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British Prospects to Watch

By: Oliver McManus

With so many young prospects coming through the ranks in British boxing it’s hard to come up with new categories for these articles so I’m not even going to try – here are just five of the most eye-catching prospects in British boxing as it stands –

Photo of Tey Lynn Jones

Lerrone Richards

‘Sniper the Boss’ seems to be, to me at least, the forgotten man from Frank Warren’s stable of fighters and I mean that in the nicest way possible because for someone of his talent he’s getting very little in way of opportunities from his promoter.

Campaigning at super middleweight, the 25 year old looked like kicking on when he won, Warren’s trademark, WBO European title in November of last year but since then his progress has stagnated with just a single six rounder to his name this year.

None of that is Richards’ fault who, earlier this year, told me he wanted a shot at the English title by the end of 2018 and you’d suggest, certainly, on his talent that he is a man more than deserving of such a fight.

Incredibly mature in the ring with a strong, established jab and fantastic amateur pedigree, Richards is a commanding presence at the centre of the canvas, working the angles, cutting of the ring with ease and packing a ferocious left hand.

Having sparred with the likes of George Groves and Lerrone Richards there can be no doubting his class in the ring and, hopefully, it’s only a matter of time before we see him getting the opportunities he deserves.

Umar Sadiq

Possibly the classiest man both inside and outside of the ring, Umar Sadiq has already attracted a huge fan base thanks to his impressive performances and innovative use of social media.

It sounds like something so simple but ‘Top Boxer’, as he’s known, really has mastered Twitter and YouTube in order to connect with his fans – myself, included – and whilst I’ve wanted to interview him for quite some time, I’ve not managed to do so yet, his manner in everyday life makes it, near, impossible to not want him to do well.

That’s all by the by, however, what really matters is his ability in the ring and having come from a strong amateur background he already looks at ease, moving through the motions quickly, and stamping his authority over his three opponents thus far.

Back in June Umar looked at his most complete, yet, with a masterful control of the fight tempo, insightful shot select before unfurling a vicious left hook into the body of Kamil Al Temimi to send the Polish fighter crumpling to the canvas with consummate ease.

Arguably the most terrifying thing about Sadiq is that he’s not even looked out of breath upon the conclusion of his three professional fights – I know they’ve only been four and six rounders, thus far, but it bodes well for the big bouts.

Targeting a clash with “Chihuahua” Darryll Williams, Sadiq looks likely to face Zak Chelli next in October but his rise to the top is surely going to be as quick as it will be stylish and sophisticated.

Dan Azeez

Explosivity personified, Dan Azeez is part of Britain’s burgeoning light-heavyweight scene looking to force their way into title contention and with the Southern Area belt currently vacant then your money would be firmly on Azeez to be the next champ.

Backed by the big boys at MTK Global, Azeez dropped his first three opponents a total of six times to instantly raise the eyebrows of many a fan and fighting with such fierce regularity – September 21st will be his fifth fight in just over six months – ensures that his development is constant, he’s always learning, there is no standstill for Dan Azeez.

And that last fight, on July 13th, against Adam Jones was a fight where you could see Dan thinking on the job, having to adapt, you could see all his training coming to the fore because, as much as I wanted to see a fourth knockout on the trot, Jones was awkward and forced Dan to go one step further than his comfort zone and, ultimately, it’ll pay off in the long run.

Stepping up to six rounds in his next outing, I’m torn between whether I want to see more of that vicious punch power – which we all know Dan possesses in spades – or if I want to see him in with those opponents that are going to be awkward, aren’t really going to come to fight because as boring as that sounds and as bad it would be, these fights are going to test Dan but my money says, regardless of opponent, he will always find an avenue to launch that knockout shot because he is just constantly thinking, he’s a smart boxer and I, for one, cannot wait to see him knocking on the door for those titles.

Tey Lynn Jones

Southern Area middleweight champion Tey Lynn Jones makes this “prospect” list despite already being quite established in the domestic scene because, to be honest, he has just got bags and bags of potential.

In claiming the Southern Area crown against MH Legg earlier in the year he looked destructive, dropping Legg in the first round and easing his way to the win – Legg retired after the seventh – but his first defence, against Darren Codona was, by reports, not entirely convincing.

Now I don’t mean that to sound horrible, you’re allowed off nights, and having first seen Tey back in February 2017 it would be impossible to deny just how far he’s come in that, relatively, short space of time.

‘Teysty’ is no longer rushing his shots, he’s taking his time and remaining patient but, in equal measure, he’s not afraid to go for the stoppage when there’s blood in the water and he’s always looking to exploit his opponents weakness – I think that’s, for me, one of the most tell-tale signs that the 24 year old has learnt SO MUCH since his loss to Nicky Jenman in March last year.

He’s gone away, worked his nut off, thought “okay, how can I get better?” and is now reaping the rewards so hat’s off to him and for as long as he stays in these title fights then he’ll always be pushing himself to get better and there’s some real good opportunities out there for the Essex man to push his name up the rankings.

Chris Billam Smith

Now Chris Billam Smith is a man I have been excited about for a long time and I know Barry McGuigan shares that excitement so the young cruiserweight must be doing something right!

I’ve said it before but the Bournemouth man has a style that makes you want to watch him, his fast footwork makes him hard to hit but his long, lanky – in a nice way – stature means you’re seemingly never out of his reach and when he starts to get into his rhythm he packs one hell of a right hook.

A fighter who prominently targets the body of an opponent, Billam Smith has mastered the art of teeing up the shot with sharp combinations to the head before dropping down and slamming home that right hand into the ribcage of his opposite man.

Last time out the 28 year kid faced Michal Plesnik and was convincing on his way to securing a shut-out points victory over eight rounds, setting him up nicely for title challenges and I like that every time you see him out in the ring you see his boxing maturity, he doesn’t rush shots to try to force the stoppage but is patient in working the angles and that is a characteristic that, more often than not, brings success.

They call him the gentleman but, trust me, there’s nothing chivalrous about him when he’s in the ring!y

I trailed this piece on Twitter by asking what these guys had in common and whilst I’m sure they’ll probably have quite a lot in common, the main factor is that they’re just ridiculously good fighters so make sure you keep an eye on them before the whole bandwagon rolls in.

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British Boxers to Watch

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.

Chris Billam Smith – Cruiserweight

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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