In world boxing, both America and Britain stand at the top of the pile when it comes to homegrown world champions. To this day, nothing quite catches the publics attention like a battle between the two nations. For a fighter, nothing can feel better than winning a world title, but, traveling over the pond and taking it from your opponent’s backyard must be the cherry on top.
So, honouring those select few who went to America and silenced the thousand, here are the British fighters who traveled to America as the challenger and returned home as the champion:
Kell Brook vs Shawn Porter
For Kell Brook, it had been a long 10-year wait before ‘The Special One’ managed to get his first shot at a world title.
Coming off the back of 32 straight victories as a professional, Brook looked set to face the former IBF welterweight champion Devon Alexander, but three different injuries problems led to his title shot being delayed.
So, after Alexander dropped the belt to the unbeaten American star, Shawn Porter, Brook finally signed up for his defining fight and was even willing to travel to California for his opportunity.
Entering the fight, Brook was widely considered to be the underdog, Brook had never really been tested against an elite level fighter and people felt Porter’s all-action style would be too much for Kell to handle.
His dream of being a world champion was not helped by an early cut above his left eye, but, Brook only grew in confidence as the fight went on and he began to find his jab and his rhythm. By the end, Porter was blooded and despite throwing 200 more punches, he landed less than the man from Sheffield.
In the end, and even with the fight taking place in Porter’s backyard, Brook came away with a majority decision and was crowned the new IBF welterweight king.
James DeGale vs Andre Dirrell
In 2015, James DeGale was looking to write his own piece of personal history, he was looking to become the first British Olympic gold medalist to become a world champion.
Stood in DeGale’s way was American Andre Dirrell, a slick fighter who’s only blemish on his record came against fellow Brit, Carl Froch.
On fight night, DeGale might not have had the same level of speed or athleticism to match Dirrell, but, ‘Chunky’ had the more powerful pair of hands. After dropping his American opponent twice in the second round, Dirrell was always fighting an uphill battle.
Despite the fact that DeGale looked to be exhausted for the final few rounds, the London born fighter managed to survive a late onslaught and came away with a unanimous points division.
In doing so, DeGale claimed the IBF super-middleweight title and became our first gold medalist and world champion.
— NBC Olympics (@NBCOlympics) May 23, 2015
Joe Calzaghe vs Bernard Hopkins
I know, I know, technically, Joe Calzaghe didn’t win a world title after defeating Bernard Hopkins, but, he did walk away with The Ring Magazine light-heavyweight title and that’s good enough to get him on our list!
As for the fight, Calzaghe was in the final chapter of his illustrious career and ‘The Pride of Wales’ wasn’t only making his debut on U.S. soil, it was also the first time he had ever stepped up to light-heavyweight. To add to the pressure, Calzaghe was facing off with Bernard Hopkins’ a man who had dominated that division over the past decade.
To start with, the step up looked like it might have been a mistake by the Welshman. Hopkins, who was 43 at the time, managed to drop his younger opponent in the opening round.
But, in typical Calzaghe style, he bounced back and dragged Hopkins into a scrappy contest. With the referee having to intervene almost every minute, he opted not to deduct either fighter any points and instead, Calzaghe’s overwhelming work rate managed to see him get the victory and announce himself in America.
— Boxing Trivia Guy (@BoxingTriviaGuy) April 19, 2017
Ricky Hatton vs Luis Collazo
Even to this day, no fighter has quite enjoyed such an international following more than Ricky Hatton did in his heyday.
In 2006, Ricky Hatton had already been crowned as a light-welterweight world champion before making the step up to face off with current WBA welterweight king, Luis Collazo. This was not only Hatton’s first time stepping up to 147, but, it was also his first showing on American soil.
It looked like it was going to be a walk in the park for City’s favourite son, Hatton managed to drop the champion within seconds of the opening bell. Sadly Hatton didn’t manage to capitalise and it quickly began to look like the extra weight was taking its toll on Hatton, in the later rounds, the fresher Collazo began to gather some momentum.
Despite the resilient comeback, it wasn’t enough to get the nod over the hard working Hatton who clinched a unanimous decision by all three judges.
It turned out to be just a quick visit to the welterweight division tho, immediately after the fight, Hatton quickly moved back down to his natural light-welterweight.
— Terry Dooley (@Terryboxing) May 4, 2014
Nigel Benn vs Doug DeWitt
Coming off the back of his first professional defeat and simultaneously dropping his Commonwealth middleweight title, ‘The Dark Destroyer’ made the bold decision to build his career back up in America.
After three wins on the bounce, Benn was back fighting for a major title, this time, he would be facing off against the current WBO champion Doug DeWitt in Atlantic City. Prior to the fight, most boxing analysts in the States felt that this was a relatively straightforward title defence for DeWitt, who had picked the belt up over a year before.
It looked like the analysts were right as well, DeWitt managed to drop Benn in only the second round and it was a question of if Benn could bounce back? He did, only a round later, Benn repaid the shot and sent the champion down to the canvas.
As the fight wore on, Benn managed to drop the New York fighter three more times in the eighth, before the referee had seen enough and called a halt to the bout.
On this Day 1990, Nigel Benn won the WBO Middleweight title after 3 knockdowns in R8 ends the contest vs Doug DeWitt pic.twitter.com/PBZxbw7M1n
— KO Kings (@KOKINGS4) April 29, 2016
Lennox Lewis vs Tony Tucker
In 1993, fighting in Vegas wasn’t a problem for Lennox Lewis, despite only being 26, Lewis had already spent several years fighting in America and Canada.
Coming into the contest, Lewis was 22-0 and had just defeated Donovan Ruddock to earn the title of the WBC’s number one contender. As for Tucker, he himself was a former IBF champion who had managed to catch the publics attention as he was able to go the distance with ‘Iron’ Mike Tyson.
As for this fight, Tucker managed to do what he done with Tyson, he managed to survive to hear the final bell. Despite some late combinations from the American, Lewis stuck to his game plan and dropped Tucker twice, something no fighter had done before.
In the end, ‘The Lion’ had managed to clinch his first world title in emphatic style as the scorecards read, 118-111, 117-111 and 116-112.
Lloyd Honeyghan vs Don Curry
In 1986, Lloyd Honeyghan was one of British boxing’s best welterweights, he was a British, Commonwealth and European champion. Despite his accolades, very few thought he stood much of a chance when he traveled to Atlantic City to take on Don Curry.
The American stars record stood at 25-0 and he was the unified welterweight champion, holding the IBF, WBA and WBC titles. The fight for Curry should have just been a routine defence as he prepared for a big-money fight with the great Marvin Hagler.
After Curry picked up a cut above his left eye, the Brit began to mount the pressure, in the seventh round, Curry who appeared to be battered and bruised retired in his corner and Honeyghan was crowned the unified welterweight champion.