Danny Flexen assesses the thriving British boxing scene and decides which of the excellent trio Callum Smith, Tyson Fury or Billy Joe Saunders should be considered pound-for-pound supremo
Let me start by outlining some brief criteria I have always employed when assembling pound-for-pound lists. For me, they should not be based on ability or potential. They should be based purely on accomplishment – titles won, victories achieved, quality of opposition – performance quality, and recent form. In other words, if a fighter is regularly beating quality opposition in impressive fashion, they deserve to be in the pound-for-pound conversation; if they look a million dollars against inferior opposition but have all the talent in the world, then their ascent should wait.
With that in mind, here is my current British male pound-for-pound top 3. For those who care, IBF featherweight king Josh Warrington was the closest to cracking the shortlist.
Billy Joe Saunders
Like the other two men on this shortlist, the Hatfield traveller is undefeated but, unlike his rivals, Saunders is the only one to have captured world titles in more than one weight class. Now, Shefat Isufi wasn’t the toughest opponent against which to secure a belt at 168lbs – as Saunders did in May – but Billy Joe’s previous achievements at middleweight in defeating Chris Eubank Jr, Andy Lee and – in the most eye-catching manner – David Lemiuex, place him near the top of UK boxing.
Unfortunately, Smith has not really kicked on since unseating George Groves as Super WBA super-middleweight champion in September last year, but that career-best win also brought the World Boxing Super Series Ali Trophy and added to a raft of victories at the level just below. Still only 29, if Liverpool’s “Mundo” can nail down marquee fights with Saunders or Canelo Alvarez, he could soon knock on the door of the global pound-for-pound ranks.
He has by far the best win of any active British fighter – defeating a near-peak Wladimir Klitschko in Germany to end a reign that had endured for longer than a decade – and in looking unlucky to only draw with Deontay Wilder in December, the “Gypsy King” also boasts superb recent form. The three facile wins sandwiching the Wilder result did not enhance his status, but the switch-hitting Wilmslow giant is the consensus best heavyweight in the world and certainly the UK’s finest pound-for-pound pugilist.