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UK Pound For Pound Top Ten

by Adam Thorn

Always the cause of a nice debate, a pound for pound list! Hellraiser writers, Mickey Helliet and possibly some of our boxers too, will be cooking up their subjective top ten British talents over the next few weeks. These lists will be based on the author’s own unique, or not, criteria and way of thinking. Hellraiser central computer will then collate these into one definitive list.

My list is based on four criteria, which may or may not be strictly applied, as I hate rules, even if they’re my own:

Form; a fighter’s most recent results (NB: this includes how active they’ve been).

Record; how many belts the fighter has, has had, and at how many weights. Plus what level of opponent they’ve faced.

Performances; how well said fighter battled in those fights (a valiant loss could, for example, trump a dodgy points win).

Natural ability; has the fighter over or underachieved with their natural skill set.

10. Nathan Cleverly, 30-3 (16)

Just creeping in based on his boxing ability, rather than form, as the Braehmer win was unconvincing, Cleverly did score highly for his war with Andrei Fonfara, and is a two time world champion. Cruiserweight was ill advised and seemingly a reaction to the Kovalev stoppage, so it’s good to see Clev back at light heavyweight. Hopefully he’ll go on to face a decent level of opponent as the now WBA champion.

9. Tony Bellew, 29-2-1 (19)

A fighter who has continually “proved people wrong”, or in other words, admirably overachieved. Bellew’s win over David Haye at heavyweight was, while fortuitous due to Haye’s achilles, still an astonishing victory. He’s beaten top level fighters in three weights, and is likely not to fight on too much longer, but you have to hand it to the Evertonian, he has a very respectable CV and is fun to watch.

8. Jamie McDonnell, 29-2-1 (13)

Many people will argue that Jamie should be higher up this list, and that is understandable. His away defenses of his WBA world bantamweight title against Tomoki Kameda, twice, were the stuff of dreams. Heavily written off in the first fight, he went and took Kameda’s “0” by unanimous decision, but by just one point on every card. Four months later he travelled to the USA again, and beat him by a much wider margin. McDonnell has bags of skill, but uninspired opponents lately in form of the consistently inconsistent Fernando Vargas, and Liborio Solis hurt his standing.

7. Kal Yafai, 22-0 (14)

A name that will surely move up this list over the next few years, Kal Yafai, WBA World super flyweight champion. Kal is the eldest of three boxing brothers, Gamal is 12-0 (5) and Galal boxers for Team GB currently. Kal beat Luis Conception to win the vacant title and is an explosive fighter with fast hands. He has a 64% KO rate, at super flyweight! There’s a lot more to come from him, one suspects.

6. James DeGale, 23-1-1 (14)

DeGale took a lot of stick for his draw with Badou Jack, but there’s an argument that Jack is one of the most improved (or underrated) fighters out there. Admittedly the Londoner didn’t make things easy for himself, but DeGale has only ever lost to George Groves, won his WBC World super middleweight title away from home, and defended it on the road three times. He’s got the amateur pedigree, and has looked more and more powerful with time. He’s also got a sense of humour! 

5. Lee Selby, 25-1 (9)

Despite a disappointing 2016, where he only got out once, technical master and IBF World featherweight champion Selby is another name who could move up this list. Having passed through domestic level with consummate ease, he took the title from then highly thought of Evgeny Gradovich in 2015. A showdown with Carl Frampton would, or should, be huge in the future. Winning in that could put him top of this particular pile. For now though Selby just needs to get active more frequently, against top level opposition.

4. Billy Joe Saunders, 24-0 (12)

Another for whom inactivity has been a frustration, Saunders is- on his day- superfluous. Although he faded a little in his win over Eubank Jr, he boxed brilliantly overall. While hardly a power puncher, he does tend to rise to the big occasion, and he took his WBO world middleweight title from Andy Lee in 2015. A fight with Willie Monroe Jr has just been announced for September and Billy should outbox the American then look towards the winner of the fight of the year: GGG vs Canelo. Win that and it wouldn’t just be the British pound for pound list he’d be top of. Billy is only 27, too, so could be a long term champion.

3. George Groves, 26-3 (19)

Groves might not be everyone’s cup of tea, although why is a mystery. But put simply, he’s faced the best fighters available, consistently, throughout his career. His fight with DeGale was a huge risk at a time when prospects were avoiding one another, he obliterated Paul Smith, who is still fighting at world/ British level, he put down and almost stopped granite jawed Carl Froch. Ok he also lost that fight, the rematch and to Badou Jack, but as mentioned earlier, Jack is underrated. After teaming up with Shane McGuigan Groves rebuilt a little, then with a broken jaw dismantled the bastard-hard Fedor Chudinov to win the WBA World super middleweight crown. He’s now entered the World Boxing Super Series, and so will continue to face the best.

2. Anthony Joshua, 19-0 (19)

Possibly an unpopular choice, having AJ at second. There is one reason for this, longevity. There’s almost no way he’s not going to go on and become a great, but Klitschko aside he’s not fought a genuine champion. Charles Martin may have had a belt, the IBF belt which Joshua took, thankyouverymuch, but can anyone argue there was anything world class about him? AJ is exciting, but excitement with heavyweights means vulnerability. He’s not exactly the most natural boxer, which is an odd thing to say about a world champion and Olympic medallist. However, his size and power are going to knock a lot of big men over, and long may he continue to do so. But there is a man casting a big shadow over his reign, as the now unified IBF, IBO  and WBA champion. If Tyson Fury comes back at near his best, AJ may find himself with a genuine threat, or prove himself hands down Britain’s best yet.

1. Carl Frampton, 23-1 (14)

He’s not currently a world champion, but Carl Frampton is the former Celtic, Commonwealth, IBF Inter-continental, EBU, IBF World and WBA World super bantamweight champion. He’s also a two weight world champion. Carl moved up in weight and in his first fight at featherweight, travelled to America to beat then unbeaten, and three- weight world champion Leo Santa Cruz for his WBA Super World featherweight title. He then rematched Santa Cruz immediately, after a close fight, and received his first professional loss by majority decision. It was a shame but Frampton has not ducked a challenge, having also unified at super bantamweight against domestic rival, and favoured, Scott Quigg. A buzzsaw going forward, but also adept on the back foot, Frampton can and will still do big, big things.

Posted: 19th Jul 2017

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