The Best of British 2021

WBO world super-middleweight champion Billy Joe Saunders

As we come to the end of this most difficult year let’s take a look at the current crop of elite British fighters. We present our Top Ten.

The British Isles boast five ‘world’ champions as recognized by the four main sanctioning bodies – WBC, WBA, IBF and WBO. Head of the pack, merely by virtue of holding three titles (excepting WBC), is London heavyweight Anthony Joshua. Making a successful defence earlier this month against his mandatory IBF contender Kubrat Pulev, the big 2012 Olympic super-heavyweight champion looks towards a massive unification fight (or fights) with fellow Brit and WBC title holder Tyson Fury. This is the biggest potential fight and event in the sport right now and has to be made in 2021.

‘Gypsy King’ Fury shocked the world in February by dethroning previously undefeated WBC champ Deontay Wilder. Having recently been crowned as The Ring magazine co-fighter of the year, to go with his recognition as the ‘Bible of Boxing’s‘ top heavyweight, he will enter any Joshua fight as the marginal favorite, largely on his widely considered superior boxing ability.

Britain dominates the heavyweights at the moment having the two kings of the division and with several other fighters possessing high world rankings (Dillian Whyte, Joe Joyce and more recently Daniel Dubois).

Scotland’s super-lightweight world champion Josh Taylor, the current holder of the IBF and WBA ten stone titles, is vying for top spot amongst the elite British champions. The Prestonpans southpaw is also recognised by The Ring as their champion. He made one defence of his titles in 2020 by bombing out Thailand’s Apinun Kongsong and satisfying his IBF mandatory obligations.

The ‘Tartan Tornado’ looks forward to the signing of a unification fight with WBC champion Jose Ramirez and should he be victorious will enter ‘superfight’ status with widespread options to cash in at either super-lightweight or seven pounds higher at 147 against a range of elite welterweight suitors.

Next on the log is open to debate but The Undisputed’s pick is IBF featherweight champion Josh Warrington. The Leeds man has been inactive through 2020, almost exclusively down to COVID restrictions being in place and uncertainty over longevity of the pandemic. He strives for a unification fight with Golden Boy Promotions backed Xu Can, the current WBA champion. This would be an intriguing contest with both fighters having low knockout percentages but excellent records. Warrington remains undefeated in thirty contests and the Chinese has lost two in twenty.

Close on the rails, largely by virtue of past achievements and him remaining world ranked, is Belfast junior-lightweight Carl Frampton. The Ulsterman has fought in elite company for the majority of his late career, gained world titles in two divisions (super-bantamweight and featherweight) and now seeks a third at 9st 4lbs (130lbs). If successful this would make him one of the most decorated fighters from the British Isles. Added to this is his being voted The Ring magazine fighter of the year in 2016, by popular consensus viewed as the highest honour in the sport.

Frampton faces a difficult challenge against current WBO champion Jamel Herring in early 2021 to solidify his status in the annals of boxing greats.

Next up is the enigma that is Billy Joe Saunders. Notoriously inactive, (although ironically he fought this month), incendiary social media blogger, but, with an undefeated record and the possessor of undoubted class. The Hertfordshire southpaw has beaten all-comers in a thirty fight pro career, some by total humiliation. In doing so he’s gained the WBO world middleweight title and is the current WBO champion at twelve stone (168lbs).

2021 has to be the year for Billy Joe to finally seal that big fight and fulfill the outstanding ability he possesses. Look for a fight to be announced against megastar Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez or WBO middleweight champion Demetrius Andrade in the New Year. His promoters Matchroom have a lot of wheeling and dealing to do, but one of these fights has to happen early next year whilst Saunders remains in his prime.

The four remaining fighters in our Top Ten are at various stages of their career, but although not world champions as we write, have the potential to make this possible in the foreseeable future.

One, Luke Campbell, could become WBC ‘interim’ lightweight champion this weekend when he faces Golden Boy Promotions backed Ryan Garcia in the United States. Campbell from Hull in NE England is a London 2012 Olympic champion and this will be his third, and likely final attempt at winning a ‘world’ title. He’s come up short in highly competitive fights against future hall of famer’s Jorge Linares and Vasiliy Lomachenko in recent years.

Against the 22 year old Californian with Mexican heritage, who is a noted puncher with 17/20 knockouts, the Englishman is again in deep, but his superior experience and undoubted skill set could prevail in Dallas on Saturday.

Callum Smith, the super-middleweight from Liverpool, has just come off a heavy loss (albeit a decision defeat) to ‘Canelo’ Alvarez. His accomplishments leading into that fight, gaining The Ring and WBA world 168lb championship, and the fact he lost to the widely accepted #1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world was no shame, and warrants his continued inclusion in the British Top Ten.

2021 will be a pivotal year for the Scouser (a native of Liverpool) and how he rebounds back will determine his position going forward. First, he must recover from a serious bicep injury sustained in the Canelo fight.

Other boxers filling the remaining places in the Top Ten are ‘works in progress’.

London heavyweight Joe Joyce is coming off a big stoppage victory against compatriot Daniel Dubois and now taken up a top three WBO world ranking. Should Anthony Joshua not defend against his mandatory contender in Ukrainian Oleksandr Usyk (unlikely with a Fury fight pending), then Joyce is almost certain to face Usyk for the vacant title. Joyce at age 35 needs to make his moves quickly to gain world honours.

Manchester light-heavyweight Lyndon Arthur takes the number ten slot after his impressive split decision victory against WBO world title contender Anthony Yarde. The decision was highly disputed at the time by the Yarde camp but the future for Arthur looks bright.

Lyndon will likely be presented with a rematch against Yarde in the New Year which will show us whether the Mancunian can push on to European and world honours to support his current British and Commonwealth championship status. If not, look for Yarde to inherit this position and push towards a second world title shot.

Honourable mentions outside of our Top Ten go to cruiserweight Lawrence Okolie, light-heavyweight Joshua Buatsi, middleweight’s Liam Williams and Denzel Bentley, and welterweight Josh Kelly. Look for all to either capture a ‘world’ title or move through the rankings in the New Year. Add in come-backing heavyweights Whyte and Dubois, Yarde at 175lbs and an ever ready John Ryder.

To recap, The Undisputed’s British Top Ten are as follows:

  1. Anthony Joshua (heavyweight) 24 wins-1 loss-0 draws (22 KO’s)
  2. Tyson Fury (heavyweight) 30-0-1 (21)
  3. Josh Taylor (super-lightweight) 17-0-0 (13)
  4. Josh Warrington (featherweight) 30-0-0 (7)
  5. Carl Frampton (junior-lightweight) 28-2-0 (16)
  6. Billy Joe Saunders (super-middleweight) 30-0-0 (14)
  7. Callum Smith (super-middleweight) 27-1-0 (19)
  8. Luke Campbell (lightweight) 20-3-0 (16)
  9. Joe Joyce (heavyweight) 12-0-0 (11)
  10. Lyndon Arthur (light-heavyweight) 18-0-0 (12)

Please post any comments to my website should you wish to make a case for a different view. Have a Happy New Year all.

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