While many of the U.K.'s top fighters have either recently retired (Joe Calzaghe) or fallen from grace (Ricky Hatton, Junior Witter), it seems like there is a wealth of up and coming talent in the British ranks. Here's my top 10 prospects from the United Kingdom. It may be somewhat arbitrary, but my cutoff is that if they haven't yet received a title shot and they haven't been hanging around the domestic scene forever, they're still a prospect. Also, I'm looking at how well I think the fighter will do long-term, rather than where the fighter stands right now.
10. Tyson Fury (HW, 21 yo, 10-0) - So all of Fury's talk about stepping up to the world level were more than a bit premature. After moving extremely quickly early in his career, he's slowed down, hopefully to learn some basics in camp, after a close call against John McDermott that should have been his first career loss. Still, he's a huge 6'7" heavyweight, he's young, his body is developing, he has good power and he's a tough guy. He'll never beat anyone in a speed contest, but with his natural gifts, he doesn't need to be fast to succeed.
9. Ashley Sexton (112, 22 yo, 9-0) - Sexton has a real swagger about him when he fights. He still has a number of massive defensive flaws, but it's obvious that he's a work in progress. Don't be too surprised if he gets slapped with a few losses as he's working his way up, especially since he'll need to start travelling to face flyweights better than the ones he's already fought. If he has the work ethic, his flashy style and aggressive mindset could lead him to big things in a weight class generally devoid of Europeans.
8. Scott Quigg (122, 21 yo, 5-0) - For someone so inexperienced, Quigg has quite a bit of poise and is already solid with his fundamentals. With above average handspeed and body movement, Quigg could advance to world level as he continues to improve.
7. Billy Joe Saunders (168, 20 yo, 5-0) - At 20 years old, Saunders is the youngest fighter on the list, which makes it easy to forgive that he may also be the most raw. An Olympian, Saunders uses his southpaw stance and above average handspeed to try to overwhelm opponents. While there are some who like Saunders quite a bit, his lack of accuracy, seemingly mediocre power and and tendency to leave himself wide open lead me to believe he'll fall short of competing at the highest levels.
6. Martin Lindsay (126, 27 yo, 16-0) - While he hasn't been fighting as frequently as many prospects, Lindsay has moved up to 17-0 with solid wins over fellow prospect Paul Appleby, Derry Matthews and Jamie Arthur. Lindsay is a defensively sound fighter who gets the most out of the talent he has. He may not have the greatest set of tools in the world, but his ability to avoid shots and land hard counters means he could compete at the world level in what is currently a very deep featherweight division.
5. Kell Brook (147, 23 yo, 21-0) - Brook probably has the most athletic talent of anyone on the list, but maybe as a result, he also seems inclined to rely on that talent to compensate for his weaknesses rather than trying to improve his weaknesses. Sometimes he can get a bit of 'Anthony Small Syndrome" posing more than punching, but his movement often seems to be for the sake of movement and not for the sake of evasion. Fortunately, he is more aggressive than Small, but he has a tendency to leave himself open when he throws. If he can improve on these flaws, he could do very well, and his upside is as high as anyone's. However, if he doesn't, then it's likely that he'll encounter considerable resistance when he steps up to the world level, especially if welterweight is a strong weight class by then.
4. George Groves (168, 22 yo, 9-0) - In only his ninth professional fight, Groves has already captured the Commonwealth super middleweight title. Other than the weight class, he and DeGale couldn't be more different, which seems to set up a natural rivalry between the two. A much more conventional fighter than DeGale, Groves' calling cards are his aggressiveness, two handed power, balanced attack and smart movement. He doesn't possess the physical gifts of some other fighters on the list, but there's more than enough there for him to be able to compete at the world level. In the best case scenario, he's a quicker version of Carl Froch.
3. James DeGale (168, 24 yo, 6-0) - An Olympic gold medalist, "Chunky's" forced cockiness seems to turn him into a natural heel. Unfortunately for those who dislike him, the kid also has natural talent. Unlike just about anyone on this list, DeGale's best points may well be his patience and his poise. Also, in a list where the word "awkward" shows up a number of times, he's the most awkward of the bunch. His style might not be the most crowd pleasing, but his accuracy combined with his superior defensive abilities means he'll be able to win a lot of decisions, even if he frustrates fans by not going for the kill.
2. Nathan Cleverly (175, 23 yo, 19-0) - I recently did a piece including this kid, and needless to say, I like him a lot. It's uncommon to watch a fighter improve so much in such a short period of time. Now that he's solid on the fundamentals, his length, awkwardness, aggressiveness and developing power could lead him to sit near the top of the light heavyweight division for a long time.
1. Frankie Gavin (140, 24 yo, 6-0) - There's something really special about Funtime Frankie. He's aggressive, he's a good combination puncher, and he has astounding reflexes, even though he isn't super quick for someone his size. It's very rare to see a fighter at his level with such a good ability to hit and not get hit. To top it off, he has an awkward southpaw style and he's very big for a junior welterweight, which means that he'll be tough to train for in the long run. He's probably a year or two away from reaching the world level, but when he does, a 140 pound division that's already chock full of exciting young guns could be getting that much better.
Just off the list, in no particular order: Derek Chisora, John Murray, Paul Appleby, Tony Bellew and Tony Jeffries; and Kevin Mitchell, Matthew Macklin and Darren Barker are off simply because I don't consider them to be prospects at this point.