If there is one thing I love about this sport, it is the charm of the grassroots. I’ve watched guys like Anthony Joshua and Chris Eubank Jnr in vast arenas, but really, a noisy hall with passionate fans, supporting local fighters competing for a domestic belt is where you’ll find me. Not only is it a welcome break from the personality-driven mentality of some of boxing’s superstars, but it offers you a glimpse of superstars potentially in the making. Every nation will have youngsters they are excited about, and below are a few of the fighters the UK community feels will be taking their share of the limelight in the coming months.
1. Daniel Dubois
Heavyweight is exciting at the moment, and the UK holds several of the division’s gems. Anthony Joshua, Dillian Whyte and Tyson Fury are names you will know, but hot on their heels is 20-year-old power puncher Daniel Dubois, who will certainly introduce himself to you in 2018. Due to compete in the 2020 Olympics, he instead turned pro, and has been devouring local fighters with such ferocity that promoter Frank Warren has petitioned the British Boxing Board of Control, asking them to allow him to fight for the British title in only his 6th fight, despite being below the minimum 21 years of age. With frightening power in both fists and an intelligent boxing brain, Dubois looks certain to move to European level within 12 months, and onto your TV screens shortly after that.
2. Anthony Yarde
The current WBO Intercontinental Light-Heavyweight champion, Yarde really does have it all. He’s powerful, he’s fast, he can throw combinations and pick single shots with equal effectiveness, and he does it all behind a shoulder roll defence that, so far, has proved near impregnable. He has dealt with his opponents in a variety of ways, from blasting them out inside a round to dissecting them with precise, powerful punches. He is up against Nikola Sjekloca next, a former world title challenger who has never been stopped while amassing his 32-4 record. Yarde’s own record of 13-0 (12 KOs) shows how fast Frank Warren has had to move him, and should he prevail against such an experienced opponent, will surely be ready for world title contention soon after.
3. Joe Joyce
Just when you thought he’d never turn pro… Joyce, an Olympic heavyweight silver medallist who has been a stalwart in the amateurs for many years, finally made the decision to join the paid ranks, making his debut at the tender age of 32. He must have been aware that he has some catching up to do, because his opponent in his first fight (a 10 rounder) was Ian Lewison, a vastly more experienced and tough operator and well-known in British fight circles. Joyce dismissed him in 8 rounds and moves on to face Tom Little on the undercard of Haye-Bellew II. Joyce’s amateur experience will see him rise through the ranks fairly quickly, and with Hayemaker Promotions backing him, is likely to see greater exposure next year.
4. Conor Benn
The hard-hitting son of middleweight legend Nigel Benn is starting to get noticed. He’s only 21, and he’s only 9-0, but his fan friendly fighting style and power in both hands have moved him gradually further up the billing on Matchroom’s Sky events. Much like his dad, he seeks confrontation early once the fight has started and it usually doesn’t take him too long to conclude matters once he finds it. His level of opposition needs to be stepped up in 2018, and Eddie Hearn look set to do just that; Benn will make his Stateside debut on the Jacobs-Arias undercard, and provided he wins, will return to Britain to continue to raise his profile. Americans will probably next see him a couple of years older and a couple of pounds heavier, but you heard about him here first.