Hellraiser Boxing News | The Hellraiser Weekender: The Brits
The Hellraiser Weekender: The Brits. Who were your top ten British fighters of 2017? Here Matt Lewis list his, taking in to account past record, level of opponent and current form.
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by Matt Lewis
Who were your top ten British fighters of 2017? Here Matt Lewis list his, taking in to account past record, level of opponent and current form.
The clear-cut leader. He started the year having just beaten Eric Molina at Manchester Arena, securing him an April showdown with former heavyweight overlord Wladimir Klitschko. He defeated the Ukrainian in 11 blistering rounds, unifying 3 titles and establishing himself as the number 1 heavyweight in the world in the process. Joshua's improving boxing skills earned him another stoppage victory over late replacement Carlos Takam in October, setting the scene nicely for a unification fight with WBO champion Joseph Parker in the New Year.
Despite having only fought twice in 2017, it has been a good year for the 29-year-old. He first appeared in May against Russian juggernaut Fedor Chudinov, who was dismissed in six hard fought rounds and relieved of his WBA super-middleweight belt as a result. Groves, a champion at the fourth time of asking, then entered into the World Boxing Super Series tournament, where he faced old England team mate Jamie Cox in the quarter final bout. Cox, brave but crude at times, was handed his first defeat by the Londoner, who flattened him in the fourth with a crippling body shot. Should Groves defeat Chris Eubank Jr in the semi-final next February, he will without doubt sit atop the domestic super-middleweight pile.
His detractors have grown quieter following his stellar performances in 2017. A dreadful showing against Artur Akavov last year (his only appearance in 2016) prompted some much needed changes for the WBO champion. He parted ways with trainer Jimmy Tibbs, employed the services of Dominic Ingle, and moved to Sheffield to escape the distractions of domestic life. The improvements have been noted; a somewhat dull but well-drilled performance against Willie Monroe Jr in September was followed 3 months later by a boxing masterclass against former IBF champion David Lemieux. The Canadian looked well beaten at the final bell, while Saunders, now 26-0, looks like a fighter reborn. He wants the winner of the Golovkin-Alvarez rematch, and if he wins it, will surely rank among the best lb-for-lb boxers in the world.
The IBO isn't considered a major organisation but their legitimacy is growing, thanks in part to Chris Eubank Jr. He started the year by winning their super-middleweight world title against the unheralded Renold Quinlan in what many felt was a farcical matchup, but a subsequent bout against the teak-tough Arthur Abraham dismissed suggestions he was only looking for easy wins. The German was soundly outpointed, and Eubank joined Groves in the World Boxing Super Series, drawing unbeaten Avni Yildirim in the quarter final. Eubank's sharper punching and relentless power shots were the difference from the outset, and Yildirim walked onto one of them in the third round, dropping him heavily to finish matters. An all-British super fight awaits him in February, and he, like Groves, will be the best British fighter at 168lbs if he wins it.
A mixed year for the Northern Irishman. He inflicted the first defeat of Leo Santa Cruz's career on the Mexican in July 2016, but suffered exactly the same fate in the reverse fixture in January. Since then, he parted ways with trainer Shane McGuigan, ended his contract with Cyclone Promotions, and teamed up with Jamie Moore and Frank Warren respectively. A long Summer away from the sport was responsible for some ring rust in his November return, a 10 round war of attrition against Horacio Garcia in Belfast. Yes, he has lost a little momentum, but his record is still one of the strongest in British boxing; the wins over Chris Avalos, Scott Quigg and Santa Cruz still remain fresh in the memory, and a victory against Nonito Donaire in April will firmly re-establish him among the elite featherweights.
Speaking of elite featherweights, Lee Selby endured a difficult year to stay with the head of the pack. He has had to deal with last minute cancellations, underwhelming replacements, opponents going AWOL, and the passing of his mother during a training camp. Despite such setbacks, he managed victories over Andoni Gago, Jonathan Victor Barros and then-unbeaten Eduardo Ramirez to retain his IBF world title. Selby is without a big marquee name on his record, but a victory in a big domestic match with Josh Warrington in May will surely see those fights start to materialise in the near future. With the same determination and a little more luck, 2018 could be a defining year for the Welsh wizard.
A talented fighter with a high work rate, Yafai has enjoyed regular success against modest opposition this year. The WBA super-flyweight king has looked excellent, but his two appearances against Suguru Muranaka and Sho Ishida fall a little short of the fights he is capable of. Having settled into the role of champion (he has now made two defences of his title), 2018 should see him mix with some established super-flyweight names. The 115lbs division is currently one of the most interesting in the sport, and mooted clashes with Roman Gonzalez and Naoya Inoue would excite fans the world over.
What a difference a year makes. This time 12 months ago, Burnett was coming off a convincing points win over Ryan Farrag for the British bantamweight title. Now, a world title win over then-IBF champion Lee Haskins, followed immediately by a victory over Zhanat Zhakinayov in their October unification bout, has seen him skyrocket to the top of the 118lbs division. He will announce his plans to return to the ring soon, and with the likes of Zolani Tete, Luis Nery and Paul Butler named as potential opponents, we could be in for a treat.
The strength of his CV just about sees Kell Brook make the cut. He's lost two on the bounce, and following his knockout loss to Errol Spence Jr in May, has taken a little while away from the sport to reassess a few things. No longer a champion, Brook will have to work his way back into contention, and he plans to do just that with a return against Siarhei Rabchenko in March. Wins over Shawn Porter, Frankie Gavin and Kevin Bizier still count for something, but they won't keep him at the top of the sport forever; he needs to find a win against the Belarusian, and look good in doing so if he wants to stay included in lists like this.
The Mancunian takes the final spot, but there are arguments to exclude him. He enjoyed a lone win this calendar year against Petr Petrov, and has since struggled to engage the interest of any meaningful challenger at 135lbs. This is not, however, for the lack of trying. According to Flanagan, offers were extended to Anthony Crolla and Jorge Linares multiple times, all of which went unacknowledged. Consequently, he has moved to super-lightweight to compete for the WBO belt, most likely against undefeated American Maurice Hooker. Previous wins over Petrov, Orlando Cruz, Derry Mathews and Diego Magdaleno confirmed his status as a lightweight, but he needs an active year if he wants to fulfil his potential as a light welterweight.
Posted: 13th Jan 2018
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