How many British world heavyweight champions have fought at York Hall?
- Credit: PA
The famous old York Hall in Bethnal Green, often described fondly as the “mecca” of British boxing arenas has hosted a number of our British born world heavyweight champions.
West Ham born, Lennox Lewis CM, CBE, who learned all his amateur boxing skills in Canada did not box at the York Hall as an amateur.
He won a gold medal for Canada at super-heavyweight at the 1988 summer Olympics in Seoul.
Earlier, in 1986 Lewis had boxed for Canada at the Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh (Scotland), stopping James Oyebola (England) and Aneurin Evans (Wales) each in two rounds to claim the gold medal.
Two years earlier he boxed at super-heavyweight for Canada against England in an international match in Milton Keynes (England) knocking out Kingston ABC’s Bobby Wells in the third round.
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Wells however was a bronze medallist at super-heavyweight at the summer Olympics in Los Angeles in 1984; Lewis was eliminated there at the quarter-final stage by the eventual gold medallist, America’s Tyrell Biggs.
He boxed once as a professional at the York Hall where he gained a second round stoppage victory over Liverpudlian Noel Quarless in January 1990.
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Lewis went on to win the world heavyweight crown three times, he was twice lineal champion and the last to hold the undisputed world heavyweight title.
A strong contemporary of Lennox Lewis was Frank Bruno MBE, who became the ABA heavyweight champion in 1980 gaining a controversial points victory over three rounds against Welshman, the late Rudi Pika at Wembley Arena in May of that year.
There is no clear evidence however to show- that although along the way he became the London ABA heavyweight champion that he boxed at the York Hall in pursuit of the crown.
Bruno’s victory in the then ABA’s Centenary Year of 1980 saw him become the youngest ABA heavyweight champion.
Bruno did not box professionally at the York Hall, as he was showcased from the outset at London’s prestigious fight venues such as the Royal Albert Hall and Wembley Arena.
He briefly held the WBC heavyweight championship of the world from September 1995 to March 1996 winning it from Oliver McCall and losing it to Mike Tyson.
He has been, of course, a frequent spectator at the York Hall in recent years.
It is a little strange that Bruno and still today one of our most popular homegrown heavyweight champions of the world, often described affectionately a “The People’s Champion” never boxed at the famous old Bethnal Green fight venue of the York Hall.
Norwich based Herbie Hide was born in Nigeria and went on to win the WBO heavyweight title in 1994 from Michael Bentt, losing it in 1995 to Riddick Bowe.
He won back the vacant WBO belt in 1997 against Tony Tucker before losing it to Vitali Klitschko in June 1999.
In his amateur days with Norwich Lads ABC he reached the ABA final as a very inexperienced teenager in 1989 losing on points to Henry Akinwande of the Lynn AC.
Hide did not box as an amateur at the York Hall, but he performed there five times professionally, winning on each occasion at the famous old Bethnal Green fight cockpit. In fact, he started and ended his paid career at the York Hall.
Michael Bentt was born here in East Dulwich, his parents were Jamaican, but he was raised in New York City.
He had a phenomenal amateur record in the USA and later he won the WBO heavyweight championship taking a mere 93 seconds to dethrone the champion the late Tommy Morrison, then lost it to Hide in his first defence and retired from the ring.
Bentt thus was classed as a British world heavyweight champion.
He boxed once professionally at the Royal Albert Hall, winning within a round against an American, James Holley in December 1990.
Like Lennox Lewis, birth right was Bentt’s claim to be a British world heavyweight champion.
Henry Akinwande was born in Dulwich, but spent a number of years in Nigeria before returning to London aged 21 years to box for the famous south London outfit, Lynn AC.
He reached 4 ABA heavyweight finals; losing the first two in 1986 and 1987 and then winning in1988 and 1989, the latter against Herbie Hide as previously mentioned.
He boxed at the York Hall, during the four London ABA championships when striving for the elusive ABA heavyweight titles.
As a professional he boxed once at the York Hall, outpointing Sheffield’s Johnny Nelson over ten rounds in April 1994.
He won the vacant WBO heavyweight championship stopping Jeremy Williams in three rounds in June 1996 in California, later vacating the title to undergo an ill fated challenge for the WBC belt held by Lennox Lewis.
Akinwande was disqualified for persistent holding in round five, it was scheduled for twelve rounds.
Next up on our agenda is “The Haymaker” David Haye from the famous Fitzroy Lodge ABC.
Haye most certainly boxed at the York Hall in his amateur day in the London ABA finals night in 1999 when he dethroned the reigning ABA light-heavyweight champion Repton’s Courtney Fry in under a minute of the opening round.
He won a majority decision over the gigantic Russian, Nikolai Valuev to gain the WBA heavyweight crown in November 2009, losing it by a unanimous decision to Wladimir Klitschko of the Ukraine in July 2011, when also the IBF, WBO IBO and Ring Magazine titles were also on offer.
Haye boxed five times professionally, winning all of them, at the York Hall, debuting there against, Tony Booth who retired at the end of two rounds in December 2002.
Now, to today and the likes of Anthony Joshua and the “Gypsy King” Tyson Fury.
Both men won ABA super-heavyweight crowns at the York Hall venue and also have boxed there as professionals.
Joshua won two ABA super-heavyweight titles, with Finchley ABC, the first of which was at the York Hall in 2010.
He won again in 2011, but not at the York Hall, and a year later was the Olympic gold medallist at that weight.
He has boxed once professionally at the York Hall in November 2013, halting Croatian.
Hrvoje Kisicek in two rounds, it was scheduled for six.
He is currently the two-time unified world heavyweight champion since December 2019- holding WBA, IBF, WBO and IBO belts; which he held previously from 2016-2019.
Manchester’s Tyson Fury also won an ABA super-heavyweight title at the Yok Hall, swamping Repton’s Damien Campbell 19-1 in their final showdown there in 2008.
Fury boxed and won three times at the York Hall as a professional.
The current two-time world heavyweight champion is the WBC and The Ring Magazine and lineal title holder won the WBC and vacant Ring Magazine belts in February 2020 stopping American, Deontay Wilder in seven rounds; having dethroned Ukraine’s Wladimir Klitschko in November 2015 to capture the WBA (Super), iBF, WBO,IBO and Ring Magazine belts.