Third and final instalment looking at World Champions produced in Wales.
Thanks again to topclassboxing.co.uk for allowing me to republish these pieces which I originally did with them.
At the end of this piece, I will also pick my top 5 World Champions produced in Wales based on my knowledge and research amongst respected boxing historians.
Please join me in looking at the last 4 Welsh World Champions Wales has produced to date.
Enzo Maccarinelli – World Cruiserweight Champion, 2006 to 2008.
Enzo Maccarinelli was born in Swansea and started off his professional career in 1999. “Big Mac” as was nicknamed, in 2003 won the WBU Cruiserweight title stopping Bruce Scott, he defended this title a few times before vacating looking for a more widely recognised title. In 2006 he stopped Marcelo Fabian Dominguez winning the interim WBO Cruiserweight World Title. The plan was then for him to fight Johnny Nelson for the full title, however after the bout was postponed due to injuries, Nelson retired relinquishing the belt, thrusting Maccarinelli into the status as WBO Cruiserweight World Champion.
Maccarinelli defended the title 4 times before coming up against and losing the title to David Haye who stopped Maccarinelli in the second round.
Enzo stepped up to Heavyweight for a fight which he won, Haye then relinquished the World Title to move up to Heavyweight to fight for and win a World Title, Maccarinelli took on Ola Afolabi for the interim title, Maccarinelli was stopped by Afolabi in the ninth round.
Maccarinelli defeated boxing legend, Roy Jones at Cruiserweight in 2015, knocking out the faded star in the fourth round. In June 2016, Maccarinelli fought Dmytro Kucher for the vacant European Cruiserweight title, Maccarinelli was stopped in the first round. Following the fight, Maccarinelli took the decision to retire from boxing. His professional record stood at 49 fights, 41 wins and 8 defeats.
Gavin Rees – World Light Welterweight Champion, 2007 to 2008.
Gavin Rees was born in Newbridge and started his professional career in 1998 in the Featherweight Division. His nickname was “The Rock” and as his nickname suggests was a tough little fighter with no little skill.
In 2001 he won the WBO Inter Continental Featherweight Title. Rees then went on a 15 fight unbeaten run, which got him a shot against Frenchman Souleymane M’Baye in 2007 in Cardiff for the WBA Light Welterweight Title, Rees took the title winning on points after an excellent performance. In his first defence he fought Ukrainian Andriy Kotelnik again in Cardiff, Rees was stopped in the final round losing his World Title.
“The Rock” got another shot at a World Title in 2013 fighting Adrien Broner for the WBC Lightweight Title in Atlantic City, USA. Broner stopped Rees in the fifth round. Rees retired from boxing in 2014. His professional record stood at 43 fights, 38 wins, 4 defeats and 1 draw.
Nathan Cleverly – World Light Heavyweight Champion, 2010 to 2013 and 2016 to 2017
Nathan Cleverly was born in Caerphilly and made his professional career in 2005. In 2008, Cleverly won the Commonwealth Light Heavyweight Title, and also won the European Title.
In 2010, he got a shot at the vacant WBO Light Heavyweight Title fighting Frenchman, Nadjib Mohammedi, Cleverly won the title winning on points. Cleverly went onto defend the belt 5 times including a victory over England’s Tony Bellew. In 2013 Cleverly defended his title in Cardiff against Russian, Sergey Kovalev, the Russian had way too much power and stopped Cleverly in the fourth round.
Cleverly moved up to Cruiserweight and after a few wins took on Tony Bellew who beat him on points after a disappointing performance from the Welshman. Cleverly moved back to Light Heavyweight and in October 2015 fought Polish fighter, Andrzej Fonfara for the WBC International Light Heavyweight Title. Over 12 brutal rounds, Fonfara was given the decision but Cleverly put up a very strong showing.
In October 2016, Cleverly had another shot at becoming World Champion, when a fight was agreed with German World Champion, Juergen Braehmer for the WBA “Regular” Light Heavyweight World Title. Braehmer was making his seventh defence of the belt and was heavily tipped to win the fight. In a close contest, Braehmer was forced to retire on his stool at the end of the sixth round, with a dislocated elbow. Cleverly had become a World Champion yet again. A phenomenal achievement.
In June 2017, Cleverly defended his title against Swedish fighter, Badou Jack a fighter who previously had defeated George Groves at Super Middleweight. Cleverly was stopped in the fifth round losing his title. Two months after the loss, Nathan Cleverly announced his retirement from boxing. Cleverly is only 30 years of age but in his last 8 fights he had lost 4 times, and clearly felt some heavy defeats had taken his toll. His professional record stood at 34 fights, 30 wins and 4 defeats.
Lee Selby – World Featherweight Champion 2015 to date.
Lee Selby was born in Barry and made his professional career in 2008. Selby has a number of different nicknames but is probably best known as “The Welsh Mayweather”.
He won the British and Commonwealth Featherweight Title and in 2015 he got a shot for the IBF Featherweight Title fighting highly respected Russian, Evgeny Gradovich, stopping the Russian in the eighth round.
Selby has defended his title 3 times to date, defeating Mexican, Fernando Montiel, American, Eric Hunter and Argentinian, Jonathan Victor Barros respectively. Selby is a very skilful fighter who needs a high profile fight to see just how good he really could become. There are some big names in the Featherweight Division, such as Carl Frampton, Leo Santa Cruz and Gary Russell Jnr just to a name a few, and Selby deserves a fight against a name of that type of calibre as he could be on the verge of something very special.
Current professional record 26 fights, 25 wins and 1 defeat.
So there you have it, the 12 Welsh World Boxing Champions, an elite, exclusive group. Who will be the next? Andrew Selby, Liam Williams or Joe Cordina? Well, only time will tell.
Looking at all of these World Champions and researching who they fought and reading other highly respected boxing historians, this is my top 5 Welsh World Champions.
Welsh Top 5 World Champions
1. JIMMY WILDE
2. Freddie Welsh
3. Joe Calzaghe
4. Howard Winstone
5. Percy Jones
I hope you have enjoyed this series, and please let me know your thoughts on the pieces and my top 5 as it currently stands. Do you agree/disagree? Please let me know.