Carl Froch is one of the world's luckiest men, and also still the UK's top fighter. (Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images)
Note: I am not British. I merely watch a lot of British boxing. I have no automatic regional ties to anyone, no emotional attachments to anyone, and no biases toward anyone. I didn't do this to be deeply analytical or anything -- it's more for fun, just to write about boxing, which I sometimes don't do enough of (just writing and discussing boxing for pure enjoyment, I mean) because there's all this other stuff to do.
5. Kell Brook (26-0, 18 KO, Welterweight)
Kell Brook is a fighter who in my head I describe as "fancy." I don't even know what I mean by that -- he's very talented, and his upside is genuine, and he deserves a shot, but... he seems like he could have a lower ceiling than some expect. Brook is rated as highly as he is in the welterweight division part on pure talent, and part on the fact that the division isn't particularly strong, and is still very top-heavy.
Brook left Frank Warren because he felt Warren wasn't progressing his career. Since signing with Matchroom, he's kind of stagnated again. Matchroom has been aggressive with their other fighters, such as Darren Barker and Carl Froch. Brook has been somewhat caught in the political machine of boxing, as title belts are on his mind and the 147-pound ranks don't offer much for a "next step" of any real worth for him. Everyone seems to be trying to find a way to get him that next step, or even skip a couple steps and launch him up the ladder against someone like Mike Jones. But right now he's still just waiting. We'll see what happens when he faces a legitimate test.
4. Ricky Burns (33-2, 9 KO, Lightweight)
Ricky Burns is an interesting sort of success story in that his two best wins came against very limited brawlers (Roman Martinez and Michael Katsidis), but were impressive nonetheless because Burns lacks in so many ways himself that you keep expecting he'll lose to someone more well-known, and then he doesn't.
Obviously part of Burns' success is his trainer, Billy Nelson. The two have a fantastic dynamic and clearly game plan very well. Nelson gets the most out of Burns, who is a highly intelligent boxer. He's not slick and he's not quick and he's got almost no real power. But he wins because he's able to not make crucial mistakes. He also makes for pretty entertaining fights along the way, because he's not mechanical or anything. For example, a lot of the "solid" Eastern European fighters, bred in the amateur ranks, are also of that mistake-free ilk; but Burns does not fight like them. It seems like he's always right about to make some mistakes, giving him vulnerability, and he just doesn't make them.
I'll just ignore that entire Nicky Cook debacle.
3. Matthew Macklin (28-3, 19 KO, Middleweight)
Macklin's strong showing against Felix Sturm elevated him to top contender status in the 160 pound division, and next up is likely a shot at new DiBella stablemate Sergio Martinez on March 17. Given that Macklin will likely lose badly (never say never and all, but it's not a favorable style clash for him), it's hard to say where he goes from there.
Macklin and Murray both surprised me this year against Sturm, and Sturm surprised me against both of them. He fought each of them hard and debunked the theory that he's a boring fighter. Rather, Sturm just had a tendency to make boring fights against guys who couldn't or wouldn't put pressure on him and force him into a battle. Macklin, like Amir Khan and Carl Froch ahead of him, is set to make the U.S. his home base. It's just a question of how long he can stay relevant near the top of the division.
2. Amir Khan (26-2, 18 KO, Junior Welterweight)
All the talent in the world, and just might not have the mental game to keep it all afloat. Khan has "pound-for-pound" talent, but then so have a lot of guys over the years. Better prospects and better diamonds in the rough than Amir Khan have failed to make even the impact Khan has already made in the sport. His December 10 loss to Lamont Peterson was not really a terrible loss, and I suspect time will be kind to it if Amir bounces back.
But now we find out what he's made of mentally. The loss to Breidis Prescott was devastating and all, but Khan was able to go out, hire Freddie Roach, move up in weight, sign with Golden Boy, etc. Where do you go from this one though? He's not going to replace Roach or leave Golden Boy. A move up in weight doesn't seem like the greatest idea now that he has trouble with the physicality of a Lamont Peterson.
I did score the fight for Khan and do feel that despite all the fouling and the in my opinion perfectly legit deductions, he was the better man than Peterson, just barely. But I also do feel that the fight exposed his flaws and his bad habits more than any fight has to date. There's a lot to work on. He's got time on his side, but his ego may become an issue if he can't break himself down to build himself back up.
Still, I'm rooting for him. I may not care for his interviews, and he's been a PR disaster post-loss, but I like watching him fight.
1. Carl Froch (28-2, 20 KO, Super Middleweight)
Despite losing on December 17, Froch remains the UK's top fighter in my estimation. He lost wider than Khan did, but also lost to a better fighter, didn't make excuses about it, and is already aiming to get himself back on top without whining to anyone who will listen so that he can get some help back to that position.
Carl Froch is sort of the epitome of what I like about British boxing, I think. He's tough, he's honest, he's hard-working, and he's ambitious. He has surpassed almost all expectations in his career and become a world class performer. If he never wins another fight, that will still be true.