Editorials

By the Dozen: Ranking the United Kingdom’s 12 World Champion Boxers

Lars Baron Wladimir Klitschko Tyson Fury
Photo by Lars Baron

Tyson Fury is now the jester-king of the heavyweight division. He became the first man to ever beat Wladimir Klitshcko by decision. And did so in enemy territory, no less.

Fury returns to his home of The United Kingdom a world champion. Three of the four major championship belts rest around his 6’9” frame.

He is the latest beltholder to call the UK home and the 12th from Great Britain and Ireland. Fury would surely suggest he’s the best looking of them all and he certainly has the best vocals. But does his win over Klitschko make him the most accomplished?

Here’s how each of the UK’s champions rank against each other. With, of course, an emphasis on defeating quality opposition and their most recent success.

12. Liam Smith

Liam Smith - John Thompson - Ben Hoskins Getty Images
Photo by Ben Hoskins/Getty Images

Record: 21-0, 11 KOs

Title: WBO super welterweight

Liam “Beefy” Smith makes up a fourth of the Smith fighting clan. It’s a talented quartet of brethren consisting of Paul, Stephen and Callum. He became the first one to bring home a championship belt in October. His opponent was the crafty John Thompson. The American was out cold by Round 7 in front of a partisan crowd at the Manchester Arena.

The 27-year-old Smith returns in two weeks’ time in support of the Andy Lee vs. Billy Joe Saunders middleweight title fight against Jimmy Kelly.

Both men are unbeaten, but Smith isn’t convinced Kelly is ready for him.

“I’m going to wipe the floor with Jimmy Kelly,” Smith said per the Liverpool Echo. “He should be fighting for a British or Commonwealth title, not fighting me.”

Smith also shared what he plans to do with his winnings:

“For me, this is just wages for Christmas. It means I go on holiday and have a drink on Jimmy Kelly while lying on a beach somewhere.”

The truth is, Kelly isn’t a world-class fighter. He’s only beaten five men with a winning record. So Smith shouldn’t waste his breath. He needs to focus on tightening up his defense. It was concerning how regularly Thompson’s jab found its mark last time boxing fans saw him.

11. Lee Haskins

Lee Haskins - Getty Images
Photo by Lee Haskins/Getty Images

Record: 32-3, 14 KOs

Title: IBF bantamweight

Lee Haskins’ biggest win didn’t come inside the ropes, but on the scales.

The Englishman won the the interim IBF bantamweight title in June. He beat the Japanese southpaw Ryosuke Iwasa via a Round 6 TKO.

A unification match with full champion Randy Caballero fell through on November 20. Caballero missed weight by over five pounds and was stripped of his title.

Haskins is now the sole owner of the IBF strap. Reports are that he’ll be back in the ring in March, per BBC.

Haskin’s manager Chris Sanigar says WBC champion Shinsuke Yamanaka is an option. Yamanaka, the No. 1-ranked bantamweight in the world, is a tall order for Haskins. But the 32 year old has beaten world champions, past and future, before. This includes fellow Englishman Jamie McDonnell over eight rounds back in 2008.

Why he’s ahead of Smith: It’s a toss-up between Smith and Haskins. Haskins has technically defeated two titleholders (McDonnell and Stuey Hall). Smith never has. The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board (TBRB) also consider Haskins a top-10 bantamweight. Smith doesn’t even rate at 154 pounds.

10. Anthony Crolla

Darlys Perez Anthony Crolla - PHOTO CREDIT MARCO PEREZ BOXEO DE COLOMBIA3
Photo by Marco Perez/Boxeo de Colombia

Record: 30-4-3

Title: WBA lightweight

He feared he would never fight again.

It was Christmas season. Crolla, a 35-fight veteran with title aspirations, set chase after a couple of burglars. He was eventually hit over the head with a block of concrete. The final results were a fractured skull and a broken ankle.

Under a year later, Crolla won the WBA lightweight championship. It wasn’t easy. His opponent wasn’t the problem; it was the judges.

Crolla squared off with Darleys Perez earlier this year in July. He soundly outboxed Perez but had to settle for a majority draw.

Things were much more decisive next time around. Two weeks ago, Crolla, nicknamed “Million Dollar,” sank a left hand into Perez’s soul. The Colombian fell for good and referee Terry O’Connor waved the fight off in Round 5.

Why he’s ahead of Smith: Both Crolla and Haskins have really light resumes. But Crolla’s actually beaten a ranked opponent before. Gavin Rees was one fight removed from his failed title bid against Adrien Broner. The TBRB recognized Reese as a top-10 lightweight when Crolla got his hands on him.

9. Terry Flanagan

Terry Flanagan - Getty Images
Photo by Getty Images

Record: 29-0, 12 KOs

Title: WBO lightweight

Diego Magdaleno had never been decisively beaten in his 29-fight career. That is until he met up with one Terry “Turbo” Flanagan last month.

At the end of a series of spectacular uppercuts, Flanagan took Magdaleno out in under two rounds. It was an impressive performance. One that made up for his uninspiring “title winning” effort over Jose Zepeda in July.

Zepeda dislocated his left shoulder and was forced to retire on the stool before Round 3.

The 26-year-old Flanagan solidified his claim as the WBO lightweight champion. His first defense comes against a familiar foe: Liverpool’s Derry Mathews. The two met three years ago in a prizefighter tournament. Turbo won a three-round decision then, but Matthews has since beaten Tony Luis for the vacant WBA belt. He relinquished that title for an opportunity to fight Flanagan again.

Turbo is a promising talent and the 135-pound weight class is among the weakest in all of boxing. If he can keep his head straight, the division can be his for the keeps.

Why he’s ahead of Crolla: This is another toss-up. At the end of the day, it took Crolla 17 rounds to stop Perez who was his best win. Flanagan crushed his best win, Magdaleno, in just two.

8. Andy Lee 

Lee Quillin - Elsa/Getty Images
Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Record: 34-2-1, 24 KOs

Title: WBO middleweight

“Irish” Andy Lee was born in London, but represented Ireland in the 2004 Olympics. He’s a product of the late, great Emanuel Steward. His charming attitude and hellish right hook make him one of the most cherished boxers on the planet. It was that right hand that he uncorked on Matt Korobov to lift the WBO middleweight title in 2014.

Lee has only fought once this year. He played the underdog role against the talented Peter Quillin. But held an overweight “Kid Chocolate” to a draw.

He’ll look to turn back Billy Joe Saunders in his first real title defense on December 19. The bout takes place—following two postponements—on Showtime Extreme from Manchester, England.

It’ll be Lee’s 38th professional fight. He first challenged for a world title in 2012 against Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.

The 31-year-old Lee was outboxing Chavez Jr. before succumbing to the Mexican’s swarming attack.

Why he’s ahead of Flanagan: Turbo looked like a real stud beating the brakes off of Magdaleno. But Lee’s fight with Quillin, a former champion, was just on a higher level. B-level wins like the one over Bryan Vera, a real brawler, give Lee a small edge over Flanagan here.

7. James DeGale

James DeGale Scott Heavey Getty Images 2
Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images

Record: 22-1, 14 KOs

Title: IBF super middleweight

James “Chunky” DeGale is finally getting a chance to live up to that gold medal he won at the 2008 Olympics. He’s putting that upset loss to George Groves far behind him.

And it all might be thanks to Al Haymon, who DeGale hooked up with earlier this year.

He’s enjoyed a high-profile 2015. Both of his fights came under the PBC banner, including his successful bid for the IBF belt.

DeGale has a real shot at taking over the division following Andre Ward’s move to 175 pounds. Especially so after his action-packed slugfest with former champion Lucian Bute this past weekend.

The 29-year-old DeGale hopes to return to the ring in April, per Matchroom Boxing. The Englishman wants a unification bout next, even if that means coming back stateside:

“I’ve gone overseas [before], and I want to do it all again by going to Las Vegas and unifying titles against [WBC champion] Badou Jack.”

Why he’s ahead of Lee: Irish currently holds an 0-0-1 record on the year. DeGale won two more fights than him and actually beat the top-10 opponent he faced. Lee could only muster a draw.

6. Scott Quigg

Scott Quigg - Getty Images
Photo by Getty Images

Record: 31-0-2

Title: WBA super bantamweight

For a while there, Scott Quigg looked like the most protected and overrated boxer on the planet. That all changed when a fight with Carl Frampton was finally signed for February 2016. The rivalry between the two goes back years.

Frampton has been knocking out ranked opposition since 2013. Quigg has hardly left his backyard of Lancashire, United Kingdom.

He is actually the longest reigning world champion on this list. His title claim goes back to the end of 2013. But it took him 33 fights to trade fists with a world-ranked boxer. When he finally did, it was none other than Frampton’s leftovers.

Quigg met Kiko Martinez, who Frampton already beat twice, in July and had to overcame an early scare in Round 1. But he took care of business nonetheless. Martinez, still a notable super bantamweight at the time, was out by the second stanza.

The 27-year-old Quigg is promoter Eddie Hearn’s pride and joy. His poor track record, however, raises a lot of questions. One of which might be: What round will we see Quigg staring up at the ceiling when he fights Frampton?

Why he’s ahead of DeGale: Chunky fought twice as many times as Quigg. But their ranked opposition is equal. And where Bute was a fringe top-10 super middleweight, the TBRB rated Martinez in their Top 5.

5. Kell Brook

Kell Brook - Ben Hoskins Getty Images
Photo by Ben Hoskins/Getty Images

Record: 35-0, 24 KOs

Title: IBF welterweight

Sheffield’s sheriff lives up to his nickname “The Special One.”

Kell Brook is a physical specimen. He towers over his opposers and his jab leaves his shoulder like a cannonball. Even the brutish Shawn Porter couldn’t maim Brook the way he had done to so many others before.

In 2015, he defended his IBF belt twice against third-rate men Frankie Gavin and Inout Dan Ion. A fight with Diego Gabriel Chaves was on, but Brook pulled out as a result of a rib injury. He’d be much higher on this list provided a win over Chaves, a top-10 welterweight. For now he can only recieve credit for the men he actually beat and they don’t merit much.

Rumors are swirling around a unification bout with pound-for-pound star Timothy Bradley. Brook says his promoters are close to signing the fight for March, per The Star.

And it doesn’t matter where the action goes down, according to Brook:

“I don’t mind where it is, I’d prefer it to be over here [United Kingdom] but I could get up for a trip to Las Vegas as well. Where does he want to get beat?”

A win over Bradley would all but lock the top spot on this list for Brook.

Why he’s ahead of Quigg: There was a slight inclination to rate Quigg above Brook. The man from Lancashire beat more ranked opponents than him in 2015. But Quigg’s win over Martinez isn’t better than the beastly Porter who Brook beat. Not to mention, Brook seems eager to find quality foes. First, signing the Chaves fight and now looking into a unification with Bradley. He’ll get the benefit of the doubt here.

4. Lee Selby

Lee Selby Steven Paston/Action Images
Photo by Steven Paston/Action Images

Record: 22-1, 8 KOs

Title: IBF featherweight

Lee Selby looked like a monster last time out—but in terms of size. Not ability.

Selby is the tallest featherweight in the TBRB’s Top 10. It was odd to see him take on former 112-pound titlist Fernando Montiel in October. To make matters worse, he was fortunate to see the scorecards in his favor. At least as wide as the perplexing 119-109 score that judge Robert Hoyle turned in.

But he did look like a real superstar when he completely outboxed Evgeny Gradovich for the IBF belt. The fight came to halt in the eighth because of a cut from an accidental clash of heads.

Nicknamed “The Barry Boy Assasin,” Selby has remarkable speed. He’s undefeated since 2009. His only blemish is a inconsequential four-rounder. He has since lifted British and European titles. Another impressive win of his is his eighth-round TKO of Stephen Smith. He is the only man to ever beat “Swifty” Smith, who will challenge for a world championship at 130 pounds.

The 28-year-old Selby even knocked out the Liverpool lad. This despite a reputation for light hitting.

Recently, Josh Warrington called out Selby, per Wales Online. The 25-year-old Warrington is one of Eddie Hearn’s most promising fighters. That fight would make for a real nice domestic showcase.

Selby, however, fights in arguably boxing’s most talented division. He is also currently promoted by both Al Haymon and Hearn. Fans should only expect top competition for the Welshman from here on out.

Why he’s ahead of Brook: Selby over Brook is likely the most controversial pick on this list. Both men went 2-0 this year. Brook was the more devastating, rolling through Gavin and Jo Jo Dan in a combined 10 rounds—he’d be No. 3 on this list if he managed to beat Chaves before falling to a rib injury. But neither of the fighters he did defeat were the top-5 talent Gradovich was. Brook holds a win over Shawn Porter but that was over 15 months ago. Revisit his ranking when Special K fights another ranked opponent.

3. Jamie McDonnell

002_Tomoki_Kameda_vs_Jamie_McDonnell
Photo by Esther Lin

Record: 27-2-1, 12 KOs

Title: WBA bantamweight

Heading into last week, Jamie McDonnell may have had the best 2015 of anybody on this list. In May, he handed Tomoki Kameda the first loss of his career in defense of his WBA bantamweight title. Kameda is a top-5 118-pound slugger according to the TBRB.

Four months later, he did it again. Slight controversy surrounded both bouts, but McDonnell is a game fighter.

McDonell holds the “regular” WBA belt. He defeated 54-fight veteran Tabtimdaeng Na Rachawat for the vacant title in 2014. Juan Carlos Payano, who beat the excellent Anselmo Moreno last September, is the “super” champion. And that’s who McDonnell and his team want next.

World Boxing News caught up with Dave Coldwell, McDonnell’s trainer in November.

“We’re looking at the Payano fight, that’s the one I want,” Coldwell said. “Jamie loves collecting belts.”

Coldwell continued:

“After the next one or two fights at bantamweight it might be time for Jamie to move up. The super bantamweight division is where the big fights are.”

The 122-pound weight class is also home to fellow UK boxers Scott Quigg and Carl Frampton. Another notable super bantamweight is WBC champion Julio Ceja. McDonnell boxed circles around Ceja two years ago despite the majority decision the judges turned in.

Why he’s ahead of Selby: The Welsh Mayweather outboxed a top-5 featherweight in Gradovich. But struggled mightily against the undersized Fernando Montiel. McDonnell has twice as many ranked wins as Selby in 2015, beating Kameda twice. And he holds an edge in depth with wins over Ceja and former IBF champion Stuart Hall.

2. Tyson Fury

Tyson FUry
Photo by Martin Messiner/AP

Record: 25-0, 18 KOs

Title: WBA, IBF and WBO heavyweight

Enter the man of the hour.

It might take a while to get used it. But Fury, a legend with a microphone in his hands and not so much with a clenched fist, is the lineal, undisputed champion of the world.

It only took a few backhand jabs and stiff left hooks to do it.

Fury fought outside of the United Kingdom for just the third time in his 25-fight career. He dethroned divisional kingpin Wladimir Klitschko in front of a hostile German crowd. Some considered the burly Ukraine the best boxer in the world.

It’s a signature win that no British champion in history outside of Lennox Lewis can match. That is, if we’re not including the well-traveled Bob Fitzsimmons.

A rematch might be in order but Fury will be calling the shots next time around. And he’ll continue to flaunt his crown and talk his game on social media. His antics are a welcome change to a weight class desperate for charisma. But he has a lot to prove. His biggest win before beating Klitschko was a knockout of former cruiserweight champion Steve Cunningham. The American Cunningham who was just 1-1 above 200 pounds.

Why he’s ahead of McDonnell: This one is easy. McDonnell is putting together a fine resume. But Shinsuke Yamanaka is still banging heads in Japan and Anselmo Moreno, the polished southpaw, hasn’t lost a step. Because of them two, McDonnell isn’t even the second-best boxer in his division, per TBRB. Fury is numero uno in his.

1. Carl Frampton

010_Carl_Frampton_vs_Alejandro_Gonzalez_jr
Photo by Esther Lin

Record: 21-0, 14 KOs

Title: IBF super bantamweight

The Jackal” out of Belfast is as surgical a puncher as any fighter in boxing.

He lacks the lineal super bantamweight title Guillermo Rigondeaux owns. But the two-time Gold Medalist has proven incapable of securing a worthwhile opponent. Frampton’s time as IBF champion make him the most accomplished 122-pound boxer around and the UK’s finest attraction.

Now fighting under Al Haymon’s PBC banner, Frampton put his undefeated record on the line twice in 2015. First he battered Chris Avalos, a highly-rated super bantamweight brawler, en route to a brutal fifth round stoppage. But things weren’t as easy for Frampton in his next ring appearance against Alejandro Gonzalez Jr. A big height advantage helped the hungry Gonzalez Jr. turn the fight into a real Texas throwdown.

Frampton will be leaving Northern Ireland again for a unification match next. This time he has a date with domestic rival Scott Quigg in Quigg’s hometown of Lancashire. The fight goes down at the end of February 2016.

Why he’s ahead of Fury: It may be odd to see Frampton, who struggled against a 22-year-old last time out, ahead of Fury. All Fury did was unseat one of the most dominant champions in heavyweight history. But Klitschko fought with a hesitation like we had never seen, throwing less than 250 punches. Fury only managed to land 86 punches over 12 rounds and still won. Klitshcko didn’t hand the gypsy king those belts but he didn’t do much to keep them away from him, either.

Frampton beat his first ranked opponent (Kiko Martinez) in 2013 and another this May. Let’s see Fury continue to beat men his own size before calling him the UK’s very best.

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