A Look Back At ITV Boxing’s Most Memorable Moments

Boxing is back on British terrestrial television, thanks to ITV's new deal with PBC. We take a stroll down memory lane and recall the UK network's best fights.

James DeGale and Chris Eubank Jr. square off in first PBC UK event Saturday, February 23 on ITV Box Office

Last December, UK network giant ITV announced their return to the boxing world when they inked a three-year deal with Premier Boxing Champions (PBC). With this new, unprecedented partnership, ITV has brought the Sweet Science back to the UK masses.

The first major UK event for PBC on ITV takes place Saturday, February 23, when former two-time world champion James DeGale takes on Chris Eubank Jr. at London’s O2 Arena in a highly-anticipated grudge match, live on ITV Box Office.

As fight night approaches, let’s take a stroll down memory lane and look back at the biggest British fights aired on ITV.

Match: Chris Eubank Sr. vs. Nigel Benn

Date: November 18, 1990

Venue: National Exhibition Centre, Birmingham

Result: Eubank TKO 9 Benn

The greatest rivalry in British boxing history and it played out in front of ITV’s vast mainstream audience. In an era before cable was the dominant entity, the fight game took place on terrestrial television, where Chris Eubank Sr. and Nigel Benn were household names.

The outspoken middleweights possessed contrasting manners, both in and out of the ring. They finally squared off in a heated grudge match after months of volatile exchanges. The action that transpired was some of the most brutal ever seen in a British ring. From the opening bell, the pair swapped punches containing anger, bitterness and hate. Neither fighter was prepared to let up as the bout entered the middle rounds.

In the ninth, a right hand from Eubank slowed Benn’s frenetic pace instantly. “The Dark Destroyer” failed to recover. Eubank launched further assaults and, with seconds remaining in the round, the third man intervened for a sensible stoppage. The pair would renew hostilities on ITV three years later—one that ended in a draw—but there would be no repeat of this classic.

Match: Frank Bruno vs. Joe Bugner

Date: October 24, 1987

Venue: White Hart Lane, Tottenham

Result: Bruno TKO 8 Bugner

Joe Bugner had already experienced a domestic heavyweight tussle when he defeated British darling, Henry Cooper, in 1971. Sixteen years later, he was facing another hero of the masses when he met Frank Bruno on short notice at White Hart Lane, the home of Tottenham Hotspur.

The 21-year-old Bugner held a youth advantage over 36-year-old Cooper when he upset the nation with his win. Against the 25-year-old Bruno, the now-37-year-old Bugner would call on his experience to give himself a chance.

It was evident early on that the man who would go onto be king eight years later had too much for the veteran slugger. Bruno was in control throughout and, with a potential clash with Mike Tyson providing a lucrative incentive, he took no risks as he disposed of Bugner in a one-sided clash. The end came in the eighth round when another Bruno attack forced Bugner’s corner to throw in the towel with referee John Coyle on the verge of stopping it anyway.

Match: Nigel Benn vs. Michael Watson

Date: May 21, 1989

Venue: Supertent, Finsbury Park     

Result: Watson TKO 6 Benn

Entering the grand surroundings of London’s Finsbury Park, Nigel Benn’s ledger stood at a frightening 22-0, with every fight ending early. Watson was set to be his sternest test, but there were no real concerns for Benn, who was expected to bolster his impressive statistics.

Exclusively throwing power punches from the opening bell to register another knockout, Benn failed to crack Watson’s tight guard and he tired drastically by the halfway point. Watson began slowly breaking him down with pinpoint counters. All that was needed from him was the right shot to close the show. He found that in the sixth, landing his cracking trademark jab, which dropped an exhausted Benn for the full count.

Match: Naseem Hamed vs. Vincenzo Belcastro

Date: May 11, 1994

Venue: Ponds Forge Arena, Sheffield

Result: Hamed UD12 Belcastro

On this fateful day, a 20-year-old “Prince” Naseem Hamed provided terrestrial audiences with a glimpse of what he would ultimately become renowned for. Taking on respected Italian Vincenzo Belcastro for continental honors, Hamed was dipping his novice feet in deep waters. What transpired, however, was nothing short of mesmerizing.

Hamed was scintillating from the outset as his switch-hitting, fast-paced style left his aged opponent defenseless. He attacked from multiple angles, peppering Belcastro and dropping him in the first and the eleventh. Although the “Prince” wouldn’t become king for another year—when he won a world title versus Steve Robinson in September 1995—this fight signaled a coming renaissance for British boxing.

For a closer look at DeGale vs Eubank Jr, check out our fight page.

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