The world of combat sports is often considered to be the ultimate in sporting competition. When the opening bell rings, it's one on one, with few external factors involved in deciding the identity of the winner.

One factor that does play a part, however, is home advantage. Some of the world's best fighters take full advantage of the ability to compete in friendly territory, where they often produce their best performances.

Here are five fighters from the sports of boxing and mixed martial arts whose propensity to produce the goods in front of their own fans has meant facing them in the ring or the cage is an uphill struggle from the very first bell.

888Sport

The Underappreciated Champion: Joe Calzaghe

Welsh wonder Joe Calzaghe still doesn’t get the full recognition his career deserves, and it’s more than likely as a result of where he fought.

Calzaghe fought outside of Great Britain just four times in his 46-fight career, and only fought twice in the United States – in his final two bouts against Bernard Hopkins and Roy Jones Jr.

Calzaghe took on and beat the best in the world during his career. He dethroned the great Brit Chris Eubank in a thriller in Sheffield, England to capture the WBO super-middleweight world title, and he went on to defend the belt an incredible 21 times.

His dismantling of Jeff “Left Hook” Lacy remains one of the best performances ever seen by a British boxer in a world title fight as he completely outclassed the big-punching American, who at the time was considered to be the next big thing at 168lbs.

Calzaghe then went on to defeat gritty Danish star Mikkel Kessler before heading Stateside for his only two fights in America as he outpointed Bernard Hopkins and Roy Jones Jr in his final two appearances before retirement. 

Had Calzaghe fought in the US earlier in his career, it would undoubtedly have boosted his reputation in boxing’s financial heartland. He returned as a rarity in the sport, a legitimately undefeated world champion, with a stellar record of 46-0 with 32 knockouts.

He was always a star in Wales and the rest of the UK, but his skills undoubtedly deserved more credit in the United States.

 

The Stay-At-Home Champion: Sven Ottke

Talk to a casual boxing fan about Sven Ottke and they’ll either tell you they’ve never heard of him, or they’ll say that he was a flat-track bully who never left his comfort zone.

Ottke fought outside of his native Germany just once in his undefeated 34-fight career, and captured the IBF super-middleweight world champion in his 13th career fight.

Once he got his hands on championship gold, Ottke made it his business to do everything he could to keep his hands on it.

That meant a risk-averse approach to his career that saw him steer well clear of any of the other elite-level super-middleweights in the world at the time in favour of bouts against mid-ranking fighters with less knockout risk.

Ottke’s career management also extended to where he fought, as he steadfastly refused to defend his title anywhere but in his home nation.

He defended his IBF title 21 consecutive times, winning 16 of them on the scorecards, some of them controversially.

It was pointed out that he often fought with every hometown advantage possible, with the bouts taking place in Germany, with German referees and German judges for many of his fights.

It proved a successful combination, as Ottke retired undefeated at 34-0, but for those who remember his career at the time, there will always be an asterisk over “The Phantom’s” career as a world champion.

 

The Stadium Filler: Anthony Joshua

From the moment he captured Olympic gold on home soil at London 2012, Anthony Joshua was a national hero in Great Britain. That success has led to packed houses across the UK ever since, and there is no need to leave his home nation to compete overseas.

His star power is such that he not only generated huge pay-per-view revenues in the UK, but his fights also still grab the attention of fight fans in the United States.

His situation is a stark contrast from that of his predecessor, Wladimir Klitschko, who lived and competed mostly in Germany during his heavyweight title reign.

While Klitschko's boring style meant he was a turn-off for US TV viewers, Joshua's knockout power and penchant for exciting, action-packed fights means he's a sure-fire hit Stateside.

He's the heavyweight champion of the world, he's undefeated, he fills football stadiums and he's a pay-per-view hit on both sides of the Atlantic. Why on earth would he give that up to fight overseas?

 

Master Of His Own Destiny: Floyd Mayweather Jr

Whether you prefer him as “Pretty Boy Floyd” or the brash, trash-talking “Money Mayweather”, Floyd Mayweather has forged a legendary career that has seen him go 50-0 against the best of the best at his weight.

While some champions have been accused of ducking opponents in their careers, Mayweather has perfected the art building interest in fights to fever-pitch levels before then taking on the challenge and coming through victorious.

Few fighters have the level of control over their careers that Mayweather has achieved, particularly later in his career, which has been contested exclusively on American soil.

In his 35th career bout, he defeated Sharmba Mitchell in November 2005 in Portland, Oregon. Since then, he has fought exclusively in his hometown of Las Vegas, Nevada.

Fifteen consecutive fights in Sin City saw Mayweather take on the world’s best, including Miguel Cotto, Canelo Alvarez, Marcos Maidana and Manny Pacquiao.

In his latest bout, he earned his biggest-ever payday when he fought former two-division UFC world champion, Conor McGregor.

Mayweather’s run of fighting at home is set to come to an end as he has agreed to a three-round exhibition bout against kickboxing world champion Tenshin Nasukawa at Japanese martial arts promotion Rizin’s New Year’s Eve show at the end of 2018.

 

King Of Myanmar: Aung La N Sang

“The Burmese Python” Aung La N Sang may not be a household name in the United States or across Europe, but the Myanmar-born fighter is a bonafide superstar in Asia’s biggest martial arts organisation, ONE Championship.

The American-based mixed martial arts star has a mixed record overall, but since rising to the heights in ONE Championship, he has been given the opportunity to fight in the country of his birth where, he has been simply unbeatable.

N Sang has fought six times at the Thuwunna Indoor Stadium, including in each of his last five matchups, and he has produced spectacular winning performances each time as he captured the ONE middleweight and light-heavyweight titles.

His walkouts are among the most electric in combat sports, his fans are among the most passionate and his fights in Yangon are simply must-see TV.

Put simply, “The Burmese Python” in the Thuwunna is a force to be reckoned with, and one of the most dominant forces in combat sports today. It’s going to take a very special athlete, and a very special performance, to defeat him on home soil.

 

*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*

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888sport

The 888sport blog, based at 888 Towers in the heart of London, employs an army of betting and tipping experts for your daily punting pleasure, as well as an irreverent, and occasionally opinionated, look at the absolute madness that is the world of sport.

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