Glynn Evans examines the credentials of some of the risers on the BoxNation roster who are scrambling to become boxing’s ‘Next Big Thing’ in 2017.
Anthony Yarde (Light-Heavyweight)
Once a trialist at QPR FC and a sub 11 second 100metre sprinter, rock hard Yarde hails from Nigel Benn terrain in Ilford, Essex and has generated favourable comparisons with ‘The Dark Destroyer’ for the manner in which he terrorises then terminates opponents.
Just 5ft 11in tall but with muscles on his muscles, the Tunde Ajayi mentored 25 year old has smashed nine straight with eight failing to make in out of the second round. One of the most exciting and talked about prospects in world boxing.
Lerrone Richards (Super-Middleweight)
‘The Sniper’ from New Malden, Surrey was arguably the best kept secret in British boxing until news leaked last autumn of how he’d filled Chris Eubank Jr with leather sandwiches in a heated spar in Hove....and, for once, there was little comeback from Camp Eubank!
A super skilled and frighteningly strong southpaw from Al Smith’s iBox gym in Bromley, this nine-time national junior champ was dormant for two years due to a contractual dispute. Consequently, his CV lists just five wins but he’ll be a rough handful for anyone in the 12st division once he acquires a little more seasoning.
Alex Hughes (Super-Middleweight)
Gary Lockett’s smooth boxing five time British junior champion has received big props for the manner he has acquitted himself in spars with George Groves and stablemate Liam Williams. However, the 22 year old is yet to fully replicate that gym form on fight night.
The 6ft 2in Rhondda rucker is an intelligent counter puncher with a decent crack. Unbeaten in nine, he has the talent to crash the domestic mix by the year’s close.
Sam McNess (Super-Welterweight)
Slammin’ Sam hails from the fistic hotbed of Whitechapel, East London where, trust me, even the local women know how to hook off the jab.
Formerly England’s number one amateur welterweight, the Mark Tibbs’ coached stylist has cruised to half a dozen paid wins without suffering too much retaliation over the past 18 months and should be challenging for – and winning – minor titles by the close of the year.
Joe Pigford (Super-Welterweight)
This ‘Piggie’ has been causing quite a stink within Britain’s boxing community, firstly for his raucous swine of followers – resplendent in porcine costumes, masks and snouts – and secondly for his beastly punch power.
Thus far, the 23 year old Southampton six footer has left 11 of his 12 victims huffing and puffing in the boiling pot beneath the chimney and he can expect to be nominated for domestic eliminators in the first half of the coming year.
Macaulay McGowan (Super-Welterweight)
Manc mover McGowan passed a gut check when climbing off the carpet to claw back an eight round draw against fellow unbeaten prospect Jez Smith in the latter’s hometown of Harrow last October.
It was the first blemish on the 22 year old’s slate but probably proved more educational than the previous 10 wins combined. Tutored by ex-pro ‘Arnie’ Farnell, brainbox ‘Mac’ boasts 14 GCSEs and has the technique and nous to feature at title level once he acquires his full ‘man strength’.
Joe Costello (Super-Lightweight)
Once a European schoolboy champion, joltin’ Joe stormed the profession in May 2014 with one of the most dramatic debuts in recent memory. Aged just 18, he rubbed out 82 fight Syrian survivor Youseff Al Hamidi in just 130 seconds.
Schooled by dad John, the ox-strong boxer puncher from Marston Green, Birmingham looked mighty impressive racking up a fistful of wins in his first 14 months but has since been incapacitated after a career threatening car crash. Rumoured to be close to a return, 140lb rivals should be very afraid when he resurfaces.
Steven Lewis (Super-Lightweight)
Shy guy Steven has been causing quite a commotion in Scouse scrapping circles of late.
The 24 year old Everton season ticket holder has shown that he can both box and bang whilst compiling a 13-0 CV (with seven stoppages), on undercards away from the spotlight.
A multiple national junior champ tutored by the Stevenson brothers at the thriving Everton Red Triangle gym, expect the 5ft 9in Mersey menace to advance to 10 round level and possible title contention as the year progresses.
Josh Leather (Super-Lightweight)
Though isolated up in Guisborough, the former England amateur captain appears a ‘shoo-in’ future champion. Undefeated in 11 and already operating at 10 round level, the 25 year old has stopped five opponents – including his last four – and shutout five others on the scorecards.
Trained by Imran Naeem, Leather boasts high end skills and applies suffocating pressure. Recently, he’s been working as a spar hand to WBO lightweight boss Terry Flanagan to help groom him ahead of the inevitable charge for titles in 2017.
Mitchell Smith (Super-featherweight)
Just over 12 months back, this swaggering, shade-wearing showman was parading as the Young Boxer of the Year and boasted a lofty world ranking with the WBO.
But the lad who’d grown accustomed to denting chins found egg splattered all over his own after he underestimated Belvedere’s George Jupp and copped a humbling 10 round defeat.
Suitably chastened, ‘Mitch’ manfully conceded braggadocio had got in the way of the basics. Now teamed with elite trainer Adam Booth, he is frothing to re-assert his position both domestically and internationally. Form is temporary, class is permanent.
Lyon Woodstock (Super-Featherweight)
A relatively late starter at 16, London born, Leicester based Leon levelled 16 of 24 amateur victims inside schedule... despite the protective safeguards of head gear and pillow-soft gloves!
A lean 5ft 9in tall, the Jason McClory managed Midland menace has exterminated four of his eight pro opponents early and could be a real player once some of his rougher edges have been planed. Lives by the ominous motto: ‘Put ‘em on their arse!’
Zelfa Barrett (Super-Featherweight)
Nephew and disciple of hellacious punching former world title challenger Pat ‘Black Flash’ Barrett, Zelfa has earned rave reviews following recent spars with the likes of Scott Quigg and Anthony Crolla in northern sweatshops.
The 23 year old Manc, dubbed ‘Brown Flash’, boasts 14-0 stats, a comprehensive all-court game and a beaverish work ethic. Emphatic stoppage wins in his last five gigs strongly suggest that the Steve Wood managed prospect has inherited the famous Barrett bang.
Boy Jones Jr (Super-Featherweight)
Baby-faced Boy entered the paid brigade at just 18 and without any amateur experience in February 2015 but has already romped to 11 wins (one draw) and the Southern Area title.
Mentored by Dom Negus and Andy Ayling, and coached by Lenny Butcher, the sharp shooting, turbo charged Chingford six footer has plenty of time on his side but shifts an alarming number of tickets and might be difficult to hold back.
Ryan Garner (Featherweight)
Southampton starlet ‘Piranha’ Garner has stormed the pros with plenty of swag and spite. Still only 18, the ex European junior champion has stopped all three pro foes, with each outing ominously shorter than the previous.
Coached by Wayne Batten on the south coast, this natural born scrapper has been accelerating his apprenticeship with quality spars against Josh Warrington and the Walsh twins and is set to terrorize the nation’s featherweights over the next few years. Vicious!
Tommy Ward (Super-Bantamweight)
A recent recruit to the Warren fold, this 22 year old traveller from County Durham cleaned up as a junior amateur, bagging eight national titles plus a European Schoolboy bronze medal and a European Juniors gold.
Managed by ex British heavyweight challenger Dave Garside in Hartlepool, this smart and slick hotstepper (19-0) gets a golden opportunity to showcase his wares nationwide when he challenges British champ Jazza Dickens in late February.
Lucien Reid (Super-Bantamweight)
After four wins off air, ‘Lethal’ Lucien made his live TV bow on BoxNation screens in June but it was a fleeting one.
The 23 year old former English senior ABA champion from West Ham required less than two rounds to butcher a Bulgarian import at the York Hall. Already mandatory contender for the Southern Area title after just five paid gigs, expect the one-time Spurs FC trialist to light up your living rooms throughout 2017.
Jay Harris (Super-Flyweight)
With world graders Kal Yafai, Jamie Conlan and Zolani Tete presently active on these shores, the British 115lb scene has never enjoyed a higher profile and Welsh wizard Jay – now unbeaten in nine – could soon be mixing with that elite.
Coached by father and ex British featherweight boss Peter Harris, and managed by upwardly mobile Gary Lockett, this neat boxing 26 year old has lately developed a vicious body attack and has slaughtered his last six before the services of the judges were required. Highly promising.