AT the time of writing my head is in a daze, my eyes are sore and my fingertips are stained from leafing through, what feels like, every last page of the Boxing News 108-year archives. To say compiling the 100 Greatest British Boxers – which is available to buy now – was a gruelling task is an understatement.
The process has taken several months and began with setting the criteria: any boxer born in Britain was to be considered, as was any boxer eligible to fight for the British title. And after initially deciding to rank active fighters, we quickly realised that including incomplete careers would not only cause the can of worms we were meddling with to open, it would likely explode in our faces.
So, with the rules for potential inclusion set – British-born/eligible to fight for British title AND retired – we sat down to thrash out the order. That lasted around 10 minutes. Tables were launched, windows were smashed and scolding coffee was thrown in the face of one poor devil who dared to suggest that Colin Jones should be ranked higher than Alan Minter. Okay, that didn’t happen but I sensed it might if I allowed the debates, which were quickly spiralling out of control, to continue.
So we decided the best and fairest way was to compile our own individual 100s, which would then take their place in a voting system. The opinions and ratings of several exceptionally experienced writers were included in an effort to ensure no fighter was forgotten nor their efforts understated; writers who, over the years, have helped Boxing News to become the most extensive journal about British boxing on record.
The votes were counted – which took far longer than one might expect (three solid evenings for anyone who is interested) – and the final rankings were compiled. All that was left to do then was to throw some words and photographs on some bits of paper and, hey presto, finished. Well, not quite, but we got there in the end.
What you’ll find in 100 Greatest British Boxers is not a list that can be classed as definitive – after all, any ranking so reliant on opinion can never claim to be. I don’t doubt for one second that the rankings will drive some fans around the twist; I can hear it already, “Boxing News have really lost the plot this time, how can Nigel Benn only be at ranked at number 26?” and on that one, I would have to agree. In fact, there’s plenty here that goes against my own opinions and preferences but, frankly, it would be easier to correctly predict the winning lottery numbers than it would be to provide historical ratings to please everyone. And pleasing everyone was never the point of undertaking this epic task anyway.
What it is supposed to do is celebrate the impossibly brave fighters and personalities who have made British boxing one of the greatest spectacles on earth. Whether ranked at No.1, No.91, or – like the vast majority who gloved up – not ranked at all, Boxing News, as always, salutes every last one of them.