It’s traditional at this time of year for the boxing media to be holding phantom boxing award ceremonies or looking ahead to what we hope will lie ahead in the 12 months to come. Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs you-know-who, Andre Ward vs … well, anyone. And so on. And we at The Fight City are no different … well, a bit. Yes, I could give you my tips for what prospects to look out for in 2015, but instead I want to tell you about a mixed British bag that I think are worth following. Below are 12 careers, or as some promoters would say, ‘journeys,’ to keep an eye on. A U.K. Top 12 for 2015, if you will.
One thing to keep in mind: my 12 subjects have not been thrust into the public eye draped in a PR blanket and superlative headlines. This quiet dozen are British boxing talents we need to hear more from. And we will.
Ahmet Patterson – 14-0, 4 KOs (welterweight)
The 27-year-old’s Twitter bio says he’s a model, dancer, rapper, singer and an entertainer. Above all else, the guy can fight, and he was one of Britain’s best kept boxing secrets before he outclassed Chad Gaynor in five rounds to become English welterweight champ in September. Gaynor had been riding high after a devastating second round knockout win over Adil Anwar in May and many predicted Gaynor’s power would be too much for Patterson but the latter picked his shots perfectly and looked a level above on the night. Patterson’s place in the British 147 lb scene is behind the big two (Brook and Khan) as well as Frankie Gavin, Bradley Skeete and Sam Eggington, but don’t be surprised if Skeete vs Patterson (both promoted by Frank Warren) is made in 2015. Next fight: A title defense against former Prizefighter winner, Glenn Foot, on Feb. 28 in London.
Adam Etches – 18-0, 15 KOs (middleweight)
We just don’t know how good Adam Etches is yet. The boxing public are keen for the 23-year-old’s hurtful hands to be thrown in the direction of his fellow British rivals, John Ryder, Nick Blackwell and Chris Eubank Jr. Etches has been backing up his nickname of ‘The Bomber’ with over eighty percent of his opponents not hearing the final bell, but the question remains: does he have ‘The Right Stuff’? The Sheffield lad sells a mountain of tickets in his home city and, unless a good offer is made, will be reluctant to leave home comforts, but something is going to have to give in 2015. Etches has been averaging four fights a year since his debut in 2010 and with that in mind a roll of the dice will have to be thrown by the fighter and his manager, Richard Poxon. If that gamble is taken, and it will have to be, then I believe his will be a career worth following in 2015.
Ryan Burnett – 6-0, 5 KOs (bantamweight)
November 2014 saw Burnett compete twice in the span of seven days and while the abilities of his opponents were not meant to push the Northern Irishman to his limits, the two wins certainly give him momentum going into 2015, something he needs after a stuttering start to his career which got underway in 2013. Burnett, once trained by Ricky Hatton and seen as the heir apparent to Carl Frampton, is now under the fastidious eyes of trainer Adam Booth who recently helped Andy Lee achieve world title glory. Not that 2015 will bring such a prize for Burnett, but an uninterrupted year could bring a British or Commonwealth title shot. Aggressive and blessed with excellent hand speed, 2015 might be Burnett’s coming out party. Next fight: Nothing yet confirmed, but there’s talk he will be on the undercard for Tyson Fury vs Christian Hammer on Feb. 28.
Callum Johnson – 10-0, 6 KOs (light heavyweight)
“You don’t get paid for overtime,” Callum Johnson once told me. The light-heavyweight is a big believer that you have to get the work in during training camp, a good thing since Johnson doesn’t get that much in the ring, three of his four outings in 2014 decided within three rounds. The 29-year-old is part of a U.K. 175lb division that is there for the taking and he is a prime candidate to grab it by the throat. Johnson has what it takes to become a domestic king over here, but he may need some more seasoning before tackling the likes of British champion Bob Ajisafe. With vicious punching power, renewed determination and trainer Joe Gallagher in the corner, 2015 may just see Johnson deliver the expectations many had of him after he won a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games and turned pro in 2010.
Liam Williams – 12-0-1, 7 KOs (light middleweight)
The most surprising thing about this dynamic Welshman is that he’s still only 22. His four victories in 2014 were a mix of the blistering, the mature, the explosive and the rounded. In short, he impressed. And in the process won the Commonwealth title. What was once another secret in British boxing is now in the mix of all good things at 154 lbs., and his knock at the door of British champion Liam Smith is getting louder and louder. The battle of the two Liam’s is on my must-happen list for 2015.
Hughie Fury – 14-0 8 KOs (heavyweight)
Tyson isn’t the only Fury worth keeping an eye on in 2015. Hughie, 20, packed 14 fights into 14 months before an illness halted his fast-moving progress back in May. A rest was much-needed for trainer Peter Fury’s son. With the recuperation period done, Hughie is ready for action again. If he can put together another impressive winning streak, there may be not one, but two big men named Fury wreaking havoc in the heavyweight ranks. Next fight: Fury will take on Andriv Rudenko in February on the undercard of the the Gennady Golovkin-Martin Murray middleweight title fight. The Rudenko fight is a fascinating one given it’s Hughie’s first fight back and that the Ukranian went 12 rounds with Australian big hitter Lucas Browne, a boxer ranked in the top ten of three of the four world governing bodies.
Jack Catterall – 10-0, 6 KOs (light welterweight)
Catterall rose to prominence with two of the best performances from a rising star in 2014. After a couple of comfortable wins against Joe Europeans, the 21-year-old southpaw stepped up against unbeaten Nathan Brough for the vacant Central Area light-welterweight title. It was dubbed a pick em’ fight but then came a bullet of a left hand in round two which Brough never got up from, a serious contender for KO of the year. Eyebrows raised and the name of Jack Catterall was scribbled down in many a fans notepad. Trained by Lee Beard, Catterall has sparred the likes of Amir Khan and Kell Brook and looks like the real thing. In October another impressive victory was his when he stopped former Olympian Tom Stalker. Comfortable on the back foot as well as the front foot and not shy from having a war, promoter Frank Warren has unearthed a real jewel in Catterall. The sky is the limit.
Dillian Whyte – 12-0, 9 KOs (heavyweight)
This 26-year-old heavyweight returned to boxing in 2014 with three stoppage wins after testing positive for methlhexaneamine (MHA) in 2013 and a lengthy suspension. Whyte, an amiable character with a bunch of raw skills, is an intriguing ingredient in a British heavyweight division that badly needs new blood and the Londoner does hold a win from the amateur ranks over the much touted Anthony Joshua. Despite some not-so-friendly interviews about one another in the recent year or so, Joshua vs Whyte is unlikely to happen in 2015 but the latter possesses the type of bargaining chip that makes the fight very sellable, especially if he keeps racking up the wins and steps up his opposition. You might not know a lot about Dillian Whyte right now but by this time next year it could be a different story.
Kid Galahad – 18-0, 9 KOs (super bantamweight)
Galahad shouldn’t be on this list but he is because his profile isn’t anywhere it should be and 2015 is sink or swim time for the enigmatic product of the renowned Ingle Gym (Naz, Brook, Rhodes, Nelson, Graham etc etc). Galahad finds himself at the distant end of a trio of super bantamweights in the UK, headed by IBF world champion Carl Frampton. WBA ‘Regular’ belt holder Scott Quigg holds the number two spot comfortably. Galahad could be sandwiched in between, but like Adam Etches, the question is who has he beat? Galahad has enough in his skillset to trouble Frampton or Quigg but we don’t know because wins over Sergio Prado, Fred Mundraby and Adeilson Dos Santos tell us little. Galahad is levels above these fighters and it’s about time his promoter Mick Hennessy gave the talented Yorkshireman something to test himself against. Galahad may well be the best in Britain and one of the best in the world. The brakes need to come off his career in 2015.
Terry Flanagan – 26-0, 10 KOs (lightweight)
A 26 fight career and I’m telling you that this is a guy worth following in 2015. It’s a crime but you play with the cards you’ve been dealt. Flanagan epitomises the phrase, ‘He does his talking in the ring’. The 25-year-old known as ‘Turbo’ doesn’t say much to us writers but he doesn’t have to when he potentially holds all the aces at 135lbs in the UK. The Mancunian proved he was a level above former British champion Martin Gethin back in July, a night when Flanagan had no fear of mixing it up with one of the division’s toughest and fittest men. In short, Flanagan is a boxing headache for his rivals, a bag of tricks whose best has yet to be seen. Don’t be shocked if 2015 sees Flanagan in the WBO mix once Terence Crawford moves to 140 lbs. Next fight: His first British title defence against Scotty Cardle, date and venue TBA.
Jazza Dickens – 18-1, 6 KOs (super bantamweight)
I’ve already talked about a UK trio at 122lbs, well that may become a quartet if Dickens has the kind of year I believe he has in him. The 23-year-old Liverpudlian, who is impossible not to like, fought with more heart than brains when he challenged Kid Galahad for the vacant British title in 2013. It was a fight that some say came too soon in Dickens’ career, but it was a fight and an experience that was needed. In full flow, Dickens is one of the most joyous talents to watch in British boxing. 2014 only brought a pair of meager wins but it should have seen Dickens mature and develop into the talent that many, and I do mean many, believe he will become. 2015 is sink or swim time for Dickens. Next fight: Against Josh Wale for the vacant British super bantamweight title on Mar 6.
Bradley Saunders – 11-0, 8 KOs (light welterweight)
If another list like this is produced next year then chances are Bradley Saunders won’t be on it as the 28-year-old joined forces with Matchroom towards the end of 2014 and now has the backing of Sky Sports. Saunders career and profile should go to another level or three over the next twelve months as the big hitting 140 pounder looks primed to dominate the British scene. His debut under the Matchroom banner was a six rounder against Ivans Levickis where eagerness to impress on a PPV show made him fight like a mothballed Transformer robot. That performance can be forgiven. The North East England native gave every one of his fans enough belief in 2014 that Commonwealth, British and European titles are more than achievable. Saunders’ all-action style, amateur pedigree and punch power should guarantee a whirlwind 2015. Next fight: April 4 in Newcastle against Dave Ryan for the Commonwealth title.
— Shaun Brown