UK 2015 review: Super middleweight to Light heavyweight

Matt Horan 31/12/2015

A fantastic year for British boxing: Super middleweight to Light-heavyweight

Super Middleweight

Britain has thrived in the super middleweight division and currently boasts several top ranking world level contenders.

In the wake of Carl Froch’s retirement in 2014, it was a case of who was the next British fighter to step up to the mark and become a world champion. Many have tried over the past twelve months, but James Degale was the only one to deliver. The 29-year old Olympic champion has had a remarkable year, which began with him travelling over to Boston to fight for the vacant IBF belt. In his way stood the supremely talented and popular pick Andre Dirrell and after scoring two knockdowns early on in the fight, Degale won by a unanimous points decision. For his first defence he again decided to be the away fighter and this time travelled to Quebec, Canada in November to face former world champion Lucian Bute. Again the skilful Degale outworked his opponent and won unanimously.

George Groves and Paul Smith both fell short when bidding for a world title. Groves came agonisingly close to picking up the WBC belt in Las Vegas on the undercard of Floyd Mayweather’s final fight – but lost via split decision to the champion Badou Jack.

Smith was valiant in defeat in a rematch with WBO champion Arthur Abraham and later in the year was outboxed by the majestic Andre Ward as he tried his luck at light heavyweight.
It was a similar situation for Frank Buglioni and Martin Murray. Buglioni started the year well, defending his European title in February – before drawing with fellow Brit Lee Markham in a potential fight of the year candidate. He then received an unexpected shot at WBA champ Fedor Chudinov. The Enfield fighter gave it his best shot, but just couldn’t quite match the talent of the smaller Russian. Having gallantly lost to middleweight kingpin Gennady Golovkin early in the year, Murray moved up a weight in search of some big fights at the 168lb limit. He joined the ever growing Matchroom stable and was soon delivered a shot at WBO champ Abraham. He gave another good account of himself away in Germany – but ultimately like those before him, didn’t quite do enough to win.

Liverpool’s Callum Smith and Rocky Fielding both maintained their unbeaten records through 2015, before putting it on the line as they faced each other for the vacant British title. The two local rivals went toe to toe and grabbed the attention of their hometown – but it was Smith who came out on top and scored a devastating first round knockout.

Elsewhere, Luke Blackledge picked up and convincingly defended the Commonwealth title, while the ever impressive Jamie Cox scored three first round knockout victories in 2015 – winning the WBO European title in the process.

Light Heavyweight

The 175lb division might not have been as busy or competitive as those around it in terms of British boxing, but it still boasts some top level fighters and others with great potential.
After unsuccessfully trying his luck at cruiserweight level, Nathan Cleverly moved back down to light heavyweight, where he had previously held the WBO world title for almost three years. He went to America in October to face Poland’s Andrzej Fonfara and unfortunately came up short in a very competitive all-action fight.

Bob Ajisafe added the European belt to his British title by overcoming Kenya’s Daniel Wanyonyi back in June, and although the second half of his year has been hit by a few injuries and frustrating moments, he will now look to pursue a world title in 2016.

Prospects, Miles Shinkwin and the two Joe Gallagher trained fighters, Hosea Burton and Callum Johnson, have all also extended their unbeaten records.

Matt Horan is a lead writer for WBN. Follow on Twitter @mhoran123