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Britain and Ireland's top ten boxers

Ben Blackmore April 19, 2013
Carl Froch can add to his legacy if he avenges his defeat to Mikkel Kessler © Getty Images

Saturday brings one of the year's biggest nights of boxing as a plethora of Brits take to the squared circle across the globe. Below we make our list of the top British and Irish boxers currently on the circuit, ranking them in our one-off pound-for-pound list.

Carl Froch

For years Carl Froch told anybody who cared to listen that his career had been criminally overlooked by the British television broadcasters. He was right. A former two-time WBC super-middleweight champion, and current IBF king, Froch has stood the test of time and made more than the odd entry in the "classic" collection.

Beaten only twice, The Cobra lost to Mikkel Kessler in one of those afore-mentioned classics, and to the world class Andre Ward in the other. Everybody else - Lucian Bute, Glen Johnson and Arthur Abraham included - has not matched Froch's heart, grit, work-rate and class, and there is evidence to suggest he is still getting better. The rematch with Kessler could prove it, and victory would add a significant chapter to Froch's legacy.

David Haye

Love him or hate him, it's hard to argue against the class of David Haye. A former unified world cruiserweight champion, holding the WBA, WBC, WBO, and The Ring cruiserweight titles, Haye's natural weight class is not the heavyweight terrain where he is currently operating. He has simply stepped up to chase the biggest fights, the biggest challenges, and so far only Wladimir Klitschko has proved a step too far.

Anybody British - Dereck Chisora, Audley Harrison and Enzo Maccarinelli included - has been totally outclassed by the Hayemaker. John Ruiz hadn't been stopped for 14 years until he met Haye, but the Nikolai Valuev fight was truly the night Haye proved he can box. Massively out-sized, he buzzed around the 7ft monster for 12 rounds, even rocking him in the late stages. If Haye could beat a Klitschko he may well top this list, but that remains an unticked box on his resume.

Nevertheless, few can match him in press conference brawls.

Ricky Burns

Ultimately, Ricky Burns may be made to rue the fact he is fighting during the era of Adrien Broner, a clear super-talent in the Floyd Mayweather Jr mould. Not that Burns has faced Broner yet, so there should be no writing the Scotsman off.

Right now what we know about Burns is that he is a WBO lightweight champion, and is good enough to annihilate Kevin Mitchell. Quietly spoken, Burns possesses some of the best body shots in the business, and has not lost since a 2007 defeat to Carl Johanneson. The future surely holds mega bouts against Miguel Vazquez and Broner, but his next job is Jose Gonzalez on May 11.

Nathan Cleverly

Arguably the toughest man to rank in the list. On the one hand, Nathan Cleverly is a WBO light-heavyweight champion who has already made three successful title defences by the age of 26. On the other, he is a man fighting a standard of his opposition that has hardly been plucked from the top shelf. Can you only beat what's in front of you? Or can statistics and records be massaged to exaggerate a fighter's true worth?

Until Cleverly is beaten, all credit must go to the Welshman. Shawn Hawk and Tommy Karpency hardly sit alongside the Alis and Tysons of the 'all-time greats' list, but Cleverly has beaten them - and often comfortably. If Tony Bellew is one win away from a clash with WBC champ Chad Dawson, don't forget that Cleverly beat Bellew. Little will be learned from his next outing with Robin Krasniqi, but hopefully a bout with Bernard Hopkins isn't too far away - at which stage Cleverly will either sink or swim.

Amir Khan

Does Amir Khan belong above Kell Brook or vice-versa? For now, the debate has to be based on career achievements, and Khan blows Brook out of the water. A former four-time world champion, Khan is also the youngest British Olympic boxing medallist, winning silver at the age of 17.

The chin is a major issue, no matter how hard Khan argues it. Breidis Prescott highlighted it, Marcos Maidana almost capitalised on it, and Danny Garcia smashed it to pieces. Khan's attack is phenomenal, but his defence is brittle.

Nevertheless, wins over Marco Antonio Barrera, Maidana, Paulie Malignaggi and Carlos Molina all stick in the mind, while the point must be made that - of Khan's recent defeats - Lamont Peterson was fuelled by banned substances and therefore an unfair rival. The Virgil Hunter era has since started, and Julio Diaz provides the next test of the more "methodical" Khan.

Kell Brook

Kell Brook is all about potential right now, potential and an increasingly concerning fitness diary. The 26-year-old has been scheduled to fight Devon Alexander for the IBF welterweight title on more than one occasion, but injuries have so far derailed his bid for a world title.

Clearly a talent, Brook builds off an exceptional jab and has already added significant names to his record against the likes of Matthew Hatton and Carson Jones. The Jones fight was both a celebration and a cause for concern, with Brook crisp and sparkling early on before being forced to hang on in a dog-fight during the later rounds.

The Sheffield fighter remains unbeaten and claims he would beat Khan if the pair shared the same ring. The hope has to be that he finally stays fit enough to beat Alexander, so that he has a title with which to lure Khan into such an encounter.

Tyson Fury

If this was a list of the best British and Irish trash talkers, Tyson Fury would find himself at the top. "The saviour of the heavyweight division" he labels himself, despite the fact he can barely point to a name on his record that truly justifies his status as a top class title contender.

Victory over Dereck Chisora for the British and Commonwealth titles did, at the time, rightfully turn heads, but since then Fury has hardly pressed on. Martin Rogan, Vinny Maddalone and Kevin Johnson are hardly feared names at heavyweight, and Fury's next job is a natural cruiserweight who will give away an enormous amount of weight when the pair meet on US soil.

Nevertheless, victory for Fury over Steve Cunningham will reportedly move him within a fight or two of a Klitschko showdown, at which point the undefeated 24-year-old simply has to be taken seriously.

Matthew Macklin

Unfortunately for Matthew Macklin, his career to date is defined by two admirable defeats. Sergio Martinez is recognised as one of the best pound-for-pounders in the world, yet Macklin gave him a good scrap until an 11th-round stoppage. Felix Sturm, meanwhile, was taken all the way to a split decision that arguably should have fallen Macklin's way.

The great thing about Macklin, though, is that he does not want to be remembered for losses. He has based himself in the US to launch another world title tilt, and a 156-second blitz of Joachim Alcine has already got people talking about him once again. The 30-year-old middleweight is awaiting his next fight, and another world title shot is unlikely to be too far away.

Tyson Fury is yet to test himself against top opposition © PA Photos

Scott Quigg & Carl Frampton

Difficult to separate the pair so we are placing Scott Quigg and Carl Frampton as equals at No. 9. The unbeaten Quigg was exceptional in his recent demolition of Rendall Munroe and appears a top prospect at super-bantamweight. Frampton, two years older, holds Commonwealth and European crowns following his impressive destruction of Kiko Martinez.

The stars are surely aligned for the pair to put on a thrilling encounter in the future, depending on which paths they choose. A Quigg v Frampton showdown makes plenty of sense right now, but they might choose to go in search of world titles before a potential unification bout years down the line.

Lee Selby

We are straying from our own criteria for the inclusion of Lee Selby in tenth spot on our list. Where achievement ranked higher than potential in the case of Khan and Brook, we're prioritising Selby's clear promise to afford him a place ahead of the likes of George Groves and others. Tipped by Eddie Hearn to become "the new star of British boxing", Selby fights with an arrogance that is borne out of sheer talent.

ESPN's own Steve Bunce expects big things for the future of the 26-year-old, who won the British and Commonwealth featherweight titles in 2011. His next test is Corey McConnell on April 20, and as he grows to prominence his confident style is sure to divide opinion across the nation.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Ben Blackmore Close
Ben Blackmore is deputy editor of ESPN.co.uk