British Boxers writer Matt Lewis gives us his take on the Top 10 British Pound-for-Pound Fighters in 2016. Always a subjective topic, Matt breaks it down and here it is. Note: Tyson Fury is currently suspended from boxing since his fight with Klitschko in 2015 and therefore is not listed in this top 10 – Lets hope the former unified heavyweight champion is back in the ring in 2017 looking to regain his titles and reign again at the top.
1 – Carl Frampton
Deemed Fighter of the Year by Boxing News, British Boxers, the British Boxing Board of Control and many others, he has hardly put a foot wrong. A thrilling win over rival Scott Quigg unified the super-bantamweight titles, before beating Leo Santa Cruz for the WBA featherweight strap over in America in a contender for Fight of the Year have ensured that he lays a worthy, and largely uncontested, claim to the top spot. He continues his bid to stay there in early 2017, when he rematches Santa Cruz in January, with the WBA belt once again up for grabs.
2 – Kell Brook
He’s had a disappointing year by his standards, but he is still easily one of Britain’s best. A dominant win over Kevin Bizier kept his IBF welterweight title in his possession, after which he took an unexpected risk by moving up two weight classes to take on the fearsome Gennady Golovkin for the Kazakh’s middleweight collection. Brook lost, but in doing so put on a brave performance, and frustrated the champion until a broken eye socket and some big unanswered punches ended the contest. An impressive body of work puts him at second, and a fruitful move back down to 147lbs will ensure he stays somewhere near the top of lists like this.
3 – James DeGale
The super-middleweight world champion still rules over a packed domestic division despite only appearing once this year. His only loss to George Groves looks to be far behind him after continuing his stint as IBF champion with a point win over Rogelio Medina in April, and although other fights have failed to materialize, a unification with Badou Jack in January is a superb matchup between two of the very best in the world. Should he win, he will not only be high on pound-for-pound British lists, but will likely be high on world lists too.
4 – Anthony Joshua
The only question that remains over Anthony Joshua is whether he is light years ahead of the rest of the world’s heavyweights, because he is without doubt light years ahead of the domestic competition, at least based on current form. A flattening of Eric Molina in his last outing capped a fantastic year for the 27-year-old, who won the IBF belt from Charles Martin with a second round TKO, before knocking out Dominic Breazeale in his first defence two months later. Molina is not the pushover everyone would have you believe, but was made to look so earlier this month after he was demolished inside 3 rounds in Manchester. Out of the British heavyweights, David Haye might pose a threat, but as of now he poses no threat to a current top ten list. Joshua, however, does.
5 – Lee Selby
The Welshman is another that hasn’t had 2016 all his own way but he has talent to burn, and can make all but the most competent boxers look daft when he applies himself. He had an off day against Fernando Montiel whom he outpointed last year, but put that behind him with a more convincing win over American Eric Hunter in April. He defends his IBF featherweight belt against the tough Jonathan Victor Barros in January next year in a bout that hopefully starts the year as he means to go on. A single appearance in 12 months by a world champion isn’t enough, but a busier 2017 could see him in some fantastic unification fights.
6 – Terry Flanagan
The affable Mancunian lightweight is setting a consistent and comfortable pace for himself. He fought 3 times last year, 3 times this year, and all have been against decent opposition. 2016 saw him outpoint Derry Mathews and Mzonke Fana before knocking Orlando Cruz out in eight rounds at the end of last month. He claims that the other top lightweights are refusing to fight him, but one hopes that big unification matches await for him in the New Year. Personally, I feel a match with Jorge Linares is most appealing, although Flanagan has called out super-featherweight magician Vasyl Lomachenko in a contest that would surely to appeal to all.
7 – Scott Quigg
He took his February loss to Carl Frampton badly, but we shouldn’t let that lone defeat reflect too harshly on him. Suffering a broken jaw in the fourth round, he nevertheless rallied later in the fight and really tested the Northern Irishman, showing incredible heart along the way.
He took a little time out over the Summer, no doubt struggling to accept the blemish on his record, but returned in December, this time as a featherweight, to knock out the durable Jose Cayetano for the WBA International strap. There are some superb matches to be made for him at 126lbs – Abner Mares, Oscar Valdez, Lee Selby or Josh Warrington would all grab headlines – but he has made no secret about wanting to rematch Frampton in an attempt to even the score between them.
8 – Tony Bellew
I can’t deny Bellew a place on this list after the year he’s had. He claimed the European cruiserweight belt around this time last year, setting him up for a shot at the vacant WBC title against Illunga Makabu in May. Makabu, a huge puncher who floored Bellew in the first round (and breaking his nose in the process) was given a dose of his own medicine 2 rounds later, when a left hook knocked him out badly and sent the Liverpool crowd into raptures. The feat was repeated 5 months later, when BJ Flores was knocked out by the same left hook in the same session. He faces David Haye at heavyweight in March in a bout many believe to be the bridge too far for ‘The Bomber’, but few would begrudge his inclusion here.
9 – Amir Khan
Khan is here mostly because of his CV. His only appearance in 2016 was a loss to Saul Alvarez for the WBC middleweight title at a catchweight of 155lbs, during which he gave the Mexican a host of problems before finding himself outgunned by the sixth. Despite being at somewhat of a loose end, his credentials still largely stand up to scrutiny. His speed and accuracy remain some of the most remarkable in the sport, and when he does re-settle in a comfortable division he will automatically find himself amongst the frontrunners. Rumours are bubbling away that a face off with Kell Brook is finally close, which would surely amount to yet another big stadium fight in the UK. Adding Brook’s name to the list of big fighters Khan has already beaten will give him a welcome boost, and secure future world title fights that he deserves, and needs.
10 – Anthony Crolla
Crolla’s story really is like something out of the movies. Since returning from injuries sustained while chasing burglars from a neighbour’s house, the Mancunian has enjoyed considerable success, winning the WBA lightweight title from Darleys Perez last November in his first comeback fight. He successfully defended his title against the ferocious Ismael Barroso in style, knocking him out with a body shot in the 7th round of their May contest. Crolla lost his title against the exceptional Jorge Linares in a September thriller, but might have a chance to win it back next year, after rematch negotiations begun recently. There were many fighters worthy of consideration for the final spot, but Crolla just about pips them all. He wins the Linares rematch and there’s no question.
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