bout against boxing superstar and unified light-heavyweight champion Roy Jones Jr. Woods lost the bout in the sixth round as his corner threw in the towel, but as is so often the case with Sheffield fighters, this hurdle was not to define his career.

His magnum opus was his 2005 clash with Rico Hoye, with the vacant IBF title on the line. A thrilling encounter in which both fighters traded heavy blows, Woods stunned his opponent with a savage flurry of punches in the fifth round before winning via TKO.

After this magnificent performance, Woods defended his championship four times before losing the belt to Antonio Tarver. Despite losing his final fight in 2009 in the effort to reclaim his title, Woods ended his time in the sport having written another important chapter of Sheffield’s boxing history.

Paul Jones: WBO Light-Middleweight title 1995-1996

Jones is perhaps one of the less well-known champions to have learnt his trade between the seven hills of Sheffield.

‘Silky’ fought his way into contention for the WBO title with an impressive five-fight winning streak, which included a brutal KO of Damien Denney which saw him win the WBO ‘KO of the Year’ for 1995.

With a title shot secured, he faced off against Belize’s Verno Phillips for the WBO Light-Middleweight belt at Hillsborough Leisure Centre. Despite coming in as the underdog, Jones produced a measured performance against the much-fancied champion, winning the bout by majority decision.

Jones was stripped of the belt in 1996 after withdrawing from a bout against number one contender Bronco McKarton, and never reclaimed his title. Despite his victory over Phillips, Jones was never actually awarded a belt by the WBO- a Twitter campaign in 2014 with the hashtag #GetSilkyHisBelt ensured that a Sheffield boxing legend was finally able to wear the belt he won 19 years before.

 

 

Written by Tom Hardwick

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