Throughout the twentieth century professional boxing, just like professional wrestling, was a sport in which mainly Americans and boxers from nearby countries, such as Mexico and Puerto Rico, could participate in. However, Olympic boxing tournaments and World Amateur Championships were usually dominated by the USSR, Cuba, and the former Soviet Bloc countries, even though their boxers never made it to the next level because their governments prevented them from competing as professional athletes for political and economic reasons.
By the mid-nineties and after the collapse of the Iron Curtain all of this changed and the face of professional boxing has transformed during the past two decades, especially in the bigger weight classes. Here’s a list of 25 of the greatest boxers in history outside of North America who made it big despite the economic and political odds in a sport that had its borders closed until relatively recently.
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Jeff Fenech is one of the “hottest” boxing products Australia has ever produced. During the ‘80s the “mad” Aussie managed to become a world champion in three different weight divisions (Bantamweight, Super Bantamweight, and Featherweight) by beating fellow boxing legends as Carlos Zarate and Azumah Nelson.
Ken Buchanan is the greatest boxer in Scottish history thanks to his truly brave and fan-pleasing boxing style. He captured the Lightweight World title back in the early seventies by beating Ismael Laguna twice but later lost his title to the greatest lightweight boxer of all time, the one and only Roberto Duran, in a fight that is usually included in the supreme boxing bouts of all time.
Max Schmeling was a legendary German boxer who was the heavyweight champion of the world between 1930 and 1932. Unfortunately and despite not being a fan of Nazi ideology, Hitler used his boxing success for his political and racial propaganda. His two epic fights with American legend Joe Louis in 1936, which Schmeling won, and 1938 which Louis won, became worldwide cultural and political events because of the intense socio-political era during which they took place.
If you grew up in the ‘90s and even if you weren’t a big boxing fan there’s still a good chance you heard the name “Prince” Naseem Hamed. The former WBO, WBC, IBF, and lineal featherweight champion is without a doubt one of the most impressive boxers of our generation and one of the greatest showmen the sport has ever produced, with his boxing antics and sensational ring entrances becoming part of boxing’s pop culture and legacy.
Anton Christoforidis was not a flamboyant fighter but he got the job done. During his prime he defeated fellow all-time greats Ceferino Garcia, Jimmy Bivins, and Lou Brouillard. In 1941 he made history when he became the first world boxing champion from Greece by beating Melio Bettina, in a fight that had a heavy political background just like the Louis vs. Schmeling fights.
Christoforidis fought against an Italian-American boxer for the world title while his country was under siege by Mussolini’s fascist forces and his victory was seen and celebrated as more than just a mere sports victory.