It seems like a lot about the sport we love is subjective. That adjective is rarely used as much as when it describes boxing. Scoring a fight is subjective. Favourite boxers are subjective. And you can guarantee nothing is more subjective than a much maligned, mythical pound for pound ranking list. Well, with that in mind, here we go!
What better way to start the year than to see how our thoughts have changed on the cream of the UK boxing crop? The list is much changed, mostly through inactivity of the previous entrants, as well as some significant wins and losses.
2017 UK Pound for Pound Top 10
- Carl Frampton
- James Degale
- Jamie McDonnell
- Lee Selby
- Kell Brook
- Amir Khan
- Terry Flanagan
- Billy Joe Saunders
- Tony Bellew
- Anthony Joshua
A lot has changed in 12 months. This time last year, we said “As it is totally subjective, there isn’t really a set criteria for selection. With that in mind we’ve looked at a combination of the recent accomplishments of our nation’s boxers and how we rate their ability.”
1. Carl Frampton (24-1) – Featherweight
I still believe that “The Jackal” is the most talented, active British boxer. His career has seemingly stalled with the much discussed ‘showergate’ fight cancellation, his split and subsequent legal battle with Cyclone Promotions and his former trainer. That doesn’t remove the fact he is a 2 weight world champion and has beaten every man he’s ever faced. There appear to be several tantalising matchups ahead, now that the Belfast boxer has signed with promotional terms with Frank Warren and is under the management of MTK. If he gets the opportunities, Frampton has the class and pedigree to deliver. Whether he do enough in 2018 to stay ahead of the man in second spot is another matter…
2. Anthony Joshua (20-0) – Heavyweight
The meteoric rise of the AJ brand continues. His rise through our rankings (from tenth to second) can be attributed to his career best win against Wladimir Klitscko. Getting off the canvas to stop the Ukrainian legend showed heart and toughness as well as a hint of vulnerability. Joshua finished the year by just about stopping the durable Carlos Takam in another stadium bout to keep the hype coming. A second unification in 3 fights could see Joshua add Joseph Parker’s WBO strap to his collection. To add more credence, AJ surely has to face cocky American Deontay Wilder, which will hopefully happen this year
3. Ryan Burnett (18-0)
Only ‘that’ night at Wembley stopped this being a Belfast 1-2. Burnett can consider himself immensely unlucky not to be even higher following what was an incredible year. He has always been highly talented, often appearing to coast through fights at domestic level, and to go from British to unified World champion in the space of 12 months is nothing short of astounding. The bantamweight has demonstrated high levels of skill as well as guts and heart on his route to the top. South African dangerman and WBO beltholder, Zolani Tete, hopefully comes next in what could prove to be a career defining matchup.
4. Billy Joe Saunders (26-0) Middleweight
Saunders is another who sees his stock rise off the back of a recent performance. I have no shame in saying I confidently predicted he would comfortably outpoint Canadian David Lemieux but the sharpness Saunders showed in controlling the action was superb. I have long felt that the Hadfield southpaw has the style and skill to trouble Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez and I hope he gets the opportunity in the future. Following his victorious trip to North America, Saunders has planted his flag firmly in the upper echelons of middleweight boxing and will be keenly observing Mexican Alvarez’ mooted rematch with Gennady Golovkin
5. Lee Selby (26-1) Featherweight
The ‘Welsh Mayweather’ has been a world champion since 2015 but hasn’t really kicked on since. His slick, defensive style isn’t for everyone and Selby has often struggled to translate his success in the ring, to recognition outside of it. He can consider himself unlucky to have dropped a place on this list, but he is still without a signature win that really defines him as a boxer. This time last year a supposed all British world title fight with Leeds’ Josh Warrington seemed unlikely. That same bout appears to be happening next and should give Selby a chance to showcase his skills to a wider audience. The winner of that one could also be in line to face the man at the top of our tree: Carl Frampton
6. George Groves (27-3) Super-Middleweight
It was fourth time lucky for ‘The Saint’, who eventually claimed a world title, stopping Fedor Chudinov in typically emphatic style. Groves, who has lost twice to Carl Froch and once to Badou Jack, is living proof that unbeaten records are overrated. There is no shame in losing to two such high calibre boxers and the closeness of his loss to Jack looks better with every success for the Swede. A domestic rivalry specialist, Groves takes on the controversial Chris Eubank Jr in the semi-final of the World Super Series of Boxing next month, in what promises to be a cracker.
7. Kal Yafai (23-0) Super-Flyweight
WBA titleholder Yafai is another who’s talent for outweighs his wider appeal. He is also another on this list who could potentially secure greatness, depending on his upcoming opponents. There are several truly world class boxers that Yafai could share the ring with and enhance his reputation as a result (win, lose or draw). If truth be told, I don’t think Eddie Hearn calling him the ‘best super-flyweight on the planet’ did too much for Yafai’s stock among ‘hardcore’ fans. It is a typically bullish, yet unfounded, claim from a promoter. Hearn’s theory can surely be put to the test with the potential opponents available, although it has been confirmed a clash with Roman ‘Chocalatito’ Gonzalez won’t be happening next. Shame.
8. Tony Bellew (29-2) Cruiser / Heavyweight
While his win over an injured David Haye will be forever controversial, Bellew is a former world champion who moved up in weight and defeated a much fancied opponent to upset the odds. On paper, his win over Haye is a fantastic achievement but the nature of it probably means that the result will do more for his bank balance than legacy. The rematch has been put back once already and the questionable condition of Haye means it isn’t certain to happen at all. Still, Bellew did everything that was asked of him this year and deserves his place on the list.
9. Jamie McDonnell (29-2-1) Bantamweight for now
2017 should have been the year that Jamie McDonnell got to put right a perceived wrong and get on with his business. Unfortunately for the Doncaster man, his victory over previous opponent (who most observers thought had won their first encounter) was hugely anticlimactic. McDonnell’s previous wins see him keep his place in the top 10 and should he gain a world title in a second weight class he could soon find himself back among the British elite.
10. James Degale (23-2) Super-Middleweight
A lot of consideration went into whether to include Degale here, following his shocking upset loss to the unheralded American, Caleb Truax. Injuries and inactivity have seemingly contributed to Degale’s downfall and there are many question marks over his future. His previous accomplishments shouldn’t be forgotten however. Since last year’s list was complied, Degale did manage a draw against world class Badou Jack and his other Stateside performances outrank anything the Honourable Mention boxers have achieved recently, or at all.
Kell Brook, Chris Eubank Jr, Terry Flanagan, Liam Smith, Josh Taylor, Anthony Crolla, Amir Khan, Callum Smith
This list is subjective. Feel free to share where you agree and disagree in the comments section!