You don’t need to be a boxing aficionado to predict that 25-year-old Olympic gold medalist Anthony Joshua is headed right for the very top. It’s only a matter of time before the big man becomes world heavyweight champion.
Thankfully for UK fight fans “AJ” isn’t the only young star from these shores with a bright future ahead at world level. Right now, a throng of up and coming starlets are busy climbing the ladder, with many inside the sport predicting the latest generation could be one of the most exciting ever to emerge in British boxing.
Here are five fighters under-25 to keep your eye on in 2015…
Callum Smith, 24 (Super-Middleweight)
The youngest of four popular Liverpudlian brothers currently fighting at elite professional level, Callum is the one with the greatest potential to become a household name.
Tall and rangy, he’s hard to hit and in his last bout, a landslide points victory over the experienced Nikola Sjekloca, the super-middleweight also proved he can pace a 12-round fight perfectly too. Known for his vicious left hooks to the body, 11 of his 15 opponents have failed to hear the final bell – and seven of those didn’t make it past the first round. He’s compelling to watch.
Should Smith negotiate a world title final eliminator that’s lined up for him in April, there’s talk of a mega fight with George Groves at Anfield late next summer. In front of his home fans, that’s an occasion where the youngster can truly announce himself on the big stage.
Kid Galahad, 24 (Super-Bantamweight)
Emerging in a red-hot domestic division that also includes world champions Carl Frampton and Scott Quigg, the Qatari-born boxer (real name, Abdul-Bari Awad) is a fighter on everybody’s lips right now after scooping the prestigious Young Boxer of the Year award at last month’s Boxing Writer’s Dinner.
Given that the Sheffield star has barely lost a round in his last few outings, completely outwitting a succession of opponents with fast jabs, hooks and combinations, Galahad (renamed by his trainer after an Elvis Presley movie of the same title) is strongly tipped for a world title shot in 2015.
Groomed in the legendary Brendan Ingle gym, his classy boxing style is earning lots of admiring glances, and it would be no surprise if the unbeaten super-bantamweight (18-0-0) soon adds to his British, Commonwealth and European crowns.
Josh Warrington, 24 (Featherweight)
Backed by a large, fanatical support in his home city of Leeds, promoter Eddie Hearn has tipped Warrington to be just as popular as Ricky Hatton with fight fans all over the UK in the next few years.
He’s certainly a stirring young boxer to watch, and one that’s improving rapidly after a relatively slow start to his professional career. Now boasting an unbeaten (19-0-0) record, he holds the British, Commonwealth and European belts all at the same time.
Knockouts have been a problem. Warrington has only ever stopped three opponents, but his fourth round demolition of Italian Davide Dieli last time out exhibited a newly found nasty streak that should help propel him to the next level.
He’s by no means the finished article, but this passionate young featherweight is starting to believe he can make it to the top.
Chris Eubank Jnr, 25 (Middleweight)
I was inside the ExCel Arena on Saturday night to witness the first defeat of his career, and looking back on his thriller with Billy Joe Saunders, he probably only has himself to blame for losing.
Posturing too much and refusing to box sensibly, Eubank Jnr gave away the first few rounds before coming on strong to rattle his opponent with an impressive late onslaught. The intensity of his shots and ability to hurt the champion impressed to such an extent that most fans around me thought he’d done enough to nick the victory.
There’s no doubt he’s a special talent, but Eubank must learn to control that raw aggression – and I suspect he will only do that if he listens less to his father at ringside, and more to the instructions of his trainer Ronnie Davies.
He’ll be back though. And I think it will be with a bang.
Billy Joe Saunders, 25 (Middleweight)
The reward for his split points decision win over Eubank Jnr on Saturday is a crack at the world title in February, where he’ll face the winner of Russian Matt Korobov and Ireland’s Andy Lee. He’d be underdog against either opponent, but Saunders is a high-class boxer nonetheless.
Unbeaten in 21 fights, the grandson of a renowned gypsy bareknuckle champion, jabs and boxes with thought and precision. He’s not a knockout king but rarely does he fail to impress the judges at ringside.
To excel on the world stage a little more polish and perhaps more power need to be generated but Saunders is deserving of his shot at the title. Somewhere down the line, a rematch against a more mature Chris Eubank Jnr would also be a mouthwatering affair to capture the public’s imagination.