By: Oliver McManus
British boxing has got it GOOD at the moment, you’d go as far as to say we’ve never had it any better but it’s not just at the top with Anthony Joshua, Dillian Whyte and Tony Bellew in which we’re excelling, there’s talent across the board and here are five of the best lower weight class fighters you’d be a fool not to keep an eye on.
*DISCLAIMER* Lower weight = Super lightweight and under
QAIS ASHFAQ – Bantamweight
Gold medallist at the 2011 Commonwealth Youth Games, Silver in the 2014 Commonwealth’s and 2015 European Amateur’s and a bronze at the 2015 European Games, Qais Ashfaq left a mark on the amateur scene and there’s no doubt he’ll do the same in the pro ranks.
Initially signing a deal last year with Hayemaker Ringstar, Eddie Hearn and Matchroom Boxing announced the signing of Ashfaq in February of this year and quickly set him to work against a durable Brett Fidoe.
A comfortable points victory put the bantamweight on the path to glory. Now 2 and 0 – thanks to a victory over Ricky Starkey in April – the 25 year old has already shown over the course of eight rounds just why he is such a hotly tipped fighter.
Fast with the feet, his game is all about dominating his opponent with superior movement, bouncing around the ring, before landing some crushing counter-punches. The style has brought him incredible success and being a pressure fighter with lightning fast hand speed, Ashfaq is always going to be one of those fighters you just love to watch.
JEFF OFORI – Super Featherweight
King Jeffy, as he’s known, Ofori made his debut in May of last year and has notched his way to five victories without defeat since – his 6th bout will come this weekend (May 19th) and in only his second bout at Super Featherweight he’ll be looking to send some statements.
A dominant third round TKO victory over Aleksandrs Birkenbergs in April saw Ofori display expertly the sort of power needed to mix it at the top but most impressive was his temperament to deal with an awkward opponent who came to duck and weave.
Ofori, himself, was critical and said he thought he tried too hard in the first couple of rounds to get the stoppage and whilst that may be true, the Tottenham-fighter kept a cool head when it came to crunch time to lay it on the Latvian and give, referee, Mark Bates no choice but to stop it.
Targeting a Southern Area title by the end of the year, there’s no doubt in my mind that Jeffy is just going to keep better with every fight he has – who knows where he can end up…
RYAN GARNER – Super Featherweight
It’s not hard to understand why Ryan Garner is known as The Piranha given the ferocious way in which he attacks his opponents in the ring.
With seven fights under his belt, the 20 year old is already learning more than you do at University and the maturity developed within the ring is clear to see since he initially turned pro back in the summer of 2016.
A patient fighter, the former junior European amateur champion, is already experienced enough to know when to step on the gas and punish his opponent but, equally, when to take a breather and just play the waiting game.
An enforced sixth month absence from the ring, due to personal issues, has only made the Piranha even hungrier and his display against Lesther Cantillano on February 24th was a perfect example of a boxer looking to go places – he showed in that fight that not only does he pack a really solid flurry of punches capable of stopping his man but, more importantly, he has the technical ability to outbox opponents.
When you can whack, dance, and out-work those who step in the ring then you’re very unlikely to taste defeat and, luckily, for Ryan he has all of that. Let’s not forget he’s only 20, too, so he’s going to get so much better as the years progress… it’s almost scary!
ARCHIE SHARP – Super Featherweight
Dubbed “the best kept secret in British boxing” by his promoter Frank Warren, Archie Sharp is a super featherweight on a mission and at 23 years of age there’s plenty of time, for the 12 and 0 Super Feather, to create his legacy.
Nine years in the amateur ranks saw him pick up nine national junior titles and Sharpshooter has wasted no time in racking up win after win in the professional game.
A clever fighter with fluid movement, Sharp takes to the centre of the ring from the outset in an attempt to draw his opponent into a proper fight and against tough, durable, journeyman Sharp has found considerable success when targeting the body of his opponent – often sending them crumpling to the canvas. Seven of his triumphs have come via knockout.
Having stepped up to eight rounds for the first time last year there can be no question marks about his stamina with Archie having the energy of a puppy throughout his eight round points victory over Rafael Castillo back in December.
Indeed the young whipper snapper isn’t far away from competing for his first title and with the widely held belief being that the classier his opponent, the better Sharp will look, he really is Hollywood.
BRING IT ON, that’s all I can say!
SAM MAXWELL – Super Lightweight
Now Sam Maxwell *just* makes the upper limit for this list and that’s not something that happened on purpose, it was a decision made beforehand that only fighters up to Super Lightweight would be included and, boy, what a decision it was because Sam Maxwell is of the most exciting boxers building a profile in the United Kingdom at the moment.
Having turned pro in October of last year the MTK Global fighter has shot to seven victories in double-quick time with the former Great British Lionhearts fighter recording six knockout’s along the way.
Already having fought on the undercard of a world title fight – that between Manuel Charr and Alexander Ustinov – Maxwell is no stranger to the big stage and, indeed, when thrust into the limelight at the SSE Arena on April 21st this year he blasted out Michael Isaac Carrero in less than sixty seconds.
The bruising super-middle is causing a stir in the domestic scene, he’ll be next out on June 9th as part of Frank Warren’s Manchester promotion and there’s a very real chance that the 29 year old Liverpool-resident will send a thunderous statement as he looks to gate-crash his way to the top of an, already bustling, British super lightweight division.
I’m only allowed five main fighters to pick but I can’t let this finish without mentioning two classy, classy fighters in Osman Aslam a 12-0 super bantamweight who brings a whole new definition to the word “technical fighter”, his movement is sublime and his shot selection incredible; and Ukashir Farooq the Scottish Area Bantamweight kingpin waiting for his postponed title tilt against Josh Wale, at just 22 Farooq still has a lot of learning to do but with experience under his belt he could well live up to his nickname – Untouchable.
NOW that’s just scratching the surface of lower weight fighters that should be in the spotlight but we’d be here all day if I was to talk about everyone with bags of talent so I implore you to get down to the small hall’s, see boxing at its purest and discover someone worth talking about because, I can’t say this enough, British boxing is having the time of it’s life!