2022 Top UK Light Heavyweight World Champion Contenders
2022 so far is looking to be one of the best years in Boxing in recent years. With great fights which can only be possible with great fighters participation and the Promoters willingness to create such events. Being born and bred in Britain I have noticed a strong crop of top tier boxers in the Light Heavyweight division who have yet to win a major world title in the division but in my humble, biassed opinion. Have the potential to not only challenge the dominant current Champions of the weight class but beat them and possibly dominate the weight class. In similar fashion as their Heavyweight Countrymen Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury. The 4 major World title holders are:
- Undefeated Dmitrii Bivol 20-0-0 who just beat the Boxing Public consensus Pound for Pound Best Fighter. Holds the WBA strap
- Undefeated Artur Beterbiev 17-0-0 all by the way of the Knockout. Holds both the IBF and WBC straps
- Joe Smith Jr 28-3-0. Holds the WBO strap.
With a Unification bout scheduled on the 18th June 2022 between Beterbiev and Smith Jr which is destined to be an all action showdown for 3 of the 4 belts. If Bivol chooses the more lucrative offer of fighting Canelo Alvarez or another Dazn fighter. It can leave open any number of the top United Kingdom prospects in this weight category to have a shot at gold. With what is set to be a potential Epic showdown of two top tier Light Heavyweight Contenders Buatsi vs Richards on the 21st of May 2022. With a potential World Title bout scheduled next as the Reward, let’s have a look at Great Britain Top 5 World Title Contenders in the Light Heavyweight division:
Joshua Buatsi 15-0-0
The 2016 Bronze Olympic Medallist, has in common with the two Russia represented world Champions that he has competed in Amatuer Boxing at a global level. He has hard hitting knockout power which is familiar to boxers who are born in Accra, Ghana; Joshua Buatsi is originally from. As well as being fundamentally technically sound in the ring which complements his current skills which is destined to only get better by joining well respected boxing Trainer Virgil Hunter: who was the major corner staple to Light Heavyweight Great Andre Ward. Buatsi has said he has developed a friendship/mentorship with due to their similar personalities and both being devout Christians. He is seen as the top ranked Light Heavyweight in Britain and is the only fighter who still holds his undefeated ‘O’ in this list.
A Win this Saturday could make him #1 Ranked/mandatory for the IBF belt and this fight been Officially named a WBA Title Eliminator.
Craig Richards 17-2-1
The South London boxer who ironically started his career at the same gym as Buatsi at the nationally respected South Norwood and Victory Boxing club. He, like the other 3 top prospects on this list, had suffered a loss to current or former Light Heavyweight Champions. Which came by unanimous decision loss to Dimitrii Bivol in May 2021. In a fight where he gave a great representation of himself and has had a knockout win since then going into his important fight against his South London rival this weekend.
A win on Saturday can put him back in title talks with either the WBA and IBF organisations or at least a #1 contender match up next on his road back to a title shot.
Anthony Yarde 22-2-0
Just like Buatsi shares a real fan friendly style by only having 2 of his fights go to judges scorecards. As well as sharing similar views on helping the London youths to stay away from a life of crime and being an owner of the ‘Punch Up Crime’ brand which includes an East London gym. He has received his only stoppage loss to Light Heavyweight Great Sergey Kovalev in his attempt at capturing the WBO title. He avenged his only other loss at the end of 2021 by stopping undefeated boxer Lyndon Artur, by looking better than ever. With the announcement of the Lineal Heavyweight Champion Tyson Fury retiring from the sport; he is likely to be Frank Warren’s biggest hope to have another World Champion in his promotion.
He is Wbo #1 ranked fighter however that rank might be challenged by ‘Zurdo’ Ramirez recent win. However with him being under Queensberry promotions which has a good working relationship with Bob Arum’s Top Rank Boxing Promotion. He could see himself fighting the winner of the June 18th Unification bout if he doesn’t accept a fight prior to the opportunity.
Callum Johnson 20-1-0
The 2010 Commonwealth Gold medallist for Scotland by way of his Scottish Grandmother. Nicknamed ‘The One’ has had his only loss by way of knockout from WBC and IBF Champion Beterbiev. Domestically been seen as top 3 in this weight class for the last few years by his consistent knockout wins. Yet his last showing in October 2021 against Server Emurlaev proved to be a tricky test where he just scraped a majority decision, where some pundits said he didn’t deserve the decision. Nevertheless his victory awarded him another shot at world glory with a bout against Smith Jr for the WBO title. Unfortunately due to illness Johnson had to withdraw from the January 15th fight and has not been rebooked or found a replacement foe.
At the moment he is still in the top 5 in the WBO ranking and may get another opportunity to have the title shot but may need a high profile win to be given that chance now the belts may be unified in a month.
Callum Smith 28-1-0
At 6 foot 3 the tallest of the 5 top Prospects, the 2010 Commonwealth Games Silver medallist is also the most accomplished in professional Boxing too. Being the only World Champion on this list holding the WBA belt and winning the Muhammed Ali trophy in the World Boxing Super Series and being well compensated $10 million dollars for his effort. He has the highest profile name wins out of the other contenders which include: George Groves, Rocky Fielding, Nieky Holzken and John Ryder.
These accolades were all at Super Middleweight where he lost his only fight at that weight to former Light Heavyweight Champion Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez. Even though that was not his best performance, some (including myself) expected him to fight Canelo similar to Bivol victorious performance. His first fight at Light Heavyweight ended in ferocious fashion knocking out Castillo in the 2nd round.
Mainly due to his previous previous glory at Super Middleweight many publications rank him in the top 5 at this weight class, some as high as #3. He is currently #1 Contender in the WBC rankings with a title eliminator or even title fight booked next for him in his calendar.
Honorary British Mentions
Rocky Fielding 30-2-0
Like Callum Smith, a former fighter in the Super Middleweight division, his only 2 career losses have come by way of Knockout to Canelo and Smith. Since fighting at Light Heavyweight he is undefeated and being a popular fighter domestically can see him matched up in a important bout in the next 12 months.
Lyndon Arthur 19-1-0
He suffered his only loss by brutal KO from Anthony Yarde in December 2021. In their first fight where he narrowly won by displaying his fantastic jab ability and was said to be fighting with one arm as his right arm was injured. A few wins can see him back in world contention.
Dan Azeez 16-0-0
This undefeated prospect has stopped his last 3 opponents and is the division face of the newly formed ‘Boxxer’ promotional company which has a lucrative TV Broadcasting deal with Europes #1 Sports Broadcaster: ‘Sky Sports’. With a few more convincing wins he can see himself quickly shoot up the world governing body ranks to get a title shot.
Top International Contenders to upset the Great British Light Heavyweight Boxing Dream:
Gilberto ‘Zurdo’ Ramírez 44-0-0
The former WBO Super Middleweight Champion has not known defeat as a professional yet. Arguably has an inflated record for the lack of top tier fighters on his resume. His last fight last week he one sidedly schooled Dominic Boesel who some were touting to be the favourite going into this contest by stopping him in the fourth round. Him being one of Golden Boy Promotions ‘Golden Boys’ and being ranked in the top 2 for the WBA and IBF straps. He is destined to try and upset Great British division hopes and dreams. It also helps that he is being backed by Oscar De La Hoya, who since his 2007 Pay Per View Record breaking at the time showdown with Floyd Mayweather Jr. Has seemed to the public eye to avenge that loss and what better way it would be for him to have an undefeated fighter who beats Floyd Mayweather 50-0 record… and YES that MayMac fight was real fight as it had real boxing rules and is the 2nd highest sold Pay Per View in the sports history!
Fanlong Meng 17-0-0
Is China’s best hope of achieving global glory at the heavier weight classes. The current undefeated fighter has had most of his fights stateside, which can only enhance his global identity. He is currently the IBF #1 ranked boxer in the division and is set to fight on May 20th against Jean Pascal. Who has fought the who’s who of the division, with the likes of: Bernard Hopkins, Sergey Kovalev, Chad Dawson and Dimitrii Bivol.
The man from the Far East isn’t far from the title shot, if he comes out the victor on Friday.
David Benavidez 25-0-0
Iit is more than likely you are going to see the two time Super Middleweight and its youngest Champion winning the title at the tender age of 20 move up to the Light Heavyweight division. It only makes sense as he is only 25 and still growing as an adult into his body and he has lost the belt twice both from outside the squared circle. The last time in 2020 for weighing over the 168 pound Super Middleweight limit. Nicknamed the ‘Mexican Monster’ by Mike Tyson on his popular Podcast. He is widely seen as Canelo number one threat at the 168 pound division to hand him his 3rd professional loss. Furthermore with him having one of the best jabs in the sport, overwhelming combinations and still very young in the sport. He can easily turn any Great British title Dream in the Light Heavyweight division into a Nightmare.
Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez 57-2-2
Of Course Saul Alvarez will still be chasing glory in this division. He has already won a belt in heroic fashion in this weight class and will be looking to add more to his trophy cabinet. The former Junior Middleweight has been on a mission to collect all belts, in similar fashion to the Thanos character in the Marvel movies. Even though he has hit a stumbling block in his last outing in this division losing on points to Dimitrii Bivol. He is still a dangerous foe for any boxer weighing 160lbs to 200lbs. As he has expressed ambitions to fight at Cruiserweight for a title too. With him becoming the very first Undisputed Champion at Super Middleweight, capturing titles from two undefeated British fighters on the way.
With the current landscape of the division I truly believe there are 2 if not 3 World Champions in waiting. I am also convinced the UK has the deepest top tier talent than any nation at this weight. However I am not naive to think the current undefeated Kings of Russia and the future greats with fighting Mexican blood running through their veins will make it easy. One thing I will conclude with is the Light Heavyweight Division can have some real exciting match ups for the next few years for any type of Boxing fan to enjoy and a Great British Boxer will most likely be in the mix.