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Haye's tall order

WBA WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE: David Haye v Nikolay Valuev
Venue: Nuremberg Arena Date: Saturday, 7 November (Fight expected to begin about 2130 GMT) Coverage: Sky Box Office from 2000 GMT (pay-per-view), coverage on BBC Sport website
Follow BBC Sport's Ben Dirs in Germany on Twitter or read his latest blog

By Ben Dirs

David Haye
Haye is the bookies' favourite to beat Valuev

When David Haye meets Russian giant Nikolay Valuev in Nuremberg on Saturday, he will be bidding to become only Britain's third world heavyweight champion since Bob Fitzsimmons lost his crown to James J Jeffries in 1899.

Only Lennox Lewis and Frank Bruno have managed it in the ensuing 110 years, while many more have tried and failed.

From Tommy Farr to Matt Skelton, BBC Sport looks at the men from these shores to have challenged for boxing's biggest prize.

TOMMY FARR v Joe Louis (New York, 30 August 1937)
Tommy Farr

Louis, who was making the first defence of his world title after knocking out James J Braddock just two months earlier, was expected to make short work of the little-known former miner from Wales.

But the 23-year-old "Tonypandy Terror" was not fazed by the 37,000 crowd at Yankee Stadium, refused to be floored and took Louis 15 rounds before losing a unanimous decision.

Louis made 25 defences of his heavyweight crown, and Farr, who fought on for 13 years, was one of only three challengers to last the distance.

DON COCKELL v Rocky Marciano (San Francisco, 16 May 1955)
Don Cockell

Former blacksmith Cockell, 26, earned his chance by claiming the British and Commonwealth straps and beating previous Marciano opponents Harry "Kid" Matthews (three times) and Roland LaStarza.

The courageous Londoner withstood eight rounds of severe Marciano punishment and hit the deck in the eighth and twice in the ninth before the referee decided he had seen enough.


Marciano, who made only one more defence before retiring undefeated, said after the fight: "He's got a lot of guts. I don't think I ever hit anyone else any more often or harder."

BRIAN LONDON v Floyd Patterson (Indianapolis, 21 May 1959) & Muhammad Ali (London, 6 August 1966)
Brian London

The "Blackpool Rock" secured his first shot, bizarrely, off the back of a points defeat by fellow Brit Henry Cooper for the British and Commonwealth crowns.

London, 24, held a two-stone advantage but was badly outclassed before being knocked out by Patterson, making his fourth defence, in the 11th round.

London became the first British fighter to get two cracks at the world heavyweight crown seven years later when he faced a near-peak Ali and was knocked out in the third round.

HENRY COOPER v Muhammad Ali (London, 21 May 1966)
Henry Cooper

Britain's beloved Cooper floored Ali, then Cassius Clay, in a non-title fight in 1963 before being stopped on cuts in the fifth round, but the rematch was to prove a far more one-sided affair.

Cooper, 31, lasted six rounds against an irresistible Ali before the fight was stopped with blood streaming from a deep gash over the Londoner's left eye.

Cooper went on to dominate at domestic and European level for the next five years before controversially losing his British, European and Commonwealth belts to Joe Bugner in 1971.

JOE BUGNER v Muhammad Ali (Kuala Lumpur, 30 June 1975)
Joe Bugner

Bugner defeated Henry Cooper in 1971 to claim the British, European and Commonwealth crowns and was a fine physical specimen who could hold his own against the very best in a golden era for heavyweight boxing.


He beat notable American heavyweights Chuck Wepner and Jimmy Ellis before losing a 12-round points decision against Ali in 1973, and got his crack at the big time when Ali regained his crown from George Foreman in 1974.

Some gave Bugner a shot against an ageing Ali, but he paid for a lack of aggression and was outpointed by a wide margin over 15 rounds.

RICHARD DUNN v Muhammad Ali (Munich, 24 May 1976)
Richard Dunn

Halifax southpaw Dunn, 31, went into the fight as the British, European and Commonwealth champion but was a cumbersome fighter and several classes below the great Ali.

Dunn started brightly but was sent to the canvas five times before the referee put an end to his humiliation in the fifth round.

Ex-Para Dunn lost his titles to Joe Bugner in his next fight and suffered one more loss before hanging up his gloves in 1977.

FRANK BRUNO v Tim Witherspoon (London, 19 July 1986) & Mike Tyson (Las Vegas, 25 February 1989) & Lennox Lewis (Cardiff, 1 October 1993) & Oliver McCall (London, 2 September 1995)
Frank Bruno

Bruno made four challenges for the world heavyweight crown, his first coming against WBA title-holder Witherspoon, when he was stopped in the 11th round while leading on all three judges' scorecards.

Less than three years later, he managed to wobble the savage Tyson before being stopped in the fifth round, and against fellow Brit Lewis in 1993, he again set the pace before the referee called a halt in the seventh.

To the elation of the British public, he did finally land a world title belt by outpointing WBC title-holder Oliver McCall at Wembley. However, Tyson battered him into submission inside three rounds six months later in what was to be Bruno's last fight.

LENNOX LEWIS, awarded WBC belt in 1992
Lennox Lewis

Lewis won an Olympic gold for Canada in 1988 but most of Britain was glad to claim him as its own when he became the first man from these shores since Fitzsimmons to win a portion of the heavyweight crown in 1992.

However, Lewis, who was born in West Ham, only became the WBC's champion when undisputed champion Riddick Bowe refused to face him and vacated the title.

Lewis lost and regained his title twice (against Oliver McCall and Hasim Rahman) but is generally regarded as the world's last truly great heavyweight champion.

DANNY WILLIAMS v Vitali Klitschko (Las Vegas, 11 December 2004)
Danny Williams

The "Brixton Bomber" sent shockwaves through the world of boxing when he knocked out former heavyweight king Mike Tyson in Louisville, Kentucky in July 2004.

On the back of this performance, the 31-year-old Williams was handed a crack at Klitschko's WBC crown, only for the Ukrainian to bounce Williams off the canvas four times on the way to an eighth-round stoppage.

The enigmatic Williams, a former British and Commonwealth champion, has never been the same fighter since, although he fights on in the hope of a second world-title shot.

MATT SKELTON v Ruslan Chagaev (Dusseldorf, 19 January 2008)
Matt Skelton

Former kickboxer Skelton had his first professional boxing match at the age of 35, but a little over two years later he had claimed the British and Commonwealth heavyweight titles.

Promoter Frank Warren landed him a shot at WBA title-holder Ruslan Chagaev on the back of wins over domestic rivals Danny Williams and Michael Sprott, but the Uzbek had too much class, taking a wide points decision.

Skelton claimed the European crown in his next fight, but has lost his last two contests and, at the age of 42, must be thinking about retirement.

Henry Akinwande (1996-97) and Herbie Hide (1997-98) were both WBO champions, but at a time when the belt was largely ignored by the top fighters of the day.

see also
Haye 'aiming to knock out Valuev'
02 Nov 09 |  Boxing
Haye calms fears over preparation
28 Oct 09 |  Boxing
Russian Valuev slams 'idiot' Haye
20 Oct 09 |  Boxing
Haye taunts 'circus freak' Valuev
12 Oct 09 |  Boxing
Holyfield queries Haye experience
01 Oct 09 |  Boxing
Valuev ends Holyfield title dream
20 Dec 08 |  Boxing
Cooper criticises Haye behaviour
07 May 09 |  Boxing
Q&A: Sir Henry Cooper
27 Oct 08 |  Sports Personality
Bugner slams current heavyweights
14 Mar 08 |  Boxing
Skelton fails in world title bid
19 Jan 08 |  Boxing
Brave Williams falls to Klitschko
12 Dec 04 |  Boxing
Bruno returns to the public eye
04 Nov 03 |  Photo Galleries
Lewis bows out as champion
06 Feb 04 |  Boxing
Lewis retains title
22 Jun 03 |  Boxing
Lewis wins Rumble on the River
09 Jun 02 |  Lewis v Tyson fight
Revenge is sweet for Lewis
18 Nov 01 |  Boxing
7. Tommy Farr
11 Apr 02 |  Boxing

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