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It’s still a boom time for British boxing, particularly at heavyweight where the UK is leading like never before. How else to explain that Joe Joyce - who doesn’t always look slick but is in every independent top-10 ranking of the world’s best big men - doesn’t even make the UK’s pound-for-pound 10?
The ‘Big Juggernaut’ is not alone. Underrated Lyndon Arthur, tough Liam Williams, charismatic Chris Eubank Jr, plus rising stars such as Felix Cash and Lee McGregor are all pushing for a place in any list of Britain’s best male boxers.
But competition is fierce right now. Look no further than the fact that our list starts in 10th spot with no less a fighter than an undefeated world champion coming off a career-best performance.
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W: 16 (13 KOs), L: 0
Okolie is managing to shred the dreaded b-word (boring, not boxing) and picked up a world title in his last bout when he stopped veteran Pole Krzysztof Glowacki in six rounds. The rangy, 6ft 5in cruiser came late to the sport - and sometimes that shows - but ‘The Sauce’ is also a natural athlete who looks to be improving rapidly even at age 28. If he can harness all of his physical gifts, the potential is huge (and if not, there’s always the music career).
W: 28 (19 KOs), L: 2
One-punch KO defeat to Alexander Povetkin in 2020, even in a fight Whyte had been dominating, hurt the 33-year-old’s standing as clearly the best heavyweight outside the top three. However he destroyed a weary Povetkin in May’s rematch and Whyte’s superb CV - with wins over top contenders such as Joseph Parker and Oscar Rivas - deserves respect. Still a threat with his toughness, body punching and that left hook which troubled Anthony Joshua back in 2015.
W: 30 (7 KOs), L: 1
One upset defeat absolutely derailed one of the hottest streaks in British boxing. After overwhelming Lee Selby and Carl Frampton (two fights where he was an underdog before the bell), Warrington was right at the top of the 126lb division. But he was bludgeoned by unheralded Mexican Mauricio Lara last year and faces a make-or break rematch in September. Win and the popular, pressure-fighting Yorkshireman is just about back on track.
W: 28 (17 KOs), L: 1
Coming off a career-best performance in August when he dominated Jazza Dickens with speed and skill to win a world title belt. Kid Galahad’s sole loss, by split-decision to Warrington in 2019, could have gone either way so the 31-year-old Sheffield boxer can claim he’s never clearly lost as a pro. Boxes in the trademark style of the late, great Brendan Ingle, which means some fans find him frustrating to watch - but not half as frustrating as he is to actually fight.
W: 30 (14 KOs), L: 1
One crushing defeat against arguably the No 1 pound-for-pound boxer in the sport cannot totally ruin your body of work. Saunders isn’t always must-see TV but even his critics would admit the slick southpaw knows his way around a boxing ring. Has won world title belts in two divisions, beaten quality local rivals in Eubank Jr and Andy Lee, and was even giving Canelo Alvarez a bit to think about before the Mexican master shattered Saunders’ eye socket in May.
W: 27 (19 KOs), L: 1
Again, one defeat - even of the one-sided variety - against the very best cannot shape an entire career. The pick of the Smith brothers ascended to the No 1 spot in the super-middleweight division when he knocked out George Groves to win the Super Six in 2018. Struggled with John Ryder then lost a 12-round decision to Canelo, but the 6ft 3in 31-year-old boasts size, power, a good chin and solid fundamentals. A move up to light-heavyweight may yet revive his fortunes.
W: 16 (4 KOs), L: 0
How much faith to put in one, brilliant, display? The 5ft 3in, eight-stone Edwards was a big underdog going into his fight with seasoned world champion Moruti Mthalane - unbeaten in 12 years - in April. But ‘Showtime’ lived up to his billing with a breathtaking display of the art of boxing. Even by flyweight standards, the 25-year-old is no puncher, but whoever beats the fleet-footed Edwards is going to have to catch him first. Good luck with that.
W: 24 (22 KOs), L: 1
Britain rules the heavyweight scene and while the No 2 on this list has the best signature win, it is AJ who’s beaten more top-10 contenders. Whyte, Parker and Andy Ruiz Jr have all suffered at Joshua’s fists and - while that KO defeat in the first Ruiz fight damaged Joshua’s standing - he’s impressed in two bouts since, avenging his loss then dominating Kubrat Pulev with a ramrod jab and an improved defence. Classy ex-cruiserweight Oleksandr Usyk next up is another formidable test.
W: 30 (20 KOs), L: 0, D: 1
A one-off heavyweight. What else to make of a 6ft 9in, 21-stone giant who slips around the ring and can be near-impossible to catch clean at his best? Fury’s spells of inactivity are frustrating - even before the pandemic - but his last performance was his greatest. ‘The Gypsy King’ bullied Deontay Wilder to a seventh-round stoppage defeat, taking the fight to his huge-punching rival in a way few thought possible. Versatile, crafty and - when he’s in the mood - dominant.
W: 18 (13 KOs), L: 0
Only the fifth male boxer to unify in the ‘four-belt era’ - but even if you ignore the sanctioning bodies, you can’t ignore that the red-hot Taylor has beaten the best of the best at 140lb. Classy Regis Prograis and dangerous Jose Ramirez were undefeated until ‘The Tartan Tornado’ took their 0s with his intelligent, high-intensity pressure and ring smarts. Southpaw Taylor is 30, at the peak of his powers and undisputedly one of the best pound-for-pound boxers in the world.
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