Matt Bozeat lists the British and Irish fighters – with 10 fights or fewer to their name – to look out for in the 2017/18 season
We take a close look at some of the young talents of UK and Irish boxing
COMMONWEALTH SUPERLIGHTWEIGHT CHAMPION From: Edinburgh | Age: 26 | Record: 10-0 (9) AFTER the southpaw dismantled Ohara Davies in seven rounds in July with his slick box-fighting skills, Barry Mcguigan and Cyclone Promotions said that they wanted an all-scottish clash with former threeweight world champion Ricky Burns next for Taylor, followed by an assault on a world title.
Taylor-burns would arguably be the biggest domestic dust-up in Scotland since Jim Watt-ken Buchanan in 1973, but Mcguigan has been quick to point out that “there are other big fights out there for Josh.”
Because of his quality amateur pedigree, Taylor has been moved quickly in the pros, stopping the tough and experienced Dave “Rocky” Ryan in only his seventh outing to capture the vacant Commonwealth belt. Despite suffering a cut in his first title defence – against Warren Joubert – Taylor outclassed the South African and halted him in the sixth, before beating Davies in all departments in his most recent appearance.
WELTERWEIGHT From: Sunderland | Age: 23 | Record: 3-0 (2) TRAINER Adam Booth rates Kelly as the best talent he has worked with, and looking at his coaching CV, that’s a huge compliment. Josh gave a jaw-dropping exhibition of his abilities against Tom Whitfield in June. He stood in front of his North East rival with his hands by his sides, made him miss, then blasted him out of the fight with a rat-a-tat volley of left hooks.
Promoter Eddie Hearn has said that Kelly “should win the British title, given what he achieved in the amateurs,” although he will surely have to make adjustments as he goes up the levels.
In the unpaid ranks, it seemed for a while that Kelly may give up on boxing. He drifted away from the gym after picking up a hand injury in 2015, and ballooned up to 81kgs, before motivating himself and qualifying for the Rio Olympics last year.
BRITISH FLYWEIGHT CHAMPION From: Barry | Age: 28 | Record: 9-0 (5) MANAGER Jamie Sanigar has said that the Welshman has “Vasyl Lomachenko’s feet and Naseem Hamed’s power.” While that’s an exaggeration, he’s nonetheless a big talent, and his points win over Cristofer Rosales in May was hugely entertaining.
Down in the first, Selby boxed well under pressure to win unanimously over 12 rounds. That victory put him at No. 3 in the WBC rankings, but travelling to Japan to take on KO specialist and reigning WBC flyweight king Daigo Higa doesn’t appear to be an option. Sanigar has stated that “there’s no rush to fight for world titles. We want to make sure Andrew is fully prepared before he steps up.”
Selby can go looking for lucrative fights at flyweight, super-flyweight and possibly even bantamweight. Perhaps the biggest bout out there for him is against an old foe from his fruitful amateur days – Birmingham’s current WBA super-fly champion Kal Yafai.
MIDLANDS AREA SUPERFEATHERWEIGHT CHAMPION From: Leicester | Age: 24 | Record: 9-0 (5) PROMOTER Frank Warren is looking to push Woodstock on after he won the vacant Midlands Area strap with a third-round stoppage of Paul Holt in April. An intriguing matchup with Mitchell Smith could be in the offing after their recent social media spat, though with Smith currently out injured, that fight may have to wait until next year.
Woodstock is a big super-feather, and seems destined to move up to lightweight in the future. As an amateur, he was an out-and-out puncher who just wanted to get close and hook away, but he’s since grown a couple of inches, and now admits: “My jab is my best friend.”
Despite only having 25 amateur bouts with Leicester Unity ABC under father-figure Ajmal “Hudge” Butt, Lyon reached the Elite semi-finals in 2014, before turning pro. He has been learning in the gym since, sparring the likes of Terry Flanagan and Kid Galahad.
FLYWEIGHT From: Leeds | Age: 34 | Record: 2-0 (1) WITH professionals now able to compete in Olympic events, the whisper is that Nicola Adams wants another gold medal, which would incredibly be her third, after
★ memorable successes at both the 2012 and 2016 Games. During her truly remarkable amateur career, Adams’ medal haul also included golds at the Worlds, Europeans and Commonwealths.
In 2020 – the year of the next Olympics – Adams will be 37 years old, and will surely have fought at world level as a pro by then. Promoter Frank Warren has said that a world title challenge could happen by the end of the year for the ever-smiling Adams, possibly against Mexico’s WBO champion Monserrat Alarcon.
Due to her vast amateur experience, the basics and engine are there already for Adams, and under esteemed coach Virgil Hunter, she appears to have added slickness and spite to her already-impressive boxing skills.
CRUISERWEIGHT From: Hackney | Age: 24 | Record: 4-0 (4) SO far in the pros, all the 6ft 5in Okolie has needed is his big punch. He takes risks to land it, but is happy to be a gunslinger. “I’ve got underrated skills,” he says, “but when I have those small gloves on, I want to go in there and get them before they get me.”
Okolie is keen to jump up to Southern Area level soon following his fourth straight one-round win, over Russ Henshaw in July. Okolie took up boxing at 16, and in only his 16th amateur bout, he beat seasoned American Cam Awesome in the World Series of Boxing.
An important learning curve for Okolie came when he was stopped by the great Felix Savon in the WSB final in 2016. Okolie met Savon again in last summer’s Olympics – he had his moments before losing on points. He now has ambitions to be Britain’s best ever cruiserweight.
FEATHERWEIGHT From: Southampton | Age: 19 | Record: 6-0 (5) MANAGER Frank Hopkins has worked corners for around three decades, and according to him, Garner has bags of potential: “There isn’t another 19-year-old in the country who can spar people like Carl Frampton, Ryan Burnett and Josh Warrington and hold their own.”
Garner has won five of his first six fights inside the distance. He says: “My style has always been aggressive. I like to stay on people’s chest, but I can box as well. I’ve fought Russians and Cubans in the amateurs who you can’t knock out, and I’ve had to get on the back foot. I can adapt.”
As an amateur, Garner – who oozes a quiet confidence – won European Junior gold in 2013, and also reached the last eight at the World Junior championships. He first went to the gym at 10 years old. “I was always fighting my two bigger brothers,” he remembers, “and always getting beaten up!”
LIGHTWEIGHT From: Bray | Age: 31 | Record: 6-0 (4) PROMOTER Eddie Hearn has plans to turn Taylor into “a global star.” Katie took a step closer to achieving that by thrashing Jasmine Clarkson on the Mikey Garcia-adrien Broner undercard in Brooklyn in July. Even before she turned pro in November, Taylor’s impact on female boxing was huge. She won Olympic gold in 2012 to add to her five World championship wins, and in the pros, her opponents regularly refer to her as an inspiration. Hearn’s eyes light up at the mention of Taylor: “Technically, she is as good as you will see. Everyone who has watched her has been flabbergasted.” Further down the line, there’s a possible domestic rivalry with Chantelle Cameron, who’s had back-to-back wins as a pro. There’s history between them too, as Taylor won on points when they met in the semi-finals of the EU championships in 2011.
HEAVYWEIGHT From: Greenwich | Age: 19 | Record: 4-0 (4) DUBOIS said when he turned pro that he wanted to win every title possible, and in only his fourth fight he captured the vacant WBC Youth belt with a second-round knockout of Mauricio Barragan last month.
Dubois will be fancied to collect the vacant Southern Area strap on September 16 on the undercard of Billy Joe Saunders-willie Monroe Jnr. Dubois meets AJ Carter next month. Of Carter’s three defeats, two have come via KO or stoppage.
Trainer Martin Bowers admits that Dubois has plenty to improve on, but promoter Frank Warren looks keen to move him fast. Warren approached Gary Cornish – who faces Sam Sexton for the vacant British crown in October – and says he is ready to challenge the Board’s ruling that fighters have to be at least 21 years old to compete for the British title.