1. Anthony Joshua (20-0, 20 KOs) London’s Joshua has barely put a foot wrong since turning pro about four years ago, racking up 20 wins from 20 contests, with none of his opponents hearing the final bell. After impressive wins over former lineal heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko and late replacement Carlos Takam last year, Joshua’s first outing of 2018 will see him face unbeaten New Zealander Joseph Parker in Cardiff on March 31. The Englishman is looking add Parker’s WBO belt to his collection as he attempts to unify the sport’s glamour division.
2. Billie Joe Saunders (25-0, 12 KOs) Saunders made the second defence of his WBO world middleweight title last September, cruising to a comfortable – but uninspiring – victory over American Willie Monroe Jr at London’s Copper Box Arena. But in his next outing against the big-punching Canadian David Lemeiux in December, Saunders put on a boxing masterclass to win by shutout in Montreal in the most impressive performance of his professional career. The Hatfield man’s first fight of 2018 sees him take on the experienced but shopworn Martin Murray on April 14 at London’s O2 Arena.
3. George Groves (28-3, 20 KOs) At the fourth time of asking, London’s Groves finally won his first world title after stopping Russian hardman Fedor Chudinov in the 6th round of a thrilling fight last April. ‘The Saint’ made the first defence of his title against fellow Briton Jamie Cox in the quarterfinals of the World Boxing Super Series in October, stopping his overmatched opponent in the fourth round with a vicious body shot. In his first fight of 2018, the 29-year-old delivered a hugely impressive performance to outclass Chris Eubank Jr in Manchester on February 17 and reach the final of the World Boxing Super Series, where he will face Liverpool’s Callum Smith.
4. Carl Frampton (24-1, 14 KOs) ‘The Jackal’ endured a difficult 2017, losing his title – and unbeaten record – in a rematch with Leo Santa Cruz in January. He then saw his homecoming fight in July called off after opponent Andres Gutierrez slipped in the shower and suffered facial injuries. The Belfast native subsequently split with longtime promoters Cyclone Promotions and trainer Shane McGuigan to team up with Jamie Moore and MTK Global. His first fight under Moore’s tutelage was an unimpressive points win over Horacio Garcia in his home city last November in which he was dropped in the seventh round. He will need to perform better to overcome the big-punching Nonito Donaire when they meet on April 21.
5. Tony Bellew (29-2-1, 18 KOs) After winning a vacant cruiserweight world title in May 2016 and defending it once, the outspoken Bellew surprised everyone by moving up to heavyweight to challenge British countryman David Haye in a big-money bout in March last year. Although most pundits gave him little chance of victory against the heavy-handed ‘Hayemaker’, Bellew pulled off one of the biggest upsets in British boxing history with a stunning 11th round TKO win at London’s O2 Arena. However, since Haye suffering a serious Achilles injury during the fight, the bitter rivals have agreed to a lucrative rematch on May 5 to settle their beef once and for all.
6. Lee Selby (26-1, 9 KOs) The ‘Welsh Mayweather’ defended his IBF world featherweight title three times in 2017, defeating Spain’s Andoni Gago, Argentine veteran Jonathan Victor Barros and Mexico’s Eduardo Ramirez without too much trouble. But the Barry man will be going into the lion’s den for his next defence when he travels to Leeds’ Elland Road to face unbeaten challenger and local boy Josh Warrington in a grudge match on May 19.
7. Terry Flanagan (33-0, 13 KOs) Manchester’s Flanagan is not the sort of fighter who gets the pulse racing but there’s no denying his prowess in the ring. ‘Turbo’ has the longest undefeated run of any active British champion and successfully defended his WBO world title against Petr Petrov in his only outing of 2017. In search of bigger fights, Flanagan decided to move up to light welterweight and he will fight for the vacant WBO title against American Maurice Hooker on April 14 in London.
8. Kell Brook (37-2, 26 KOs) Sheffield’s Brook suffered lost his IBF welterweight strap to American sensation Errol Spence Jr in his only fight of 2017. In an exciting and close bout at Bramall Lane, Brook seemed to be getting the better of the early exchanges before suffering yet another serious eye injury in the 7th round. The 31-year-old was dropped in the 10th but bravely fought on before finally succumbing to his injury by taking a knee in the 11th as referee Howard Foster counted him out. After yet more eye surgery, ‘The Special One’ made his long-awaited return to the ring at junior middleweight on March 3 after struggling to make the 147-pound limit. And he looked impressive with the extra bulk, stopping fringe contender Sergey Rabchenko in the second round with a brutal uppercut to get back in the win column.
9. Ryan Burnett (18-0, 9 KOs) Belfast’s Burnett enjoyed a stellar 2017, outpointing Lee Haskins to win the IBF world bantamweight title in June and then immediately taking a unification fight with Kazakhstan’s Zhanat Zhakiyanov in his home city in October. In an impressively mature performance for a 25-year-old, Burnett eked out a clear unanimous decision to claim Zhakiyanov’s WBA belt and cement himself as a real force in the division. In his first fight of 2018, Burnett defends his titles against Venezuela’s Yonfrez Paejo on the Anthony Joshua-Joseph Parker undercard on March 31.
10. Kal Yafai (23-0, 14 KOs) Last May, Birmingham’s Yafai made the first defence of the WBA super flyweight title he won from Luis Concepcion in December 2016, outclassing teak tough challenger Suguru Muranaka to earn a unanimous decision in his hometown. The former Olympian then defended his belt against unbeaten Japanese contender Sho Ishida on the undercard of the Anthony Joshua-Carlos Takam fight in Cardiff in October, pounding out a hard-fought points win. He is yet to schedule a fight for 2018, though British rival Charlie Edwards has been calling him out.
Honourable mentions: Callum Smith, James DeGale, Jamie McDonnell, Scott Quigg, Dillian Whyte, Josh Warrington