In boxing, arguments rage over pretty much anything you can imagine outside of the ring. One long-running bone of contention centres on the mythical pound-for-pound ratings where boxing aficionados try in vain to rank the number one fighter in the sport across 17 weight divisions. It’s a near thankless task and there’s no definitive right answer, but chances are you’ll favour either Vasiliy Lomachenko, Canelo Alvarez or Terence Crawford worldwide.
At Boxing Social, we’ve chosen to localise the debate and ponder, ‘Who is the best pound-for-pound fighter in the UK?’.
Our ratings take into account a fighter’s recent fortunes with a two-year form guide illustrating their level of opposition and performance that is deemed just as important as their overall talent and pedigree.
So, sharpen your pitchforks, pound your keyboard in frustration, howl at the moon, here is our roll of honour domestically.
10) Luke Campbell; (20-3, 16 KOs); lightweight; Hull.
Form guide: Vasiliy Lomachenko (L12); Adrian Yung (WTKO5); Yvan Mendy (W12); Troy James (WTKO5).
In a sport where ‘soft’ world title shots are not uncommon, Campbell has received the short straw twice, having had the peerless WBA/WBO champion Vasiliy Lomachenko somehow shoehorned into a vacant WBC title fight after previously travelling to Los Angeles and seeming a tad unfortunate to lose a split decision to an in-form Jorge Linares. A prolific amateur and Olympic gold medallist at the London 2012 games, this Luke has been anything but lucky. Talent wise, Campbell should canter into this Top 10 and showed the wider boxing world he can mix it at the highest level with a gallant loss against the masterful Vasiliy Lomachenko in 2019. Before the Coronavirus paused life and boxing as we know it, Campbell was closing in on a third WBC shot with an interim title fight against Javier Fortuna sanctioned for when the sport resumes. At 32, Campbell has no time left to waste, but still has the potential to move up this list.
9) Kid Galahad; (27-1, 16 KOs); featherweight; Sheffield.
Form guide: Claudio Marrero (WRTD8); Josh Warrington (L12); Brayan Mairena (W8); Toka Kahn Clary (W12).
It’s fair to say no featherweight in the world wants a piece of Kid Galahad if they can help it. Having pushed IBF champion Josh Warrington to the brink before losing a wafer-thin split decision in the champion’s hometown, Galahad underlined his credentials with a clinical dissection of highly-rated Dominican southpaw Claudio Marrero to seal a rematch with the Leeds favourite. Warrington is unlikely to be relishing that reunion. A switch-hitter in the fine Ingle gym tradition, Galahad is a deceptively strong, skilful and awkward-as-they-come operator. He sticks to opponents like a rash and wears them down with his physicality and unorthodoxy. While he may not be to every fight fan’s taste, Galahad poses problems for any 126-pounder on the planet. A win over Warrington propels him much higher on this list. He arguably did it first time around.
8) Dillian Whyte; (27-1, 18 KOs); WBC ‘interim’ heavyweight champion; Brixton.
Form guide: Mariusz Wach (W10); Oscar Rivas (W12); Dereck Chisora (WTKO11); Joseph Parker (W12).
Seemingly the WBC’s mandatory challenger before the invention of the iPhone, Whyte just won’t go away. A crafty heavyweight with a stellar jab and punishing body attack, the South Londoner served notice of his promise by hurting amateur victim Anthony Joshua in their December 2015 grudge match before succumbing in the seventh round. That sparked an 11-fight victory streak, which has seen Whyte soar up the rankings and become an unlikely pay-per-view star. Two extraordinary wars with Dereck Chisora captivated the British boxing public while Whyte has not been found wanting as he stepped up into world class with notable scalps like Joseph Parker, Oscar Rivas and Robert Helenius. Whyte belongs at the top table, but his reservation has been delayed while Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder have embarked on their trilogy. A marking time fight with Russian warhorse Alexander Povetkin was suspended by Covid-19, but Whyte is accustomed to waiting.
7) Carl Frampton (27-2, 15 KOs); super-featherweight; Belfast.
Form guide: Tyler McCreary (W10); Josh Warrington (L12); Luke Jackson (WTKO9).
Once a fixture at the very top of this list, Frampton’s proven quality still merits a spot. The Belfast boxing icon is dreaming of a world championship in a third division having already starred at 118lbs and 122lbs. Floored and out-of-sorts early against a tireless Josh Warrington (which is no disgrace), Frampton received a timely boost soon afterwards when Top Rank offered him a promotional deal and the fires of ambition were relit. A rebooted Frampton moved to 130lbs where he trumped previously unbeaten Tyler McCreary to move towards a projected WBO title shot against former marine Jamel Herring. A supreme master of distance with blue chip wins on his record including that memorable clinic against Leo Santa Cruz and satisfying unification victory over long-time nemesis Scott Quigg in 2016, you feel there is one big night left in Frampton. A win over Herring in his beloved Belfast could well be it when boxing returns.
6) Billy Joe Saunders (29-0, 14 KOs), WBO super-middleweight champion; Hatfield.
Form guide: Marcelo Estaban Coceres (WKO11); Shefat Isufi (W12); Charles Adamu (WRTD4).
Talent wise, Billy Joe Saunders is as good as it gets in the UK, but his application doesn’t always match his natural gifts. Injuries and misfiring hijinks often obscure how good Saunders could be, but British boxing’s outlaw is part genius, part squandered potential. Wins over Chris Eubank Jr, Andy Lee and David Lemieux highlight his quality, but as our form guide illustrates Saunders is less busy inside the ring with a string of eye-rubbing headlines and frustrating cancellations outside of the ropes. That being said, Saunders appeared to have secured boxing’s golden ticket with a career-defining fight against Mexican superstar Canelo Alvarez before the Coronavirus paused the sport of boxing. In shape mentally and physically, the Hatfield stylist could give Canelo fits, but you never quite know which Saunders will turn up. Yet he’s potentially 12 rounds away from hitting the top of this list on boxing’s resumption.
5) Callum Smith; (27-0, 19 KOs); WBA Super super-middleweight champion; Liverpool.
Form guide: John Ryder (W12); Hassan N’Dam N’Jikam (WTKO3); George Groves (WKO7)
The finest of his fighting clan, Smith may have dropped a notch or two on this list after a below-par showing against an inspired John Ryder last November, but the Scouser remains a genuine world class operator. His performance levels tend to match the quality of his opponent. Smith looked flat and functional against Ryder and former kickboxer Nieky Holzken, but appeared every inch the best 168-pounder on the planet when he ended George Groves’ fine career in Jeddah with a display of poise and power. Huge at the weight, Smith will surely make the move to 175lbs sooner rather than later and take aim at the looming beasts in that division, but there is still meaningful work remaining at super-middle. After missing out on a mega-fight with Canelo Alvarez (for now at least), Smith needs a unification bout against Caleb Plant (IBF) or David Benavidez (WBC) to elevate his performance and stock once more.
4) Anthony Joshua; (23-1, 20 KOs); WBA Super, IBF and WBO heavyweight champion; Watford.
Form guide: Andy Ruiz (W12); Andy Ruiz (LTKO7); Alexander Povetkin (WTKO7).
The ‘Golden Boy’ of British boxing lost some of his lustre in that surreal seventh round defeat to late-sub Andy Ruiz on a truly nightmarish American debut. After building an impressive resumé that included a stirring triumph over Wladimir Klitschko and notable ‘Ws’ against the likes of Joseph Parker, Dillian Whyte and Alexander Povetkin, Joshua’s credibility was questioned for the first time. But Joshua reflected and regrouped to school Ruiz in their Saudi Arabian return in a thoughtful and disciplined performance. With 75% of the world heavyweight title back in his possession, Joshua is a shot-caller again, but saddled with a trio of career stagnating mandatory engagements that the responsibility brings. A compulsory clash with IBF No.1 contender Kubrat Pulev was put on hold by the Coronavirus, but the only fight that really matters is, of course, a unification with WBC ruler Tyson Fury. If politics and egos can be put to one side (and thousands of fans are allowed into a stadium), that fight breaks boxing.
3) Josh Warrington; (30-0, 7 KOs); IBF featherweight champion; Leeds.
Form guide: Sofiane Takoucht (WTKO2); Kid Galahad (W12); Carl Frampton (W12); Lee Selby (W12).
Overlook Josh Warrington at your peril. Fighters and fans have made the mistake of underestimating the Leeds Warrior time and again. It could be the misleading KO record in his early years before Warrington developed his man strength or the humble Yorkshire origins, but recent stats don’t lie. Warrington ranks third on our list on the basis of a trio of elite wins inside a two-year period. Few active fighters in world boxing have defeated such a strong field in that timeframe. On a historic night at Elland Road, Warrington tore up the formbook by outhustling and outmuscling Lee Selby and then repeated the trick against master boxer Carl Frampton, both world class campaigners, before a desperate late rally pipped the awkward-as-hell Kid Galahad last year. A deceptive all-rounder who does everything well, Warrington was closing in on a unification bout with all-action WBA Regular champ Xu Can before the Coronavirus intervened.
2) Tyson Fury; (30-0-1, 21 KOs); WBC and ‘lineal’ heavyweight champion; Manchester.
Form guide: Deontay Wilder (WTKO7); Otto Wallin (W12); Tom Schwarz (WTKO2); Deontay Wilder (D12); Francesco Pianeta (W10); Sefer Seferi (WRTD4).
Two years after he battled back from the brink outside of the ropes, Fury’s existence on this list remains remarkable. Having ballooned to over 400lbs and embraced addiction in the shadows, Fury’s life was spiralling towards oblivion with his German glory night over Wladimir Klitschko nothing more than a grainy memory. But after hitting rock bottom, Fury bounced back to the summit in a triumph of human spirit. At perhaps 60% of his former self, he outfoxed feared puncher and WBC champion Deontay Wilder, rising from an apparent knockout in the 12th round of a memorable night in Los Angeles, but the judges saw it differently. ‘Lineal title’ defences followed, but they were merely trailers before the sequel against a much improved Wilder in Las Vegas. Most expected another boxer vs puncher chess match with an explosive conclusion, but a revitalised Fury took to the front foot and trounced Wilder in a jaw-dropping display that made his redemption complete. With a contractual obligation to face Wilder a third time on hold, a blockbuster against arch-rival Anthony Joshua remains the most talked about event in boxing and a perfect fighting farewell for Fury.
1) Josh Taylor; (16-0, 12 KOs); IBF/WBA Super super-lightweight champion; Edinburgh.
Form guide: Regis Prograis (W12); Ivan Baranchyk (W12); Ryan Martin (WTKO7); Viktor Postol (W12).
Matched ambitiously early by former promoters Cyclone, the brilliant Taylor has moved seamlessly through the gears from hot prospect to legitimate pound-for-pound consideration. The masterful Scot has enjoyed two quite magnificent years competing at the highest level. No UK fighter owns a stronger body of work over that time period. The Edinburgh southpaw can box adroitly on the front and back foot, but crucially he finds a way to negotiate adversity in world class waters, adjusting late to edge out an inspired Viktor Postol and overcoming some rocky moments to illustrate pure Scottish machismo in a breathtaking last round against the granite-like Ivan Baranchyk. Taylor’s WBSS Final win over Regis Prograis matched unbeaten world champions at the peak of their powers and proved one of those glorious nights where a fight exceeded sky-high expectation. Taylor showed majesty and mettle to flip a losing cause into victory midway on a night where both men emerged with their reputations enhanced. Assuming he navigates a mandatory assignment against Thai puncher Apinun Khongsong upon boxing’s return, a clash with WBC/WBO title-holder Jose Carlos Ramirez is the next step in Taylor’s trajectory to even loftier heights. He’s already written himself into Scottish boxing folklore, but the story isn’t over yet.