The United Kingdom boxing fraternity have more than one reason for festive cheer this Christmas as the country now boast a hefty tally of 12 world champions to their credit – the best of all nations in the sport.
An impressive win over Andy Lee for Billy Joe Saunders on Saturday night meant the UK would see out 2015 with a whopping total of title holders with the IBF, WBO, WBC and WBA. Add Ola Afolabi’s IBO version into the mix and you could argue for a baker’s dozen as the country with a population half the size of Russia celebrate an amazing year.
Great Britain began 2015 with just four divisional rulers in Kell Brook, Carl Frampton, Scott Quigg and Jamie McDonnell, but have since added Lee Haskins, Lee Selby, Terry Flanagan, Anthony Crolla, Liam Smith, James DeGale, Tyson Fury and Saunders himself.
It’s a standout total for the UK and its 70 million inhabitants, and which is three more belt holders than pugilistic superpowers of the United States and Mexico who both boast nine current world champions (USA have ten if you include Floyd Mayweather as WBA). Japan have eight, Russia five, Puerto Rico are on three, whilst The Philippines claim two alongside Germany, Dominican Republic, Cuba, Argentina and Thailand.
Had Kevin Mitchell (versus Jorge Linares) and George Groves (opposite Badou Jack) been able to take their chances in close contests, it could have been even better for the European island – who have further opportunities to add to their list in 2016.
Heavyweight force Anthony Joshua could be pitched in for a WBA ‘regular’ or IBF championship clash in the coming year, whilst brothers Stephen and Callum Smith are both on the verge of world title shots at super featherweight and super middleweight respectively. Middleweight star Chris Eubank Jr booked his WBA title chance last weekend against Gary O’Sullivan, whilst Amir Khan, Nathan Cleverly, Dereck Chisora, Matthew Macklin, Ricky Burns and Tony Bellew are hovering around championship class – as usual.
Meanwhile, the likes of Sam Eggington, Josh Warrington, Nick Blackwell, Liam Walsh, Bob Ajisafe and Kal Yafai are all in the kind of form that can suddenly bear fruit when it comes to a shot at one of the champions.
Right now, the UK are enjoying a purple patch at the top of the sport in what is an unprecedented time for the British supporters to savour and may prove to be just the tip of the iceberg for the foreseeable future.