By Mark G. Butcher: John Conteh is regarded as one of the finest British fighters of all-time and rightly so. The affable box-fighter from Liverpool reigned for three years as the WBC light-heavyweight champion during the golden era of the 175lbs division in the 1970s.
Conteh, 50, now spends his time doing television analysis and after dinner speaking, but fondly looks back on his championship reign between 1974-77, and especially the night when he outpointed tough Argentine Jorge Ahumada for the vacant WBC crown in October 1974.
“It was the greatest night of my career and one of the greatest nights of my life,” said Conteh, who initially campaigned as a heavyweight before making a move down to a more appropriate weight class. “It was marvellous because of the commitment I’d made three years earlier. I believe that God helps those who helps themselves. I thought if I help myself 100% here, he’ll help me. That’s what happened on the night.”
He made three successful defences in the succeeding years against Americans Lonnie Bennett (w rsf 5), Yaqui Lopez (w pts 15) and Len Hutchins (w rsf 3). However, he was stripped by the WBC for failing to see through a contracted defence against Miguel Cuello and later lost three WBC title shots against Yugoslavian Mate Parlov (l pts 15) and Matthew Saad Muhammad (l pts 15, l rsf 4).
Conteh, who had a 34-4-1 record as a professional and also held the British, European and Commonwealth light-heavyweight titles, is, however, modest when fight fans call him one of the great British fighters.
“It’s very nice of people to say so,” he said. “I just loved the challenge of realising my potential 100%. That was a great experience. It was a golden era for the light-heavies and a great championship.
“I won the championship, but I would have liked to fight one of the great light-heavies - like Roy Jones - in my hometown or America. But, looking back, I have no regrets at all.”