Ones To Watch 2018 Progress Update – UK
At the end of 2017, Mark Butcher selected his ten UK 'ones to watch' in 2018. As the new year enters its third month, we run through his selection again and catch up on how they are doing...
This year the criteria for 'one to watch' is a little different. Selected fighters must have participated in under 20 fights, cannot be rated in the Boxing Monthly World Top 10, nor hold a significant championship belt. Boxers in previous years’ ‘Ones To Watch’, like Michael Conlan, are naturally excluded.
NB: Fight records were correct at original time of writing, the 'update' section provides the latest news on each boxer...
Super-welterweight, (11-0, 8 KOs); Bermondsey
A crowd–pleasing amateur at Fisher ABC on the fringes of Team GB, Cheeseman has matured rapidly in the last year – adding a welcome composure to his natural spite in the ring. After turning pro in 2015 as a breathless ticket seller, Cheeseman has developed patience and impressive shot selection under trainer Tony Sims en route to the English title in 2017. The South Londoner has morphed into a thoughtful pressure fighter and is showing continual, fight-on-fight improvement. The domestic 154lbs division is a wide open behind standouts Liam Smith and Liam Williams and the fast-rising Cheeseman could be the man to fill the void. At 22, time is on his side.
Update: Two decent points wins have been added to Cheeseman's ledger since this article was first published, as he overcame Tony Dixon at York Hall over eight and experienced Carson Jones over ten at the O2.
Welterweight, (4-0, 3 KOs); Sunderland
Kelly may not have medalled at the Rio Olympics, but the ‘Pretty Boy’ has won rave reviews and stolen a march on his former Team GB teammates since turning pro. The 23-year-old has superb reflexes as well as natural power, throwing destructive punches from unlikely angles. According to trainer Adam Booth, the biggest danger is that the gifted Kelly might be ‘under stimulated’ by soft opposition, a refreshingly bold assessment in contrast to the cautious approach taken by most fledgling pros. Promoter Eddie Hearn plans to fast-track Kelly against a Top 30, world ranked contender in December and aim higher still in 2018. With a flashy, hands down style reminiscent of Naseem Hamed, the fan-friendly Kelly has genuine crossover appeal and looks set to reignite the North East boxing scene.
Update: Secured a TKO win against Frenchman Jean Michel Hamilcaro in December at York Hall. Next up, Kelly faces experienced Carlos Molina on the undercard of Joshua vs Parker in Cardiff at the end of March.
Heavyweight, (5-0, 5 KOs); Greenwich
A ‘baby’ behemoth at 20 years old, Dubois is the most hyped young heavyweight since Anthony Joshua turned pro four years ago. Gym rumours that Dubois not only competed, but floored Joshua in sparring have further fuelled a sky-rocketing reputation. The South Londoner has looked genuinely explosive in less than seven rounds of professional action to date. Promoter Frank Warren believes Dubois could challenge WBO champion Joseph Parker in five fights’ time and be ready for Joshua under the lights in 2019. With a punishing jab and concussive power, the 6ft 5ins Dubois is already at British title level, at least, though under Boxing Board Of Control rules he can only fight for the Lonsdale Belt after his 21st birthday in September. Dubois would be a heavy favourite to beat current champion Sam Sexton already.
Update: There have been two more TKO victims for Dubois since this article was penned - Dorian Darch and DL Jones. Dynamite's next appearance will be on the Saunders vs Murray WBO middleweight card in April.
Welterweight, (10-0, 8 KOs); Ilford
Being the son of arguably the most exciting British fighter of the last 30 years carries a weight of expectation. But after a slightly pedestrian start to his career, Benn is showing signs of real promise though a lack of amateur experience means we are unlikely to see him cast into deep waters just yet. Still only 21, Benn is no immediate rush and enjoying a high profile education on live TV via Matchroom’s Sky Sports platform. Benn has been matched modestly to date, but he is no longer rushing his work and his shot selection has improved markedly in the past year. Father Nigel has chosen to take a backseat (unlike old nemesis Chris Eubank’s limelight share of Chris Jr’s career). This hands-off approach has relieved the pressure on the younger Benn who impressed in his American debut in November.
Update: Some thought Benn was a touch fortunate to escape with a points victory against French outsider Cedrick Peynaud in a six-round thriller at York Hall in December. Still, Benn showed great heart to climb off the canvas twice in round one and escape with his unbeaten record intact. He will return to action in Liverpool on the 21 April Khan vs Lo Greco card.
Super-middleweight, (18-0, 14 KOs); Oldham
There is something about Mark Heffron. An undeniable puncher, Heffron was long ago singled out as a live-wire talent and potential contender-in-the making, but hasn’t always had the focus to match. The nights out and blurry weekends after proved a distraction then a hindrance. Now with a young family, a rebooted Heffron has found a motivation equal to his bombs and his career has gained traction. A link-up with Manchester boxing icon Ricky Hatton has paid dividends and the performances are now matching the promise. In November, Heffron earned his most eye-catching win yet, halting former Commonwealth title challenger Lewis Taylor (never previously stopped) in seven and, if the Oldham man can maintain this discipline, he has the talent and dig to make a difference at a higher level.
Update: Plenty of opponents have been touted or rumoured for Heffron's next bout - Zach Parker, Tommy Langford and Chris Eubank Jr among them - but at the time of writing his next contest has not been scheduled.
Heavyweight, (1-0, 1 KO); Putney, London
The towering Joyce was let off the leash early by promoters Hayemaker Ringstar, debuting against former British title challenger and noted brawler Ian Lewison and passing the acid test with a dominant eighth round victory. At 32 (four years older than current heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua), there is no time to waste for the Rio 2016 Olympic silver medallist, but Joyce’s extensive experience in WSB competition means he is pro ready. The 6ft 6ins ‘Juggernaut’ is blessed with a ramrod jab and impressive movement for a big man, and he has all the elements to be a bona fide heavyweight contender in the short-term.
Update: Disposed of Croatian Rudolf Jozic with ease in December. Next up is 9-1-1 American Donnie Palmer on 17 March, with a further contest also pending on the Bellew vs Haye 2 promotion on 5 May - Dereck Chisora has been courted as the opponent, but has not signed.
Light-heavyweight, (3-0, 2 KOs); Croydon, London
Buatsi’s explosive run to Olympic bronze at the Rio Games made promoters around the world sit up and take notice. Some fighters medal, but few do so in such style with the Ghana-born bomber capturing the imagination with a string of knockdowns. Courted by Floyd Mayweather, but signed by Matchroom (with Anthony Joshua in a managerial capacity), Buatsi has the attitude and application to match his talent. The humble 24-year-old says he is in no rush to fight for titles and is keen to learn his trade from the bottom up. A hurtful puncher with good fundamentals, Buatsi should prove a significant name on the world stage after he fully adjusts to the pro game.
Update: Secured a TKO of Jordan Joseph in February to move to 4-0 and will return to action on the undercard of Joshua vs Parker at the end of March.
Super-featherweight, (19-0, 12 KOs); Manchester
A graduate of the highly-regarded Collyhurst & Moston Boxing Club, the skillful Barrett has long been touted by those in the know on the Manchester fight scene. Barrett cut his teeth on small hall shows in the North West before being snapped up by promoter Frank Warren in January 2016. Now the Mancunian, trained by uncle and former European 140lbs champion Pat Barrett, has momentum and impresses on high profile promotions including a four-round body shot KO of Chris Conwell to claim the English crown in October. Big for the weight, the 24-year-old has poise and panache, displaying increasing pop and devilish bodywork as he has moved up in class. ‘The Brown Flash’ is knocking on the door of a British title shot and beyond.
Update: Barrett came unstuck in February, suffering his first career loss having been floored and outpointed by the much underrated Ronnie Clark. How 'Brown Flash' responds to this setback will be fascinating to see.
Super-middleweight, (14-0, 10 KOs); Woodville, Derbyshire
Previously low profile, Parker leapt to wider prominence by blasting out former Commonwealth champion Luke Blackledge in the opening round of a British title final eliminator in September. That crushing win clinched the unheralded, switch-hitter a promotional contract with Sauerland Promotion after an off-TV apprenticeship. ‘’I've been going under the radar for the last couple years, but now I can really showcase my talents on the biggest stage. The sky is the limit for me,” said Parker, 23, on signing with the Sauerlands. Parker, a self-described boxer-puncher with a stiff jab, is now in pole position for a shot at Rocky Fielding’s British 168lbs crown. The Midlander is no longer an unknown quantity, he’s a threat.
Update: Parker was the WBSS reserve for the Eubank Jr vs Groves contest in February. Not needed in the main event, he TKO'd Adasat Rodriguez on the undercard to move to 15-0.
Lightweight, (5-0, 4 KOs); Cardiff
Touted by some seasoned fight watchers as the pick of the Team GB ‘Class of 2016’, Cordina is another blue chip prospect developing rapidly at the Essex set-up of trainer Tony Sims. After competing in three World Amateur Championships and winning European Gold (2015) and Commonwealth Bronze (2014), ‘The Welsh Wizard’ is a thoroughbred amateur with fast hands and high-end skills at his disposal, but is now fighting adeptly on the inside, too. This year, the 25-year-old moved up to lightweight to develop his strength and explosiveness, while sparring with WBC 135lbs champion Jorge Linares provided an invaluable insight of elite level. A former rugby player who stumbled upon boxing by accident while trying to gain fitness, Cordina, along with Andrew Selby, looks like the future of Welsh boxing.
Update: Secured a TKO against Lee Connelly in December. Next up on the Joshua vs Parker undercard is a more interesting test against experienced former English and Commonwealth super feather champion Andy Townend for a WBA international title.