2014 in British boxing may have seen the much-heralded emergence of several Olympic gold medalists, but it has also seen lesser-known talents come to the fore. Here are the top ten prospects in British boxing as of this year.
1) Anthony Joshua
25 years old, heavyweight, (10-0/10KO)
Joshua fought seven times this year, going from professional newcomer to domestic title level in double-quick time. The former Olympic gold medallist is now eyeing up big fights in 2015, having stopped experienced veterans like Matt Skelton, Michael Sprott and Konstantin Airich in 2014. Athletic, technically-sound and grounded, he could be the future of the heavyweight division.
2) Callum Smith
24 years old, super-middleweight, (15-0/11KO)
The youngest of Liverpool’s fighting Smith brothers, Callum topped a good year by handily beating Nikola Sjekloca. Sjekloca also went the distance with Sakio Bika and alphabet title-holder Arthur Abraham in 2014, so that shows what level Smith is capable of boxing at. Tall, precise and aggressive, Smith could join in George Groves and James DeGale’s domestic rivalry next year.
3) Chris Eubank Jr
25 years old, middleweight, (18-1/13KO)
2014 didn’t look much different to the previous two years for Eubank Jr as he beat up over-matched opponents for most of it while unbearable levels of hype were espoused regarding his ability. That all changed in late November as Eubank gave Billy Joe Saunders all he could ask for in a gruelling fight for the European, British and Commonwealth middleweight titles. He lost but, as Amir Khan has proven, defeat can lead to improvements.
4) Luke Campbell
27 years old, lightweight, (9-0/7KO)
A gold medallist at the London Olympics, Campbell finished the year with a bang, stopping Daniel Brizuela in five rounds in his Hull hometown. The fight was significant as Brizuela had given plenty of difficulty to fellow Hull man Tommy Coyle early in 2014. Campbell is likely to fight Coyle in a battle of local rivals next year, and a win there would propel him into fights of a more international nature.
5) Kal Yafai
25 years old, super-flyweight, (13-0/9KO)
Yafai has recovered from injury and inactivity in recent years to fight three times in the space of six months this year. He began by beating Yaqub Kareem for the vacant Commonwealth title and ended the year by out-boxing the vastly experienced Everth Briceno. A sharp boxer with a decent dig, Yafai will have his eyes on fellow Englishman Paul Butler next year.
6) Liam Williams
22 years old, light-middleweight, (12-0/7KO)
The Welshman came to prominence with a 6th round stoppage of Ronnie Heffron in July. He ended the year by making light work of Michael Lomax, winning via first round stoppage to pick up the vacant Commonwealth belt. Solid with a high guard and a good punch, bigger challenges should lie in wait for Williams in 2015.
7) Jack Catterall
21 years old, light-welterweight, (10-0/6KO)
Catterall exploded in the latter half of 2014, picking up two extremely impressive wins. The southpaw teed up Nathan Brough before knocking him out with a straight left in the second round of their fight, before he knocked Thomas Stalker down twice early on route to an 8th round stoppage. Clearly a puncher, Catterall plants his feet and holds centre ring, though he still has plenty of development ahead. At 21, time is well on his side.
8) Sam Eggington
21 years old, welterweight, (13-2/7KO)
Tall, gangly and with two defeats already, Eggington’s physical appearance and record can mislead. He impressed in Prizefighter early this year and built on that performance with a win over the awkward journeyman William Warburton and an excellent stoppage of Denton Vassell in a British title eliminator. Improving strength and power match a good chin and work-rate. Next year should give a better indication of exactly how far he can go.
9) Mitchell Smith
22 years old, super-featherweight, (10-0/4KO)
Smith, who goes by the moniker of “Baby Faced Assassin”, won all three of his contests in 2014 with consummate ease. His points win over Peter Cope earned him the English title and a victory over Zoltan Kovacs pushed him up the continental ratings. There are plenty of British super featherweights for Smith to get his teeth into in the coming years.
10) Ryan Burnett
22 years old, bantamweight, (6-0/5KO)
It was a quiet year for Burnett, who suffered with inactivity for much of 2014 due to the cancellation of fights. Now training with Adam Booth, he got back on track in November with two stoppage wins against over-matched opposition. Fast and attack-minded, Burnett will be hoping for frequent ring-time in 2015.