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Top 10 British Super-Middleweights (Part 1)

Robin Reid takes the #6 spot on Dave Oakes' British 168lb countdown.
Robin Reid takes the #6 spot on Dave Oakes' British 168lb countdown.
Dean Mouhtaropoulos

With Carl Froch looking to add another significant victory to his already impressive ledger on Saturday, it's a good time to take a look at where the Nottingham fighter ranks among Britain's greatest Super-Middleweights.

10. Murray Sutherland 48-14-1 (KO 40)

The Scottish born banger was based in Michigan for his entire career and never fought in Britain. Having fought at light-heavyweight giving size away, and then at middleweight struggling to make weight, he fitted the super-middleweight division perfectly when it was introduced in 1984.

Having fought and lost against the likes of Matthew Saad Muhammed, Tommy Hearns and Michael Spinks twice, Sutherland finally had his night of triumph against Ernie Singletary. Fighting for the IBF title in the newly created division, he outmanned Singletary over fifteen hard fought rounds to win via a unanimous decision.

He lost the title in his first defence, being knocked out by Chong-Pal Park in the eleventh round of their battle in South Korea. Sutherland fought on for another couple of years, producing more highlight reel knockouts before defeats to Bobby Czyz and Lindell Holmes brought his career to an end.

Sutherland is often forgotten by British fans, mainly due to him never fighting there, but he is well worth checking out on youtube or via other means. He wasn’t what you’d call dull; he was a come-forward fighter who had pulverising power in both hands. Whilst he only held the IBF belt for a short period, his willingness to trade blows and his never quit attitude means he makes this top ten with ease.

9. Brian Magee 36-5-1 (KO 25)

The Belfast southpaw has had many ups and downs in his career, he’s well skilled, hits hard enough to gain an opponents respect but doesn’t possess the best of chins. He went unbeaten in his first twenty-two fights, beating decent second tier fighters like Andre Thysse and Miguel Jimenez.

The first signs of a weakness around the whiskers came when he was dropped by Jerry Elliot in his twenty-second bout. Confirmation came in his next bout when he was dropped four times by Robin Reid on his way to a points defeat. Magee got to his feet every time he hit the canvas and has tried to do so all the way through his career, showing he’s never been short of heart.

He lost in a European title tilt in 2005, being on the wrong side of a highly debateable split-decision against Vitaliy Tsypko. Magee seemed to have won the fight comfortably but the decision went to the hometown fighter. A year later he faced Carl Froch for the British and Commonwealth titles. Magee was down early but rallied to have some success in the middle rounds. The pressure Froch was putting Magee under started to have an affect as the fight wore on and the Irishman went down again in the ninth. Froch battered Magee all over the ring in the tenth before finding a tremendous right uppercut in the eleventh that left Magee face first on the canvas and on the end of the first knockout defeat of his career.

A year later he drew with Tony Oakey in his first shot at the British title, before stopping Steve McGuire in the eighth round in his second attempt at the title in 2008. He won the European title just over twelve months later, stopping Mads Larsen in the seventh round. His performance against Larsen is probably the best of his career; he was near enough punch perfect, repeatedly dropping Larsen with some vicious body punching.

After making one defence of the European belt, Magee travelled to Canada to take on Lucien Bute for the IBF title. Bute was in control from the start, dropping Magee three times, the final knockdown in the tenth prompting the referee to intervene. It was the fourth defeat Magee had suffered yet he wasn’t to be deterred and returned to the ring four months later to claim the interim WBA title, beating Jaime Barboza on points in Cost Rica.

He defeated Rudy Markussen in five rounds to retain his title, once again fighting on foreign soil, something which he’s done numerous times throughout his career. His last bout was in December last year when he was demolished by Mikkel Kessler in three rounds, being dropped several times by body shots.

Magee may not go down as one of the greatest boxers of all-time but he does deserve enormous credit for the way he’s conducted himself throughout his career. He’s never avoided anyone, has fought in his opponent’s backyard in most of his big fights, took his defeats like a man and has successfully rebuilt after each of those losses.

8. Glenn Catley 29-7 (KO 22)

Catley had a huge following in Bristol and, along with Chris Sanigar, helped revive boxing in the area. On his day he was a top class boxer, he was incredibly fit and could hit hard despite not being the biggest super-middle around.

After suffering a shock stoppage loss against Carlo Colarusso in his eighth bout, he rebounded with a succession of knockout victories, his potent left hook being the cause of many of them. Another shock stoppage defeat against Andras Galfi raised questions about his punch resistance, he wasn’t perturbed though and never fought like a fighter worried about his chin.

He won the British middleweight title against Neville Brown in 1998 and then moved up to face Richie Woodhall for the WBC title later that year. Woodhall edged him on points, although it was a very close fight.

The following year saw Catley produce a stunning last round stoppage of Eric Lucas in Canada. The win earned him a shot at Markus Beyer’s WBC title. The fight was still up for grabs going into the twelfth and final round, Catley, sensing he wouldn’t get any favours fighting away from home again, produced another remarkable stoppage to claim the title.

He lost the title in his first defence in somewhat controversial circumstances. He went over to South Africa to face Dingaan Thobela and was dominating the fight before beginning to tire badly from the ninth round onwards, which was something no-one was expecting given Catley’s reputation for fitness and stamina.

Thobela, a former lightweight world champion, was a very decent boxer but hardly what you’d call a puncher at super-middleweight. It was a shock when he started to hurt Catley late in the fight, eventually stopping the Bristolian in the final round. After the fight Catley complained that Thobela’s fists felt unnaturally hard when he connected with a punch. There was an investigation into the matter, the WBC finding no evidence of loaded gloves, although the investigation was weak at best and Catley still maintains Thobela had an unfair advantage.

Catley lost his next fight to his old foe Eric Lucas, getting stopped in the seventh round. He followed that defeat with a contentious majority points loss to Danilo Haussler for the European title. Catley dropped Haussler in the eighth round and seemed to have controlled the bulk of the fight, yet the judges saw it differently.

The pair met in a rematch a year later, Catley was dropped in the first round and was losing the fight when it was stopped in the fifth due to Haussler sustaining cut damage by his right eye. Catley lost via a technical decision and didn’t box at world level again, retiring in 2003 before making the briefest of comebacks in 2006.

7. Henry Wharton 27-3-1 (KO 20)

Along with Michael Brodie, Michael Watson and Herol Graham, Wharton is one of the British boxers who can consider himself unfortunate not to win a world title. He fought for a world title three times, all against top quality opposition.

Having turned pro in 1989, it took less than two years for him to win the Commonwealth title, beating Rod Carr on points after a close fought bout. He successfully defended the belt three times, adding the British title in the third defence against Fidel Castro Smith.

The first of Wharton’s three world title fights came in 1994 when he took on Nigel Benn for the WBC belt. Benn, wary of Wharton’s power, especially his big left hook, boxed in a far more controlled manner than usual. Despite a gallant effort, Wharton lost on points, the plus side was that he’d impressed enough to secure a shot at Chris Eubank’s WBO belt late the same year.

His bout with Eubank was similar to the Benn fight - Wharton was always competitive but was being outboxed for the majority of the rounds. Once again Wharton lost on points, and once again his reputation hadn’t been in any way diminished.

Wharton claimed the European title in his first bout following the Eubank defeat, his trademark left hook levelling Mauro Galvano in the fourth round. He defended the title twice, knocking out Sam Storey and stopping Vincenzo Nardiello. He regained the Commonwealth title towards the back end of 1996, hammering future world title challenger and Joe Calzaghe victim Rick Thornberry in five rounds.

The way he demolished Thornberry, along with his decent performances in his two previous world title shots, earned him the chance to take on Robin Reid for the WBC title. It wasn’t a case of third time lucky for Wharton, Reid outboxed him and despite it being a majority decision, it was clear Wharton had lost quite widely.

It’s fair to say that Wharton was somewhat limited, he was a very tough fighter, one who could land a knockout punch at any moment, but he could only fight one way. He could’ve won a world title if he’d faced one of the weaker champions of that era, alas, he was never lucky enough to meet one of them. He had two more fights after the Reid defeat, and despite winning them both, it was clear the fire had gone out and he called it a day.

He finished with a solid record. He was never beaten in a domestic title fight and could say that he’d only been beaten by top class boxers in their prime. He recently opened up his own gym in York and is keen to pass on his experience and knowledge to the town’s youngsters.

6. Robin Reid 42-8-1 (KO 29)

Having won a bronze medal at the 1992 Olympics, much was expected of Reid when he turned pro. He raced towards a world title, bypassing domestic titles to secure a shot at the WBC champion Vincenzo Nardiello. Reid had to travel to Italy for his shot and was a big underdog against the hometown fighter. The fight was evenly poised after four rounds, Reid then picked up the pace and started to put the occasionally fragile Nardiello under serious pressure. The pressure worked as Nardiello went into his shell and was eventually pummelled to submission in the seventh round.

Reid produced a masterful performance in the second defence of his title, outboxing and out pointing the teak tough and far more experienced Henry Wharton over twelve rounds. Wharton, who had only lost to Eubank and Benn previously, asked questions of Reid that hadn’t been asked before. Reid answered them all – his chin stood up to Wharton’s heavy punches, he stood toe-to-toe when he had to and he fought at a good pace for the full twelve rounds.

Pundits and fans were raving about Reid after the Wharton performance, the general consensus being that Britain had got a major world star on its hands. That talk may have affected Reid, who turned in two awful performances, firstly scraping a close but deserved decision against Hacine Cherifi, followed by him losing his title to Thulani Malinga with an incredibly insipid performance. Whether it was a case of Reid taking his eye of the ball or not being as good as everyone believed he was, who knows?

I’m inclined to think that Reid became complacent, especially considering the performance he put in against Calzaghe barely twelve months later. It could be argued that Reid gave Calzaghe the hardest fight of his career, losing on a split decision that still rankles with Reid, although, it must be said that the majority of fans had the Welshman winning.

Reid, clearly disheartened by the loss, put in another insipid performance against Silvio Branco in his next fight and lost widely on the cards, which pretty much scuppered any chance of a quick rematch with Calzaghe. Reid trod water for the best part of five years afterwards, beating numerous substandard opponents before challenging Sven Ottke for the German’s IBF title in 2003.

Everyone knew Reid was going to be up against it fighting Ottke in Germany. Ottke was the biggest boxing star Germany had had for years and seemed to be the recipient of some very favourable officiating on numerous occasions. Even then, Reid wouldn’t have been expecting to get treated as badly as he did. He was given repeated warnings for nonexistent low blows, had a perfectly good knockdown ruled as a slip and was even threatened with a point deduction for having the temerity to land a punch.

In the end, Reid spent the last four rounds hardly throwing a punch for fear of being disqualified or suffering points deductions. He went on to lose the fight on the cards, two of which were close, the third being disgracefully wide in Ottke’s favour.

Whilst Reid is still boxing, he’s been on a downward slope since the Ottke defeat and is a shadow of the fighter he once was. He’s been beaten four times in his last eight bouts, three of those by stoppage, most notably in another world title shot against Jeff Lacy and against the then emerging Carl Froch for the British title.

e-mail Dave Oakes

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