By: Ste Rowen
When I sat down to write something this week, I was struggling, and then it came to me.
In a quiet few weeks for boxing what better way to create unnecessary arguments about a popular but ultimately irrelevant subject?
So here goes, this is my Top 10 Pound-For-Pound UK Boxers.
*I also feel like I have to say, the views expressed in this article are that of the writer and do not represent those of other writers at BoxingInsider.com…. Phew!
10 Tony Bellew 29-2-1 (19KOs)
Despite only fighting once and winning in peculiar circumstances, Bellew keeps a spot in the top 10. Still riding high on his first heavyweight fight, and victory over David Haye, the WBC Cruiserweight Emeritus Champion – no, me neither – was hoping to prove his March 2017 victory over Haye was no fluke but an inevitable injury to the Hayemaker has forced the rematch to take place in May next year instead.
9 Khalid Yafai 23-0-0 (14KOs)
Kal Yafai began 2017 as a world champion, superbly outpointing Luis Concepcion to a unanimous decision in December 2016 for the WBA Super Flyweight title. Aside from Ryan Burnett, featured later, Yafai has perhaps had the quickest ascent, and in an especially stacked division has made his mark. In his two fights of 2017 he earnt unanimous decision victories over former Japanese Fly and Super Flyweight champions Suguru Muranaka and Sho Ishida respectively. If Kal is able to get a place in the upcoming HBO SuperFly 2 card, he would be making the perfect start to 2018.
8 Chris Eubank Jr 26-1-0 (20KOs)
Round about this time last year Chris Eubank Jr was still receiving grief for deciding to dodge the Golovkin fight and nobody quite knew where his career was going. Twelve months and three fights later and Eubank is now one of the biggest players in the super middleweight division. He holds a version of the world titles, the IBO; is less than two months from fighting for the WBA Super belt and, in the UK at least, is now a PPV fighter with the help of ITV. Stand out performances against Arthur Abraham and Avni Yildrim have solidified his status with most bookies as the favourite for his February 17th WBSS semi-final against George Groves.
7 Josh Taylor 11-0-0 (10KOs)
In stark contrast to his former stablemate, Carl Frampton, Josh Taylor has had a fantastic year though it did start off with an awkward win over Alfonso Olvera on the Frampton v Santa Cruz undercard in Vegas. He kicked on by dominating Warren Joubert and then humbling the unbeaten and outspoken Ohara Davies, forcing Davies to quit in the seventh. He finished the year in a risky bout vs Miguel Vauzquez but proved yet again he is well worth the hype by knocking out the former lightweight champion with a killer body shot in the 9th. He’s now at number 9 in the Ring Magazine Jr welterweight rankings, and 5th with the WBC.
6 Lee Selby 26-1-0 (9KOs)
It was difficult to place the IBF Featherweight Champion. Despite a busy 2017, fighting three times with wins that included a 9th round stoppage over Andoni Gago, and dominant displays over Jonathan Barros and an overweight Eduardo Ramirez, the level of opposition and an inactive 2016 have harmed Selby’s standing amongst British fans. However, his long-awaited bout with Josh Warrington has been all but confirmed. If he comes through that with the W, and fights at least once more against Carl Frampton or one of the other title holders, we should see Selby shoot up most rankings.
5 Carl Frampton 24-1-0 (14KOs)
It’s been a bad year for Frampton. Twelve months ago, the two-weight world champion would’ve been top of the list but he started 2017 with a defeat to Leo Santa Cruz in an immediate rematch of their July 2016 bout. Then he split with long time promoter Barry Mcguigan and his son, 2016 trainer of the year Shane McGuigan after his return to Belfast fight fell apart the day before the fight. Ending the year with a, closer than the scorecards suggest, decision win over Horacio Garcia and past victories over Santa Cruz and Scott Quigg keep credit in the bank for Frampton who’ll be hoping for somewhat of a comeback year in 2018.
4 Billy Joe Saunders 26-0-0 (12KOs)
The WBO Middleweight Champion has found himself as a late entrant into the top five of this list after a superior display over former IBF Champion David Lemieux. Even the unanimous scorecards didn’t do justice to the way Saunders played with the Canadian in his own backyard. Billy Joe also scored a unanimous decision over fringe contender Willie Monroe Jr in September. Both victories, but more so the performance in Quebec, see the middleweight in the 4th spot.
3 George Groves 27-3-0 (20KOs)
After re-establishing himself as one of the best super middleweight contenders in 2016, Groves, on the fourth time of asking, became a world champion in April 2017 stopping a durable Fedor Chudinov to win the WBA ‘Super’ World Super Middleweight belt – the proper one. Not only did the win get him his first world title, but also counted towards his number 1 seed into the World Boxing Super Series. His second fight of 2017 saw him body-shot KO unbeaten Jamie Cox to seal his place in the WBSS semi-final, there to face number 8 on this list, Chris Eubank Jr in early 2018.
2 Ryan Burnett 18-0-0 (9KOs)
What a few years it’s been for the WBA and IBF bantamweight champion. Since winning the vacant British title back in November 2015 Burnett has fought six times and in his two bouts this year, he firstly won the IBF title in a dominant decision win over Lee Haskins and then four months later unified the bantamweight division by defeating Zhanat Zhakiyanov in Belfast, in a great display of skill and heart. Already viewed as a standout talent of the lighter weight divisions, a win in 2018 against the likes of Zolani Tete, could boost Burnett into the an overall P4P player.
1 Anthony Joshua 20-0-0 (20KOs)
Almost inevitably, Anthony Joshua tops the list thanks almost completely to his fight of the year contender and almost certainly event of the year, vs Wladimir Klitschko in a bout to unify the IBF and WBA heavyweight belts. 90,000 people packed into Wembley to see the unbeaten Brit drop and get dropped on the way to an 11th round stoppage victory. Then in October he came through a rough test against Carlos Takam to earn his 20th straight victory and stoppage. With a Tyson Fury return looking imminent and potential unification bouts with Deontay Wilder and Joseph Parker in 2018, this time next year AJ could either find himself near the top of the World P4P rankings or pipped to the top of the UK rankings by a fellow Brit.
Kell Brook – Consecutive stoppage defeats to Gennady Golovkin and Errol Spence, a bout which lost him his IBF title, have forced the Sheffield welterweight to drop out of the rankings. Moving up to 154 will hopefully kickstart Brook’s career.
Anthony Crolla – The Manchester native may have defeated an outgoing Ricky Burns recently but the former WBA Lightweight Champion was also dealt with twice in pretty dominant fashion by Jorge Linares. Whichever weight he decides to fight at he’s got a big job to get back to the heights he reached in 2016.
Terry Flanagan – One decision victory over Petr Petrov and a move up but, as yet no fights at light welterweight make for a disappointing year for Flanagan who was talking about unification fights with any or all of the champions at lightweight that never materialised.
Jamie Mcdonnell – An overlooked fighter whose two victories over Tomoki Kameda back in 2015 seemingly never got the praise they deserved but the Doncaster native has fought just three times since September 2015, and his one fight in 2017 was a technical draw with Liborio Solis after a clash of heads put an end to their rematch.
Liam Smith – The former WBO Jr middleweight title holder fought twice against the same opponent in 2017. His controversial stoppage of unbeaten Liam Williams in April, and then a majority decision in the rematch weren’t enough to see him reach the top 10.
Callum Smith – The youngest Smith brother undoubtedly had the toughest fight of his career in the first WBSS super middleweight quarter final when he earnt a unanimous decision win over Erik Skoglund, dropping the Swede in the 11th round. Unfortunately, it was the only time we saw ‘Mundo’ all year. 2018 could be a career definer, especially if he gets past Juergen Braehmer to reach the final of the super series.