"He didn't have Joe Calzaghe's winning streak or Sven Ottke's skills. He didn't have Roy Jones' effortless genius or the working class charisma of Steve Collins. What did he have? A hell of a punch, real self-belief and a willingness to put himself in there with good fighters."
Nigel Benn WBC Champion 1992-'96
Benn's four-year reign as the WBC champion and nine defenses against reasonably good challengers make a strong case for his placement at the top of the list of great super middleweights. He didn't have Joe Calzaghe's winning streak or Sven Ottke's skills. He didn't have Roy Jones' effortless genius or the working class charisma of Steve Collins. What did he have? A hell of a punch, real self-belief and a willingness to put himself in there with good fighters.
Benn's courage was never more evident than in his wild, brutal and ultimately tragic brawl with American Gerald McClellan, when he was knocked out of the ring in the first round, floored in the eighth, and stormed back to stop the murderous-punching McClellan in the 10th. But Benn's willingness to face good, tough fighters had been established already, when he fought Chris Eubank twice and Iran Barkley and Doug DeWitt (the latter two at middleweight). Even when he was on the way out he twice fought Collins. That he lost both doesn't help him, but that he faced him when even he had to know he was past his prime clearly helps.
Benn was far from perfect; the best he could manage against Eubank was a draw, and he could be outhusled and outboxed. He also fought his share of no-hopers, such as Vincenzo Nardiello and Nicky Perez, Henry Wharton and Lou Gent. But unlike others of his era, he didn't flinch at a real challenge. That goes a long way.
Chris Eubank 1985-'98
If eccentricity counted for anything, Eubank would be at the top of this collection. He was as strange in the ring as he was good, and that's saying something. For all his oddities, Eubank could fight. It's unfortunate that for almost his entire career he, like Joe Calzaghe, defended the belt of a particularly worthless sanctioning body, but he did it with vigor and against decent fighters. For example, Eubank twice fought Benn, stopping him in 1990 (when both were middleweights) and drawing with him in the rematch (at super middleweight) in 1993 in front of 42,000 fans at Old Trafford Stadium in Manchester.
It wasn't only Benn that Eubank took on. He twice beat Michael Watson (the second fight ended tragically when Watson suffered life-altering injuries), and also beat Thulani Malinga, Tony Thornton, Lindell Holmes, and was the first man to be Graciano Rocchigiani. It doesn't help Eubank that he never fought in America and fought few American fighters. Ultimately, that's what lands him under Benn, who tested himself outside Europe much more frequently. Still, consider this: all five of Eubank's career losses came in the last three years before he retired; two to Steve Collins, one to Calzaghe, and two to Carl Thompson in an ill-advised move to cruiserweight. That's impressive stuff.