Top 10 UK boxers, pound-for-pound: Carl Froch still top dog, young fighters making waves

Scott Heavey

Last December, I put together a discussion post with my thoughts on the top ten fighters in UK boxing at the moment. There has been some movement, and following yesterday's Chisora-Scott show, I started thinking about the UK scene once again, and specifically what changes this list might have seen since the ancient days of December, which was, like, last year and stuff.

Out since December: Matthew Macklin (5) is gone after a one-sided loss to Gennady Golovkin. It's not that there's anything to be ashamed of losing to Golovkin, but it drops him out here. ... Ola Afolabi (7) is out after a clear loss to Marco Huck in their third fight.

On the cusp: Tyson Fury and Tony Bellew were the closest calls for me. Bellew isn't anything special, or never seems to be, but he wins. Fury is one of the great characters in boxing today, and has the chance on September 28 to establish himself as the real potential next star and contender in this division. Last time, we mentioned Fury and David Price being near the list. David Price is no longer near the list. James DeGale and Darren Barker were also considered. Barker would make his way here if he beats Daniel Geale in August.

10. Scott Quigg (6)

A fairly notable drop, but not because Quigg (26-0, 19 KO) is worse now than he was then. He's a good young fighter, but his inactivity has been a real issue. That should change now that he's with Matchroom and Sky Sports, instead of Hatton and nobody. He's got a world title fight lined up already, which is good news for his career.

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9. Nathan Cleverly (10)

Cleverly (26-0, 12 KO) is legitimately a pretty good fighter. I always feel like I should say that, because the way he's been kept at distance from top contenders is alarming and raises at least an orange flag, if not red. We'll get to see if he can prove himself against Sergey Kovalev on August 17, and for as much as a lot of us love Kovalev, his power, his demeanor, and what look to be top-shelf skills, I'm definitely not counting Cleverly out. He's a tough fighter with good skills, good hand speed, and he throws plenty of punches. If he beats Kovalev, he jumps up on this list in a big way. That would be a serious statement win for him.

8. George Groves (8)

Groves (19-0, 15 KO) may be headed for a fall fight with Carl Froch, but it seems Eddie Hearn and Matchroom might prefer to let that one simmer just a bit more, rather than jump straight into it. Groves is the IBF mandatory challenger, and Froch says he has no interest in giving up his belt. How good is Groves, really? He's done quite well thus far as a pro, becoming a pretty real contender in his first 19 fights. He's beaten creampuffs with nice records, regular old creampuffs, a fellow highly-regarded prospect in James DeGale, and a washed-up Glen Johnson, along with bashing through domestic competition with relative ease. It won't be long, it seems, before we find out if Groves can inherit Froch's throne, or if he's still not there, if he ever can be.

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7. Carl Frampton (9)

Frampton (16-0, 11 KO) continues to impress, and looked terrific in a win over the solid Kiko Martinez in February, which wound up his last fight for Matchroom Boxing, as he has since signed with Frank Warren. Warren had him set up to face Everth Briceno on July 20, but Frampton was pulled out by the BBBofC due to injury. At this point, through no fault of Quigg's, Frampton has sprinted a length past Scott Quigg, which is now a near-impossibility for us to actually see happen, given Quigg's signing with Matchroom.

6. Kell Brook (3)

It's been a beleaguered 2013 for Brook (30-0, 20 KO), but the Sheffield star got off the disabled list to totally dominate Carson Jones in their July 13 rematch, putting his injury troubles behind him, hopefully. He lost a pair of dates to face IBF welterweight titlist Devon Alexander this year, and now will have to battle his way back into a mandatory position, or wait for someone to vacate a belt, because it's not like Brook is someone that Floyd Mayweather, Adrien Broner, Alexander, or Timothy Bradley are likely to actively seek out, as he's unknown in the States, and none of them are going to be like, "Hey, I should fight in Sheffield, England next!"

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5. David Haye (NR)

Haye is officially active, even though he hasn't fought in over a year, but he's got a big one lined up with Tyson Fury. This is a pivotal fight for David Haye's career. If he fails against Fury, my long-held belief that Haye is really good, just failed against Wladimir, will be pretty hard to defend. But for now, I genuinely think Haye is still a top heavyweight, and that he just might really trounce Fury.

4. Ricky Burns (2)

Burns (36-2, 11 KO) may be living on borrowed time as a top fighter, as the 30-year-old Scot retained his WBO lightweight belt by the skin of his teeth against unheralded Puerto Rican Jose "Chelo" Gonzalez in May, clearly losing the fight until Gonzalez quit on his stool after nine rounds, with Burns turning up the heat. This isn't to say that Burns shouldn't be commended for adjusting and battling through adversity, but it did give us a hint of his likely ceiling, and the idea that he's probably already reached it.

3. Amir Khan (4)

I know it's easy to take shots at Khan (28-3, 19 KO) and his lone fight since December, a hard-fought win over Julio Diaz, doesn't exactly speak glowingly of him at the moment, but ask yourself this: Has anyone below Khan on this list done more than he has? And at 26, it's not as if Khan is some declining old fighter. He is what he is: a vulnerable, exciting, highly-talented guy who may never totally "get it," and even if he does sometime, his chin could still betray him. Khan is a really good fighter with a fatal flaw. I feel that far too often, the focus is entirely on the flaw and that the "really good fighter" part gets totally ignored.

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2. Martin Murray (NR)

Maybe you wouldn't have Murray (25-1-1, 11 KO) so high, but in April, he quite arguably should have left Argentina as the new, legitimate middleweight champion of the world, as he floored Sergio Martinez and gave the reigning 160-pound king all he could handle and then some. A performance like that dwarfs what we saw from Darren Barker and Matthew Macklin against Sergio in recent years, and though Martinez is getting older, he handled Julio Cesar Chavez Jr -- another big, strong middleweight -- last year with far greater ease than he did Murray, who actually showed up for the first 11 rounds.

1. Carl Froch (1)

There remains no argument whatsoever about the top spot, as Froch (31-2, 22 KO) defeated Mikkel Kessler cleanly and clearly in their May 25 rematch, solidifying himself as no doubt the second-best super middleweight in the world today, and one of the top fighters in the sport, period. Froch has only a loss to Andre Ward that he has not avenged, and whether or not he ever gets a chance to do that again -- or really wants it -- is really not all that important. He's established himself as the top UK fighter since the retirements of Joe Calzaghe and Ricky Hatton, without question.

Photos by Scott Heavey/Getty

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