In the summer of 2016 British and Irish boxing had an unprecedented 13 recognised world champions, spanning across 10 different weight classes.
Within the last couple of years, we have managed to maintain double figures across 9 weight classes but since November 2018 there has been worrying decline to just 6. As we head into the next couple of weeks where two of our former world champions Anthony Crolla and Amir Khan attempt to defy the odds against the two-best pound for pounders in the world today, I can’t help but wonder if we will ever reach such dizzy heights again?
There is no doubt that the recent retirements of David Haye, Tony Bellew, James DeGale and George Groves have impacted on our recent fall from grace so to quote Sir Winston Churchill, who has the ability to “Take up the mantle of change. For this is your time.”
To kickstart our resurgence we have two very realistic chances of world championship glory starting with a 24-year-old that was born in Ghana but made in Britain, Isaac Dogboe. The former WBO Super-Bantamweight champion is on a revenge mission against Emanuel Navarrete on May 11 at the Convention Centre in Arizona, USA. If the talented youngster has prepared correctly, he should have more than enough quality to produce the goods and reclaim the title he lost last year.
Exactly one week later in Glasgow, Scotland another talented youngster gets his first crack at a world title in the semi-final of the World Boxing Super Series (WBSS). Super-Lightweight Josh Taylor will be rubbing shoulders with our homegrown elite in the future but first he will need to capture the IBF strap from undefeated Belarusian Ivan Baranchyk. Come the end of May we should have 2 more world champions.
On June 15 at the First Direct Arena in Leeds, England, IBF Featherweight champion Josh Warrington faces mandatory challenger Kid Galahad. The ‘Leeds Warrior’ will unusually be the favourite to prevail, whether that will make any difference remains to be seen. Either way Britain will still have a World Champion after this domestic dust-up.
Except for Crolla and Khan we have no more Brits currently scheduled to challenge for world honours so with nothing else but speculation and rumours, the question remains who else can stake their claim.
This week news circulated that Light-Heavyweight Anthony Yarde had agreed terms to fight WBO champion Sergey Kovalev this summer in Russia, according to Top Rank promoter Bob Arum. There has been no official announcement but with the continued speculation in recent months this fight looks like it could happen. With the Russian approaching the end of his career and Yarde heading into his prime this could be perfect timing for ‘The Beast’. His chances are realistic even though he is stepping into uncharted territory.
Former WBO Middleweight Champion Billy Joe Saunders is a genuine world champion without a title due to his own stupidity after failing a drugs test and being subsequently banned for 6-months. Following his suspension being lifted, Saunders has now moved up to the 168lb division and will fight Serbian Shefat Isufi on May 18 at Stevenage’s Lamex Stadium. Victory will hand Saunders the interim WBO Super-Middleweight title due to Gilberto Ramirez moving up to Light-Heavyweight. If the Mexican decides to remain at in the 175lb division then the interim title would become full champion.
Sticking with the 168lb division Chris Eubank Jr who recently captured the lesser IBO title when he defeated James DeGale in February must fancy his chances of picking up the more recognised title. Not to discredit the current IBF and WBC title holders, Caleb Plant and Anthony Dirrell but Junior is more than capable of dethroning either champion if he could produce a similar performance to the one, he put in against Degale. Who knows maybe Eubank Jr and Saunders could cross paths once again in a unification come the end of the year?
Northern Ireland’s Ryan Burnett had the misfortune of losing for the first time in his career after succumbing to an unfortunate injury in the WBSS quarter-final against Nonito Donaire which cost him the WBA strap. The classy Bantamweight should be preparing for a unification fight against the WBO king Zolani Tete, instead he is in recovery and searching for a way back in amongst the elite of the division. Rather than wait for the WBSS to be completed, Team-Burnett should be looking at negotiating with WBC champion Nordine Oubaali? The 26-year-old has the tools necessary to defeat the Frenchman which in turn could put himself in position to fight the WBSS winner come 2020.
When browsing through all the current world champions across 17 weight classes and to not disrespect any of the current holders there are clear targets our British and Irish boxers must have identified.
For instance, I’m sure Eddie Hearn would be keen to get his top 2 Light-Middleweights Kell Brook and Liam Smith a shot at Tony Harrison’s WBC title. Although, it does look like Jermell Charlo will get first dibs for his chance to recapture the belt he lost in a rematch but Brook and Smith would still fancy their chances against either.
In the glamour division Shawn Porter is the current WBC champion but the likes of Khan and Brook – if he came back down to 147 – would definitely be confident of picking up a victory against the durable American.
At Lightweight Richard Commey holds the IBF version and would clearly have his card marked by our experienced former world champions Ricky Burns and Lee Selby. If any of those 2 could successfully secure a fight with Ghanaian Commey they wouldn’t only be in with decent shot of victory but they could also set-up a huge payday against the kings of the division Vasyl Lomachenko and Mikey Garcia, just like their fellow Brit Crolla.
While there are plenty of options for our homegrown fighters the likelihood of any of these fights coming to fruition is only hopeful at best. We do still need our current champions to hold onto their straps with the ambition of unifying. The target of matching or surpassing the class of 2016 come the end of this year is hardly unlikely but our chances of reaching double figures once again is certainly possible. Who knows maybe Crolla and Khan can achieve the impossible dream but if we’re being honest, a chance will be a fine thing.