By Clive Bernath:
British boxing over the last five or six years has suffered seriously from a dearth of natural talent but hopefully the year ahead will prove that Britain can produce genuine prospects that will eventually perform in true world class.
For me, the last 12 months has produced a number of exciting prospects but the three that have excited me most is Carl Froch (super-middleweight), David Haye (cruiserweight) and Roman Greenberg (pictured) (heavyweight).
S0 rating: 11
The 25 year-old former world amateur bronze medallist impressed just about everyone this year. Four stoppages out of five against modest opposition is par for the course and expected as he learns his trade but the manner in which he dispatched them with chilling single punch knockouts was impressive. Froch carries power in both hands but can also box; he proved that with an impressive shutout points win over durable cruiserweight Paul Bonson in October.
By the end of 2003 Froch should be knocking on the door of a domestic title final eliminator. Some experts even feel he could comfortably compete at the highest domestic level now. We will soon find out.
SO rating: 15
It is very dangerous to get carried away with fighters in terms of talent and what they can achieve, especially heavyweights as they are always one punch away from defeat. I learned a long time ago that you should never get too carried away with a fighter but I can honestly say that Greenberg is the finest young heavyweight talent I have seen in 20 years of following boxing. The last time I felt like that about any fighter was when I saw a certain little Arab kid stop Andrew Bloomer in two very one sided rounds in 1992, and we know what he achieved a number of years later.
The world junior silver medallist has a style all of his own. He is elusive, punches from all angles and possesses the smoothest of footwork. At 20, 6ft 3 and a solid 16st frame he has the boxing world at his feet. In his last outing on December 20, the Robert Waterman promoted fighter completely dominated Kettering based Scot Derek McCafferty, with a shutout points win over four rounds. McCafferty hardly laid a glove on Greenberg in 12 minutes of boxing. It is worth remembering Audley Harrison struggled to out-point McCafferty in his second fight.
SO rating: 18
Haye first came to prominence when he won silver at the world amateur championships in 2001. He has only had the one fight in the paid ranks and albeit for two rounds but in that six minutes it was difficult to not realise his obvious talent. His opponent the seasoned Hull pro Tony Booth has been in with everyone but has rarely been dominated in the manner Haye did. A lightening fast jab and hooks to the body crippled the normally durable Booth and forced him into retiring on his stool at the end of the second round.
Haye has signed a 10 fight deal with the BBC so has the perfect platform to showcase his skills. He returns to action on January 24 when he fights in Sheffield. The bout will be televised on BBC1’s Grandstand the following day.
Whilst the three aforementioned are my pics to watch out for in 2003, there were other young prospects that impressed in 2002, and could also be knocking on the door of domestic glory before the year is out
Froch’s Real class of 2002 team-mate, Matthew Thirlwall (SO rating 21) extended his unbeaten slate to 5-0 with a very impressive six round points win over former IBF world title challenger Howard Clarke. Thirlwall is another one that can punch destructively with both hands but also has good boxing skills.
Manchester southpaw David Barnes (SO rating 18) has won all 10 pro starts, seven by the short route. Barnes also punches hard and will almost certainly feature in a welterweight title fight of some description before the end of the year.
Former amateur star Matthew Macklin from Birmingham (SO rating 22) is definitely one to watch. The 20 year-old has won seven in a row, six by stoppage. Macklin does tend to get hit a little too often unnecessarily but has plenty of time to get it right.
Lastly. Though, Olympic super-heavyweight champion Audley Harrison is 31, he is still a prospect and one to keep an eye on. Following a slow start to his pro career because of injury, Audley has now fought and won all eight fights so far. He has been criticised because of his choice of opponents but he has fought better men than some of the other heavyweight prospects of the past. Audley does have natural talent, fast hands and good hand to eye co-ordination and he has used it to good effect. He has two fights remaining on his lucrative 10-fight contract with the BBC. In one of those last two, he should meet a top five domestic fighter. If he is to live up to his boast of becoming heavyweight champion of the world, that’s the least he can do before the year’s out.