Danny Flexen assesses who will be the next British boxer to win a world title for the first time
In assessing who will likely be British boxing’s next first-time world champion, a number of key factors were important. First and foremost, as indicated by the title, any fighter who has previously captured a ‘big four’ world title (so you remain eligible, Mr Eubank) is excluded from consideration, as are WBA ‘Regular’ titles if there is a Super champ in the same division (sorry, Mr Joyce) and Carl Frampton, who by strict definition is a ‘UK’ and Irish boxer rather than a British one. We also looked at where fighters sat in the various sanctioning body rankings, to provide an indication of how soon a world title chance could arrive. Finally, of course, we surmised who those chances may come against, to measure how likely a victory will be. With all that in mind, here is our top 5 British boxers most likely to win their first world title in the near future.
1. Anthony Yarde
It has to be the London light-heavyweight in the top spot, because he has a winnable (yeah, I said it), albeit exceptionally challenging world title shot booked for August 24. He must travel to his opponent’s home country of Russia to meet WBO ruler Sergey Kovalev, a formidable fighter who may just be on the downslide. It is a huge step up from the opposition Yarde has faced thus far but he is fresh, confident and explosive. With the fight location and his position as a significant underdog, there is little pressure on Yarde.
2. Jack Catterall
The WBO No. 1 super-lightweight is actually in line for two world titles, given that body’s champion Maurice Hooker meets WBC king Jose Ramirez next week to unify. The victor in that mouthwatering showdown will certainly be a tough challenge but neither are elite operators while Catterall is unbeaten, versatile and approaching his prime at 26. His chance could actually come later this year.
3. Lawrence Okolie
Yes, he has yet to make the step to world level yet, but with longtime target Denis Lebedev having retired, there is now only one WBA champion in Arsen Goulamirian and Okolie sits at No. 2 in their rankings. He has a respected new trainer in Shane McGuigan, his height, reach and strength make him an awkward and difficult opponent even before his amateur pedigree and improving technical skills. Goulamirian, coached by Abel Sanchez, is 24-0 (16) but mostly against mediocre opposition.
4. Chris Eubank Jr
A divisive choice perhaps but there is no denying Eubank Jr, who has previously come up short in a world title challenge to George Groves, is rated No. 2 by both the WBA and WBC at super-middle. He is currently in negotiations to meet John Ryder who is WBA No. 1 and has already won a final eliminator for Super champ Callum Smith. A victory there would put Junior right in the mix, although Smith would be favoured to defeat him. Go the WBC route and Eubank would have a shot at their belt-holder Anthony Dirrell or his next challenger, David Benavidez.
5. Luke Campbell
The Hull lightweight and Olympic gold medallist had to be on the shortlist simply because he is one of only two eligible contenders who already have world title shots on the schedule, albeit his is not quite confirmed. The fact he is not in the top four is of course because opposing him will be the boxing genius that is Vasyl Lomachenko, for the vacant WBC belt and the Ukranian’s Super WBA and WBO straps. That said, Campbell, also with McGuigan, is no slouch himself and, with home advantage, could make a real dispute of it.
*Shout out to Shane McGuigan, who not only trains two of the fighters on his list, but also took the last British fighter to his first world title, in Josh Taylor.