By: Oliver McManus
Boxing in Britain is burgeoning at the present moment with no less than eight world champions ranging from featherweight all the way up to Anthony Joshua’s two heavyweight straps – but it’s not all about those at the top, there’s a plethora of young talent looking to make their mark in the ring so with that in mind let’s take a look at some of the most exciting prospects in British boxing.
The first talent goes by the name of Chris Billam Smith, a former English Amateur heavyweight champion, fighting in the cruiserweight division; with Lawrence Okolie and Isaac Chamberlain having the spotlight shone on their rivalry, Billam Smith is flying under the radar in the hotly-contested weight class.
Born in Bournemouth, the orthodox fighter turned professional fighter back in September under the management of Cyclone Promotions and has since move to a 4 and 0 record with all wins coming by way of knockout – for further comparison he fought Russ Henshaw in his debut bout, an opponent who Okolie and Chamberlain faced in their fourth and fifth fights respectively.
Known as The Gentleman , there’s nothing chivalrous about the manner in which he’s dispatched those that dare to get in the ring with the youngster already showcasing a full range of skills that are destined to take him far – a prolific body puncher, his right hand hook is ferocious to say least and enough to send anyone crumpling to the canvas.
It’s a boxing cliché that “styles make fights” but Billam Smith has one of the most appealing styles on the domestic scene across all weight divisions with fast footwork and a long lanky stature making him hard to hit yet easy to avoid.
An intriguing fight that could find itself in the works for 2018 is Billam Smith against Wadi Camacho for the Southern Area Cruiserweight title – a real domestic dust-up that would give the young cruiserweight a real platform to progress and given that he’s already stated he wants to be challenging for an English or Commonwealth title by the end of next year, it’s clear to see he’ll be rising the ranks rather quickly.
Daniel Dubois – Heavyweight
Daniel ‘Dynamite’ Dubois is only 20 years old but since turning professional with Frank Warren back in April he’s established himself as one of the most exciting prospects in all of heavyweight boxing; David Allen, Sam Sexton and Gary Cornish are all reported to have turned down fights with the 6ft 5inch Englishman.
Packing a powerful right hand jab, his former amateur coach Richie Woodhall has tipped the youngster to reach the Top 15 by the end of next year and Dubois himself states that he’s on a mission to claim “all the belts”.
The level of opposition he’s faced has drawn criticism from some areas of the boxing fraternity but for a 5-0 fighter with little amateur experience, it’s hard to pour scorn on the quality of opponent or, indeed, the manner in which Dubois has dispatched with them.
AJ Carter was the last man to step into the ring with the Greenwich-born fighter and felt the power of Dubois immediately with a thunderous right hand sending Carter to the canvas in a fight which secured Dubois the Southern Area Heavyweight Championship.
An underrated asset to Triple D is his footwork which, admittedly, isn’t lightning fast but moreover tactical in order to evade getting hit from his opposing foe – let’s not forget he’s only 20 and has got plenty of years ahead to improve on these already honed attributes.
Reported to have dropped Anthony Joshua in sparring, Frank Warren’s protégé fights Dorian Darch on the 9th December and is slated to battle for the English Heavyweight title in the early stages of next year – from there, anything is possible.
Chantelle Cameron – Women’s Lightweight
Wham Bam Chan, the 26 year old is the pick of British female boxers coming through the ranks although with Katie Taylor (admittedly Irish), Nicola Adams and Ashley Brace all rising rapidly it’s becoming a bit of a crowded scene.
From five fights since turning professional in May, Cameron has knocked out four opponents with the only fight going the distance being her debut against Karina Kopinska – a devastating display of her rapid, concussive punching style with a work-rate that, gym-mate, Josh Taylor admits pushes him to the limit during training.
Another boxer promoted by Blain McGuigan, the Northamptonshire fighter has already established herself as someone able to sell tickets as well as draw TV audiences thanks to her humble nature and easy-on-the-eye performances.
Having already ascended to the top of the lightweight division her last fight was for the IBO World Title where she became the first woman to stop Viviane Obenauf – something Katie Taylor failed to do.
Always smiling there’s a chilling coolness about Cameron as she looks to continually impose herself on her opposing corner, making sure to take to the centre of the ring with an array of commanding jabs and strong right hands to the body keeping her in control at all times.
2018 promises to be Chantelle Cameron’s year with challenges for major world titles sure to come and potentially a unification grudge match with Katie Taylor – if anyone still has their doubts about women’s boxing then Chantelle Cameron is the woman to change attitudes.
Lucas Ballingall – Super Featherweight
Probably the least heard of fighter to be featured, Lucas Ballingall has made his name boxing in and around the South of England with many suggesting he’s got the skills to challenge at the top – domestically, at least.
Despite the plaudits coming his way from die-hard boxing fans the 21 year old has yet to make his television debut – not that needs to be a barometer of quality – but has moved to an 8-0 record since turning pro in 2015 with this year being one where he’s sort to push on, three wins from three fights in 2017 suggest his career is headed in the right direction.
Whilst none of his opponents have been household names by any means none of them have been walkovers with all being considered durable, tough, gritty, journeyman who come to fight not to pick up a pay-check and rollover.
Pretty Boy, as he’s known, leads with the right but has a penchant for dropping down in stature and firing away two or three left handers to the ribs in order to fatigue the opponent – his latest fight, in November, was a textbook display of out-and-out aggression, keeping the fighter on the ropes, pummelling shots to head and body in order to win by a 2nd round knockout.
The eye catching work from the Portsmouth super featherweight is often the simple stuff that he manages to make look like an art-form, the way he throws the jab and bounces his way around the ring is purely beautiful to watch and has already garnered him an army of fans back in Pompey.
The super featherweight division has several young fighters coming through with Zelfa Barret and Leon Woodstock all joining Ballingall as British boxers on the ascendancy but with Barret and Woodstock all signed up to high-profile promotional deals, Ballingall is having to go about this the hard way – keep an eye out as he progresses through the rank across the next calendar year.
Josh Kelly – Welterweight
Perhaps the pick of Eddie Hearn’s “NXTGEN” products, Josh Kelly is a distinguished amateur fighter having competed at the Rio Olympics as well as bringing home a Bronze medal from the 2015 European Games for the Great British amateur team.
Turning his attention to the paid ranks at the turn of the year, PBK (Pretty Boy Kelly) made his professional debut and since then has fought four times with four increasingly impressive victories coming his way.
Such is the esteem that he’s held in, there’s been no mucking about in terms of opponents with them all having a winning record and, to all intents and purposes, being no pushovers; his next fight on the 13th December sees him take a step up against Jean Michel Hamilcaro, a former IBF International title holder, who’s floating around the Top 125.
The inventor of the ‘albatross punch’, Kelly does not box by the book with him often standing statuesque in the middle of the ring, baiting the opponent, before ducking and weaving with his hands down by his side in a display of sheer outlandish audacity.
When he gets those hands into play, however, he packs magic in them; against Tom Whitfield in June, he dropped his man to the canvas with EIGHT consecutive left hand power shots to the body. As an opponent it’s hard to prepare for facing Pretty Boy because you simply have no idea what he’s going to throw at you.
From Sunderland, the 23 year old has been the motivation behind Eddie Hearn’s desire to bring boxing back more regularly to the North-East of England and if Kelly can keep the eye-catching, headline-grabbing performances coming than it won’t be long before he’s headlining in his own backyard.
There’s been talk of title shots in 2018, with no specification as to which title, but the most likely route is for Kelly to battle it out domestically in order to solidify his standing before pushing onto loftier heights towards the back end of the year moving into 2019.
So there you have it, five of the most exciting British boxers to keep an eye on in 2018 and beyond – the list could have seen 10, 15, 20 names make the cut – giving reason to be more than a little positive about the state of boxing in Britain with so many young talents coming through, who knows, this time next year we could be looking at five more world champions.
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