Up and Coming. Ten Boxing Prospects.
1) Josh 'Pretty Boy' Kelly
2012 World Youth Games bronze medalist.
2013 England Boxing Elite Champion.
2015 European Games bronze medalist.
2016 Rio Olympian at 69kg
(He lost to the eventual gold medalist Daniyar Yelleussinov)
Josh Kelly served a stellar amateur apprenticeship, this much became blatantly obvious just seconds into his professional debut against game Dubliner Jay Byrne. At the sound of the first bell, Kelly strolled to ring centre with his hands at his waist. Byrne sent out three jabs, Kelly stylishly slipped them all before ripping in a blistering double left hook, head and body. Byrne fired five more shots with both hands, all loaded with bad intentions. They all hit thin air. In the fourth round he threw a cluster of ten, again nothing landed. Shades, dare I say it, of the legendary defensive wizard Nicolino Locche. Kelly's jab is a laser weapon, and his left hook to the body is Hatton-esque. Josh never passes up an opportunity to land a depth-charge body shot. It's early days, but I'll go out on a limb here and predict this lad is going to be huge. Think Naseem Hamed, or Joe Calzaghe. If they can't touch him, how are they going to beat him?
2) Paddy Donovan
Amateur 64KG Light welterweight
Nine times Irish Champion
2015 World Junior Championships Silver Medalist
2017 Haringey Box Cup 64kg Youth Champion
The Haringey Box Cup, held in the vast Alexandra Palace Great Hall, is traditionally a frenetic affair. Box Cup 2017 saw five rings in operation, and as usual, just one ring announcer; 'Daggers' Dan O' Sullivan, constantly hurrying between them to either introduce red and blue corners or announce judges decisions. Dan had to weave and swerve his way through large clusters of fight fans, past despondent losers, euphoric winners, around stern looking coaches and vigorous warm-up pad sessions. His announcements were difficult to discern, even to ringsiders, such was the hubbub in the place. Five bouts, underway at the same time, spectators yelping advice, coaches shouting instructions and the combined guttural roar that goes up whenever two boxers go toe-to-toe. You have to be a pretty special boxer to turn heads at the Haringey Box Cup. At around 2pm on the second day of the tournament, heads began turning towards Ring D. Inside that ring, a precocious, red vested youth put on a hard hitting, southpaw masterclass.
Team Limerick's Paddy Donovan, just 18 years old, is a superb talent. His opponent; English Youth Boxing champion Ben 'The Bomber' Vaughn found out the hard way. Super-fit Ben is certainly no slouch with 48 wins from 60 bouts and three national titles to his name. Paddy picked him apart, and stopped him in the third round - ever so stylishly. He set about the task with his hands at his waistline, using radar-like trunk defences to keep him in striking range. Donovan's footwork and ring generalship belie his years. Relaxed and extremely vicious, his scintillating performance drew large numbers of people away from other bouts. By the time 'Daggers' Dan announced the result, there wasn't a spare seat available around Ring D. The following day Paddy stepped through the ropes to contest the final against tough Bristol boy Ewan Jenkins. It was standing room only, with a buzz of anticipation. Paddy didn't disappoint, he won a unanimous decision and dropped Jenkins along the way. When Paddy's left hand lands, it sounds like a baseball bat hitting a hanging beef carcass. International sports reporter and boxing journalist Declan Taylor summed up Paddy Donovan perfectly: 'This kid is a problem.'
3) Joe Pigford
Professional Light Middleweight
Emerging British KO artist
With 12 exciting KOs from 13 professional fights, it's safe to say Southampton boy Joe Pigford can bang. Joe stands a lean, mean 6ft tall, with an intimidatory seventy-two inch reach and the distinctive curved upper back of a natural born puncher. Thus far he's left a trail of destruction in his wake. Scanning through his record, nobody really stands out - until you reach opponent number thirteen; Aaron 'The Marksman' Morgan. Promoter Mickey Helliet had previously touted Morgan as one of the brightest young prospects in the country, on par with any of Team GB's Rio Olympians.
On 20th May 2017, Joe 'The Pig' and the undefeated Marksman clashed at Hackney's Copperbox arena. Somebody's 'O' had to go. There had been genuine ill feeling between the pair throughout the build-up. During the final head-to-head, Morgan made a sinister throat slitting gesture. Joe retaliated with a knowing half-smile and a condescending pat of Morgan's left shoulder. On fight night, It sounded as if half of Southampton had travelled up to support Joe, they made one hell of a racket. Their ominous chant of 'pig will tear you apart' rang around the arena as Joe and Aaron waged a short, unforgiving war. The Marksman landed countless flush right hands, but The Pig possesses a cast iron snout. Joe absorbed some thunderous head-shots, but at no point did he seem the slightest bit fazed. In the fifth round, Morgan made the mistake of standing still, for a split-second, in punching distance, with a low left hand. Joe pounced mercilessly. Morgan suffered a candidate for KO of the year. His 'O' has well and truly gone.
Joe Pigford packs severe firepower, his left hook is particularly hefty. Sure, there's stuff he needs to work on, defensive stuff mostly. He's a work in progress, aren't we all?
4) Peter Mcgrail
Amateur 56kg Bantamweight
British Schoolboys Champion 2009
English Junior National Champion 2012
English Youth National Champion 2013
British Youth Champion 2014
Youth World Cup Bronze Medalist 2014
Youth Olympic Games Bronze Medalist 2014
British Champion 2015
English National Champion 2016
World Series of Boxing Quarter Finalist 2016
European Championships Gold Medalist 2017
Southpaw Peter McGrail does what it says on his CV. Win stuff, big stuff, consistently. His footwork and inch-perfect distance management are often breathtaking. Whenever he boxes, you're sure to hear gasps of approval from cheap seats to ringside.
He looks like a mop-topped throwback pop-star. I call him the fifth Beatle. But don't get it twisted, underneath the dimple chinned, Liverpool schoolboy exterior, there's a hard-nut scouser lurking, eager to do damage. McGrail is gamer than a Mersey derby. He operates in perpetual motion, never too far out of range, slipping, rolling and firing quick, accurate counters before stepping off at angles.
Mark my words, he'll be a promoter's dream ticket one day, in the not too distant future.
5) 'Dangerous' Mo Gharib
Amateur 60KG Lightweight
CYP London Finalist
'Under 20 Bout' Novice Finalist
Junior ABA North West Division Champion - twice
Box Cup Winner 2011 and 2012
Senior ABA North West Division Champion
Former London ABA Champion
British Universities & Colleges Champion 2015
Former England Squad Boxer
Aged just 24, with 90 amateur bouts to his name, Mo Gharib is at home in a boxing ring. He's a naturally talented, technically unorthodox, lightweight buzz-saw who boxes in a style akin to an angry hornet. Mo darts in and out aggressively, stinging opponents at every opportunity, before zipping away at advantageous angles. He's often outreached, but rarely out jabbed, mainly because of his perpetual upper body movement. Whether in the orthodox stance or as a southpaw, there's a touch of defensive artistry about him. Throw in a seriously unconventional shot selection, add dazzling footwork,and you're beginning to get the picture.
Keep your eyes on this young lad, he's a natural born never-say-die entertainer. 'Dangerous' Mo in full flow is a joy to behold.
6) Akeem Ennis Brown
Current English Super-Lightweight Champion.
A Gloucester boy, of Jamaican parentage, 21 year-old Akeem Ennis Brown is a slippery, awkward, supremely talented southpaw. He stands a lean, muscled 5' 11" and is blessed with an exceptionally long reach. His loyal and vociferous barmy-army of supporters refer to him as 'Riddy'. In just his seventh professional contest Riddy lit up Bethnal Green's famous York Hall with a mesmerising points victory over the touted German; Freddie 'Pretty Boy' Kiwit. Kiwit stepped into the ring that night an undefeated fighter, it was his twelfth bout. He stepped out minus his precious 'O', having suffered a knock down along the way.
In his ninth contest Riddy made a little bit of history by becoming the first boxer from the City of Gloucester to win an English title when he outpointed defending champion Glenn Foot at Sunderland FC's Stadium of Light. Make no mistake, Glenn Foot is one hungry pit-bull, he'd suffered just one loss in 22 previous fights - and the Stadium of Light is his beloved home turf. Riddy entered the lion's den exuding a relaxed, rhythmic confidence, and exited with a lovely new red leather belt. It was by no means a walk in the park. Glenn tried desperately to knock the swagger out of him, and enjoyed brief successes - he also hit a lot of thin air. Akeem works behind a spiteful, nagging, broomstick jab, that constantly switches from head to body. His upbeat footwork and ring awareness are sublime and instinctive, even during the fiercest of exchanges. He slips, slides and pivots as if to a dancehall reggae track that only he can hear. He also possesses the uncanny ability to roll his elongated frame under the punches of much shorter fighters. With impressive hand-speed, an often outrageous punch repertoire and healthy ticket sales, Akeem Ennis Brown is a boxer on the rise. He'll win a good few more belts before he's done.
7) Benjamin 'The Future' Whittaker
Amateur 75KG Middleweight
NABC Gold Medalist 2013
England Youth Commonwealth Silver Medalist 2015
England Youth Gold medalist 2015
Haringey Box Cup Winner 2015
Golden Gong Gold Medalist 2016
Elite National champion 2016
Elite National Champion 2017
Team GB Boxer
60 Bouts, 55 Wins
The 75kg Elite National Final 2016, turned out to be a riveting affair. Fire battled ice in a squared ring, and ice prevailed unanimously. Jordan Reynolds, the ferocious, multi-titled, prospect from Luton, brought the heat. Eighteen year-old Wolverhampton boy, Benjamin 'The Future' Whittaker provided the ice, by the bucket load. At the sound of the first bell, Reynolds hurtled out of the red corner intent on a spectacular destruction job. He unleashed a series of fully loaded power shots. Whittaker, tall, long-limbed and athletic, utilised an inch perfect 'lay-back' to nullify a haymaker right hand, before expertly soaking up the second phase assault on high held gloves. Reynolds continued to pile forward like a one man stampede, and in doing so, provided Whittaker with a golden opportunity to showcase his phenomenal counter punching skills. Intelligent footwork and clever angles repeatedly bamboozled Reynolds. Whittaker whipped in hurtful counter-punches at every opportunity. Along the way, he proved he can hack it in the trenches. During the second round for instance, Reynolds landed one of the most sickening body shots you'll see this side of Ricky Hatton's career. The impact resounded around Liverpool's Echo Arena like a gunshot, and bought a collective gasp from spectators. Whittaker was blasted backwards, and then roughly manhandled halfway through the ropes. During the third, Reynolds, frustrated and desperate, body slammed Whittaker violently backwards to the canvas. On both occasions, Whittaker quickly regained his feet without complaint, and resumed his masterclass.
A year later Whittaker retained his 75kg elite title with another unanimous victory, over Reynolds. That's back-to-back elite national titles, and a double over highly rated Jordan Reynolds. He has already set his sights on a gold medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, and beyond that, professional world titles. I wouldn't put any of it past him. The next time you hear someone whining about the fall of boxing and the rise of UFC, make sure to let them know the future is bright - the future is Benjamin Whittaker.
7) Charles 'Boom Boom' Frankham
Amateur 60kg Lightweight
2 x Schoolboys Champion
2 x Junior ABA Champion
2 x Three Nations Champion
Commonwealth Youth Games Gold Medalist
World Youth Championships Bronze medalist
English Youth Champion
Team GB Boxer
64 Bouts, 60 Wins
Charles, of the famous fighting Frankham's. A traveller boy, born to box - it's in his blood. But Charles doesn't just box, he boxes beautifully. Eighteen years young, he's already amassed an impressive array of major titles. This young man makes the toughest of sports look too easy - and at the highest level. Charles operates behind a rapier jab, and glides stylishly on intelligent feet. His distance management is rarely anything other than pinpoint. Frankham in full flow evokes heady memories of the great Scot, Ken Buchanan. By way of feints, instinctive upper body defences and smart angles he presents opponents with a constantly moving target. An inbuilt defensive radar makes them miss, before impeccably timed counterpunches thud home. He's like cream this lad, watch him rise.
8) Eamer Coughlan
Amateur 60kg Lightweight.
2 X Irish Champion
Haringey Box Cup Winner (Voted Best Youth Boxer 2017)
World Silver Medalist
County Cork warrior Eamer Coughlan is a southpaw pressure cooker, super aggressive and deceptively slick with it. He throws punches in hurtful bunches, and packs jaw spinning power. To date, only four boxers out of 60 have beaten multi-titled hot-shot Charles Frankham. Eamer Coughlan is one of them. He turned the trick at the 2017 Haringey Box Cup, in front of a huge, boisterous pro Frankham crowd. On that warm June afternoon, the two young prospects exchanged shed loads of leather in a thrilling give-and-take battle. Charles nicked the first round, Eamer cranked up the pressure to claim the second and third. He fights with a marauding tenacity and yet manages to remain defensively adept.
Eamer Coughlan is an exciting, come-forward crowd pleaser, not dissimilar to the late great Aaron Pryor - only white, Irish, and southpaw.
9) Georgie Ellis
Amateur 46kg Light-flyweight
Schoolboys Class A Champion 2014
Schoolboys Class B Champion 2015
Junior Cadets Champion 2016
Junior Developments Champion 2016
Junior ABA Champion 2017
Georgie Ellis is a stylish, sharpshooting southpaw, with a very bright future ahead of him. After just eleven bouts, his trophy cabinet is crammed solid. He goes about his business with neatly measured aggression, and air-tight defences. His whipping left hook to the body would slow a speeding freight train. Lively, yet ever so relaxed, that's Georgie Ellis. Outside the ring, he's well mannered and humble to the point of shyness. Inside the ropes, he applies intelligent pressure and shoots technically correct, hurtful punches in rapid clusters.
In this modern era of foul mouthed 'thug-life' professionals, Georgie Ellis represents a much needed breath of fresh air. He's a class act, and a perfect example of how boxers should conduct themselves. Without a doubt, this young man is going to need a far bigger trophy cabinet.
10) Kheron Gilpin
Amateur 86 - 91kg Cruiserweight / Heavyweight
Haringey Box Cup Silver Medalist 2017
London Developments Champion 2017
With little more than a handful of amateur bouts to his name you might think its a bit early doors to be touting South Londoner Kheron Gilpin as a hot prospect. Granted, he's the long-shot on this list. You know how it is, sometimes super talented novices drift away from boxing, to be super talented in other fields. Fingers crossed, he stays in the game and goes on to realise his immense potential. Outside the ring Kheron is an engaging and affable character with a brilliant smile and sparkling brown eyes, the complete gentleman. Inside the ropes he morphs into a serious problem - the smile still flashes up, but it's laced with pure malice. Gilpin is a robustly energetic, naturally talented, switch-hitting nightmare with fists like house-bricks. He's tall, athletic, handsome, brim full of charisma and as game as a junkyard pit-bull - that's valuable stock in this social media driven day and age. If he stays committed, fit and focussed, I envision big things happening for this fine young warrior.
Kheron Gilpin. Remember the name. You heard it here first.