Glynn Evans chats to Frank Warren about 12 rated men who could feature in world title action before BoxNation cameras in 2017.
Hughie Fury (Heavyweight)
Save for unscripted injuries and illnesses, Tyson Fury’s 22 year old kid cousin hasn’t put a foot wrong since joining the professional brotherhood in March 2013.
After shutting out 24-1 Andrey Rudenko in early 2015, the 6ft 6in minister of defence – once a World Youth champion - negotiated stiff tests against Dominic Guinn and Fred Kassi this year to raise his score to 20-0 and assume mandatory status with the WBO.
Frank Warren says: ‘A fight with Joseph Parker has been ordered by the WBO and we’ll do everything we can to get Hughie his opportunity over here. From what I’ve seen of Parker, Hughie definitely has the beating of him. His father Peter is an excellent trainer who’s given him a great grounding. He’s had all the experience of being involved in Tyson’s world championship camps plus plenty of top quality sparring. He’s undefeated, has a very good boxing brain and has never been on the floor. He’s got every chance.’
Vijender Singh (Super-Middleweight)
Triple Olympian VJ made the rostrum at every major international competition so it has been no surprise to see the 31 year old Indian storm through the paid brigade.
Barely 14 months after debuting, the Eastern ace is already operating at 10 round level with seven of his eight victims dispatched inside schedule; a brutal right hand usually causing the carnage. Ranked number eleven challenger to WBO boss Gilberto Ramirez of Mexico, Singh has ignited a nation, with his last two wins attracting five figure audiences in his homeland.
Frank Warren says: ‘Two fights I’d like to see Vijender in before challenging for a world title would be against Rocky Fielding, then Callum Smith. I’d fancy him strongly against both. He’s got real pedigree from the amateurs and he’s a very solid puncher who’s developed great variety. His last fight was witnessed by over 60 million TV viewers so he needs to be performing on a big stage. He could get there by the end of 2017.’
Tommy Langford (Middleweight)
The 27 year old England amateur skipper enjoyed a profitable 2016, hoovering up the Commonwealth crown in March and the vacant British title in November.
Still to taste defeat in 18 and ranked second in line to WBO boss Billy Joe Saunders, the 6ft Baggie bomber has the size, classical skills and turbo engine to test anyone in the division.
Frank Warren says: ‘Tommy rang me pleading for a world title fight against Billy Joe Saunders but with Billy on the brink of a fight with ‘Canelo’ Alvarez we’ll be looking to keep Tommy busy for the first part of the year. He’s a fabulous boxer with a huge following in the Midlands. He’ll get his chance.’
Liam Smith (Super-Welterweight)
Twenty-eight year old ‘Beefy’ enjoyed an 11 month reign as world champ on the WBO throne in 2015-16 and liked the flavour.
Previously British and Commonwealth king, the stone-faced Scouser is still ranked by the WBO (11) and WBC (13) and showed in his spirited but doomed title defence to ‘Canelo’ Alvarez that he has both the tools and temperament needed to compete on the very highest plain.
Frank Warren says: ‘Liam is young enough and talented enough to come again. He certainly didn’t disgrace himself against ‘Canelo’ despite going in with an injury that disrupted his preparation. He insisted on going ahead with the fight which speaks volumes for his character. There’s plenty left in the tank.
‘Beefy’ against Liam Williams is brewing into a major showdown that’s already got everybody talking. That’s got all the ingredients for Fight of the Year and it wouldn’t be the end of the world for the loser. I can see them evolving into one of the great domestic rivalries. It would make a terrific world title eliminator or possibly even for the vacant WBO title if ‘Canelo’ abdicates.
Liam Williams (Super-Welterweight)
After a chronic hand problem almost curtailed his career in 2015, the 24 year old Welsh warlord has enjoyed a golden 12 month period; four savage stoppage wins (winning and retaining the British title) whilst fronting a fistic renaissance in the Principality.
Strong and skilled in equal measure, the soaring 16-0-1 starlet from Clydach Vale in the Rhondda is ranked third by the WBO and eleventh by both the IBF and WBA.
Frank Warren says: ‘Liam is an absolute monster, the best Welsh fighter out there at any weight. He’s a quality boxer, a tremendous puncher and he’s developed a good following in Wales. And he’s just so hungry. Williams against Liam Smith is a fight I’d personally buy a ticket for if I wasn’t promoting it. The winner of that would be guaranteed an immediate crack at a world title.’
Bradley Skeete (Welterweight)
The 6ft 1in Penge punch picker might just be the best pure boxer operating under the Warren umbrella, and his ramrod jab and airtight defence make him exceptionally difficult to master at any level.
Since dropping a contested decision to Frankie Gavin 25 months ago, ‘Super’ Skeete has rebounded with seven stylish wins and presently rests in the top five with both the WBO and IBF. Now 29, and with four 12 rounders already completed, the reigning British champion is as ready as he’ll ever be.
Frank Warren says: ‘(Coach) Al Smith has done a fabulous job with Bradley and together they’re thoroughly professional in everything that they do. Earlier in his career, Bradley produced a number of ‘cautious’ performances whilst he was learning his trade but, more recently, he’s shown he can really turn it on when he needs to. He’s become quite entertaining, very difficult to beat and he has a really good boxing brain. What would he do to Frankie Gavin if they met in a rematch? I’m also talking with the WBA (re a potential clash with Keith Thurman). He’s ready to go.’
Jack Catterall (Super-Lightweight)
Having crashed to contention with back-to-back stoppage wins over Scouse amateur stars Nathan Brough and Tom Stalker in 2014, the bull strong Chorley southpaw has quietly consolidated whilst adjusting to a fresh back-up team.
In 2016, ‘El Gato’ added three wins and an invaluable 30 rounds to his portfolio. Now 17-0, he is ranked fifth with the WBO and could answer the call if the title changes hands or becomes vacant before the end of the year.
Frank Warren says: ‘Terence Crawford might just be the best US fighter I’ve seen for the past 15-20 years so we’ll be biding our time with Jack to see how things develop. He’s still only 23 and still has plenty of developing to do so there’s no rush. Now that Tyrone Nurse is on board, I’d love to match the pair for the British title in a fight which could double up as a world title eliminator. That’d be a great fight for the fans and would give us a clearer indicator as to where both are at. Catterall’s just a young kid but I believe he’s a world champion in waiting. It’s all about getting the timing right.’
Liam Walsh (Super-Featherweight)
One of the most underrated fighters on these isles, the Cromer switch hitter was scheduled to challenge then WBO lightweight boss Ricky Burns four years ago only for a car crash to hit him harder than any opponent ever managed.
Subsequently, livewire Liam has remained unbeaten in eight and scalped several good men but the world title shot has proved as evasive as he is to ring rivals. However, his imperious shutout of Russia’s Andrey Klimov in October vaulted the multi-faceted 30 year old to mandatory status with the IBF. Now 21-0 and a veteran of ten 12 round championship fights, it has to happen for ‘Destiny’ in 2017.
Frank Warren says: ‘Liam might be 30 but he’s a long way from being shop worn. He’s just been extremely unlucky with injuries but we’ve finally got him there. Liam should finally challenge (Jose) Pedraza for the IBF title in his next fight and, as always, we’ll push very hard to bring the fight to the UK. Regardless, we’re very confident. Liam’s a superb boxer, great puncher and another with a fine boxing brain. He has the potential to not only win a world title but develop into an outstanding, long reigning champion.’
Josh Warrington (Featherweight)
Formerly an English, Commonwealth, British, European and WBC International belt holder, new recruit Josh is ranked in the top three with both the IBF and WBC.
Unbeaten in 24, the 26 year old Tyke’s fearless, high octane ring manner has established him as arguably the biggest ticket seller in the land, starring before five figure crowds in his native Leeds.
Frank Warren says: ‘Josh has recovered from an arm operation and has been inactive for six months so we’d like to get him back out again as quickly as possible. I’m delighted we got him on board. He’s very ambitious, very determined and chomping for the biggest fights. He won’t duck anyone. He’s extremely popular in Leeds which helps in securing home advantage. Josh could do for Leeds what Hatton did for Manchester. When he’s ready, I’d love to put him on at Elland Road against either (IBF boss Lee) Selby or (WBC king Gary) Russell and believe he has the beating of both of them.’
Paul Butler (Bantamweight)
When on point, the 28 year old ‘Baby Faced Assassin’ from Ellesmere Port is one of the most aesthetic talents in the land and a strong shout to reclaim a world bantamweight belt in 2017.
Since returning to 118lbs last October, the ex IBF champ has already cracked the WBO and WBC rankings and should soon secure a chance to compete at the top table where his unquestionable ability belongs.
Frank Warren says: ‘Paul’s already proven himself at world level and since his sole loss to (Zolani) Tete, he’s come back with half a dozen solid wins. This year he’s been marking time but I expect 2017 to be huge for him. We’ve been in talks re a challenge to (WBA bantam boss) Jamie McDonnell and we’ve also got the option of a WBO eliminator. Given his age and quality, Paul has to be involved in meaningful fights from now on. He’s ready to go against anybody.’
Zolani Tete (Super-Fly/Bantamweight)
The 28 year old from South Africa’s Eastern Cape might just be the most gifted all rounder presently active in the UK at any weight.
A spidery southpaw who punches with speed and spite, ‘Last Born’ was formerly an undefeated IBF Super-Flyweight king and is presently world ranked by all four major sanctioning organisations at either 115 or 118 lbs. However, unsurprisingly, the reigning champions are slow to call his name.
Frank Warren says: ‘Zolani has already been world champion and never lost his title in the ring. We’ve got options in two divisions but I’m close to securing him a final eliminator for the WBO bantamweight title. I’m very confident he’ll regain his world title status this year and ultimately I want to manoeuvre him into a fight with (Guillermo) Rigondeaux. That’s the level I see him operating at.’
Jamie Conlan (Super-Flyweight)
Unbeaten now in seven years and 18 fights as a pro, this thrill merchant from the Falls Road in west Belfast has crashed and bashed his way to the number three slot with the WBO.
Currently the Commonwealth champion, the 30 year old they call ‘The Mexican’ more than merits his chance at world level but might want to tread water until formidable emperor Naoya Inoue of Japan abdicates his throne.
Frank Warren says: ‘Jamie will headline in Belfast early in the New Year and ideally I’d like to make a rematch of his Fight of the Year, a Commonwealth defence against Anthony Nelson. Conlan’s a terrific little battler who always gives the fans value. Provided he keeps winning, he’ll finally get his crack at world level this year when the WBO title might become vacant.’