Despite fewer world champions than at the start of 2017, British boxing’s boom is showing no signs of relenting.
Great Britain started the year with 13 world champions. It now has 10; of those, Anthony Joshua and James DeGale are No. 1 in their respective divisions (according to ESPN’s divisional rankings) and there are big fights scheduled or in the making for the next six months.
The likes of Carl Frampton, Kell Brook and Ricky Burns have all lost their world title belts at featherweight, welterweight and junior welterweight respectively. Anthony Crolla and Ryan Walsh were beaten in world title fights while Amir Khan and Tyson Fury have been inactive for more than a year now. DeGale could be ruled out until early 2018 and Billy Joe Saunders and Jamie McDonnell have yet to fight in 2017.
But others, such as George Groves and Ryan Burnett, have become world champions. Tony Bellew enjoyed an impressive win over former title-holder David Haye to put himself in contention for a shot at a world heavyweight title, which New Zealand’s Joseph Parker defends against Manchester’s Hughie Fury on Sep. 23.
As well as Hughie Fury — cousin of Tyson — other British boxers will be challenging for world titles in the next six months.
The winner of the inaugural World Boxing Super Series super-middleweight competition, due to start in September, will also have a good claim to being the division’s No. 1. It features title holder Groves as well as Callum Smith, who turned down a shot at a world title to enter the Super Series.
Chris Eubank Jr. earned a place in the tournament by out-pointing former champion Arthur Abraham at the weekend and will challenge Groves early next year if they are both victorious in their quarterfinals.
“I believe we’re in a golden era. I don’t believe there has been such a buzz around the sport since the time my father was fighting,” Eubank said. “There are so many great names and great fights. The amount of talent is unprecedented and it’s great to be among that.”
Luke Campbell, the 2012 Olympic gold medalist from Hull, may have to wait until next year for a difficult opportunity against Venezuela’s Jorge Linares, the lightweight champion who has twice beaten Manchester’s former title-holder Crolla.
Down at featherweight there is real excitement involving British fighters, and Frampton can earn himself a crack at world titleholder Gary Russell Jr. this weekend.
Frampton was Britain’s best boxer of 2016 after stepping up a division to become a two-weight world champion with a victory over Leo Santa Cruz, who he lost a rematch to in January. If Frampton comes through Saturday’s non-title bout with Mexican Andres Gutierrez in his home city of Belfast he will be hoping for a world title shot in the next six months either against Russell, titlist Santa Cruz or even Welshman Lee Selby, who defended his world title last weekend.
No British boxer is bigger than north London-based Joshua, though, and a rematch with Klitschko toward the end of the year will be the next huge event featuring a UK fighter.
Then there is Saunders, who has fought just once since winning a middleweight belt by decision from Andy Lee in December 2015. If he comes through a second defense against Willie Monroe Jr. in London on Sep. 16, he will be in one of the biggest fights featuring a Briton this year.
Victory over Monroe earns Saunders a big pay day against the winner of Gennady Golovkin and Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, who clash in Las Vegas on Sep. 16 for the other three world middleweight titles. Saunders’ promoter Frank Warren hopes a fight against Golovkin or Alvarez can be made for December or January, if the Briton holds on to his title.
As for all-British fights, expect the heavyweight rematch between Bellew and David Haye, who is recovering from an Achilles injury suffered in their March 4 encounter which Bellew won by 11th-round stoppage. Although Haye, 36, was last a world champion in 2011, he remains one of Britain’s most recognizable boxers and a December rematch with Bellew would be one of the biggest boxing events in the UK this year.
Amir Khan, however, who lost to Canelo Alvarez in May last year and then passing on a fight with Brook this summer for the second successive year appears to have slipped off the radar as he recovers from hand surgery. Brook-Khan seems as unlikely now as ever before and Brook needs to establish himself as a super-welterweight after back-to-back defeats. Brook suffered a fractured eye socket in each fight and lost his welterweight belt to American Spence by 11th-round defeat his home city of Sheffield in May.
It is uncertain whether Tyson Fury will ever come back. If Fury can resolve his dispute with UK Anti-Doping over an alleged violation, which is keeping him inactive, his return to the sport will make boxing in the UK only more relevant to the wider public. Love him or loathe him, Fury is the former lineal champion who beat Klitschko for three versions of the world heavyweight title in November 2015. Fury has not fought since and is unsure whether he has the hunger to fight again.
But a new generation of British boxers is on the rise.
Junior middleweight Josh Taylor, light heavyweight Anthony Yarde and bantamweight Michael Conlan are early in their careers, but they’re making rapid progress and are likely to challenge for world titles before 2018 is out. There could be some interesting disputes down the line between Scots Taylor and Burns, and perhaps an all-Belfast match-up between Conlan and Burnett, who lifted a belt with a points win over Lee Haskins last month.
Flyweight Andrew Selby, super-flyweight Jamie Conlan, bantamweight Paul Butler, featherweight Josh Warrington, lightweight/super-lightweight Crolla, lightweight Jack Catterall, super welterweight Liam Smith and heavyweight Dillian Whyte will all be trying to move closer to world title shots in the next year.
Former Olympians Josh Buatsi, Lawrence Okolie, Joe Joyce and Paddy Barnes are others with big ambitions.
It all adds up to an exciting six months and beyond for British boxing with an unprecedented six channels in the UK screening the sport.