There is no doubt that 2017 has become the year that both Sky and Matchroom have invested in the next chapter in British boxing. With the likes of Kell Brook, Tony Bellew, James DeGale and Ricky Burns entering the twilight of their careers, the next crop of British talent have only just begun their journey.
Here’s a look at the five Rio Olympians who are tipped as the future of British boxing.
Topping the list is arguably the class of 2017’s most exciting prospect. Coming off the back of the Rio Olympics in 2016, ‘Pretty Boy Kelly’ managed to reach the last 16 in the welterweight division before losing to eventual gold medallist Daniyar Yeleussinov. Although the Geordie was unable to capture Olympic gold, the 23-year-old is tipped to be among the world elite, sooner rather than later.
Immediately after turning professional in February, Kelly joined forces with master tactician Adam Booth. Even after leading David Haye to both cruiserweight and heavyweight titles and currently working with the likes of Billy Joe Saunders and Ryan Burnett, Kelly’s coach ranks him among the best.
“I have one expectation of him and that’s to be world champion and not just any world champion either, but a good one.”
It’s no surprise to see why Kelly is being branded the next welterweight king; in his first three professional fights he has produced a string of scintillating performances and his eye-catching style, nonchalant stance and quick feet already make him a serious contender in the 140 lb division.
After taking a year out of the ring to focus on finishing his university degree, the 2016 Olympian has finally made his long awaited debut in the professional ranks.
Coming off a series of stunning performances at the Games, Buatsi established himself as one of the most sought after talents on the planet. His technical ability combined with his knockout power have gained him a long list of admirers, including the former pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather. After rejecting Floyd’s advances, the bronze medalist signed up to Matchroom sports and is even managed by fellow Brit and unified heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua.
“The blueprint is there and Buatsi can walk right through that blueprint and become a world champion in 14,15,16 fights just like AJ did.”
In his debut fight, the 24-year-old gave us just a taste of what he is capable of inside a ring, following a brutal second round stoppage of Cuban fighter Carlos Mena, the former Olympian is already eyeing up his American debut and is on the fast track for a world title shot.
A Commonwealth gold medalist, a six-time ABA champion, and the most recent Team GB captain, there is a reason he is called ‘The Machine’.
Despite failing to make it past the first round of the Games, the Liverpudlian super-welterweight is a prized amateur with stellar credentials. The 26-year-old, a cousin of former Liverpool and England striker Robbie may have only turned professional in April, but Fowler’s talent has already been recruited by some of boxing’s biggest names. This year alone, the heavy handed Scouser has spent time with legendary trainer Freddy Roach in Los Angeles.
He’s built a reputation of being a tough puncher, who is not afraid to take three to land one, along with his attention grabbing personality, it’s no surprise that the former Olympian has drawn comparisons to Carl Froch, a man he sparred with frequently during his amateur days.
Now under the tutelage of Tony Bellew’s trainer Dave Coldwell, the pair have already started in dramatic style, in his first professional bout, the result might say a win via knockout, but, the 26-year-old will know that it could have easily seen him disqualified after a shot to his opponent who was already on the canvas. Currently sitting on 2-0, Liverpool’s new star will no doubt offer us a rollercoaster of a journey.
“His dedication and attitude to training is first class and I’m confident that with the right fights at the right time we can have some memorable nights in the future.”
Standing 6 ft 4 inches tall and weighing in at 14 stone, Okolie’s sheer presence is enough to strike fear into any opponent before they even touch gloves.
It’s hard to believe that the Hackney born fighter only turned to boxing in 2010, the Olympian was clinically obese at 19st and was heavily advised he needed to change his lifestyle.
7 years on and coming off the back of an Olympic run that saw him reach the last-16, the man who is simply known as ‘The Sauce’ was the first of the 2016 Olympic crop to sign a professional deal and he has never looked back.
Already with four fights under his belt, Okolie is yet to be taken past the first round having knocked out everyone put in front of him. Not to be mistaken as a one punch specialist, along with his remarkable power, Okolie has proven he also has the tactical awareness to make him a challenge for anyone already.
“David Haye has done great things, so has Johnny Nelson and many others, but I want to cement my legacy, have my name go down in history and maybe follow Haye by winning the heavyweight crown too.”
Despite still being in the elementary stage of his career, the 24-year-old has already made his intentions clear, become the best cruiserweight we have ever seen. Still to be tested, Okolie is likely to take the next step very soon with a potential fight with fellow London fighter Issac Chamberlin.
Another Olympian who boasts a stellar amateur career. The 25-year-old Welshman is a former European amateur gold medalist and Commonwealth Games bronze medalist.
Having spent his life fighting out of Newport, Wales, Cordina’s professional dreams have seen him and his young family move 200 miles East where he is part of trainer Tony Sims’ elite stable that includes former welterweight world champion, Ricky Burns.
“I believe he is an exceptional talent. I feel there is real potential for a star to flourish in Welsh boxing but the goal is to make him a global star as well.”
Currently sitting on a 3-0 record, ‘The Welsh Wizard’ has blown through everyone put in front of him with three consecutive knockout wins.
Backed by former unified super middleweight world champion and Welsh icon Joe Calzaghe, Cordina has set himself a target to become a world champion in three years, the 35-year-old Welshman is certainly on the right path.