With 'Prince' Naseem Hamed long out of boxing, Joe Calzaghe recently retired and Ricky Hatton's retirement seemingly imminent, in recent months it's been easy to wonder where the next wave of genuine British boxing superstars are going to come from.
Some people have countered that question by raising the subject of enigmatic Nottingham boxer, Carl Froch. At 26-0 (20 KOs), holder of the WBC Super Middleweight Title and a participant in the prestigious 'Showtime Super Six World Classic', it seems Froch should already be a bona-fide superstar. But, for some reason, the British public just haven't taken to him and his fantastic wins over Jermain Taylor and Andre Dirrell have been seen by minimal audiences.
British boxing fans need not worry though. Three boxing stars are rising through the ranks and are set to ensure that there are many great boxing nights to be had, both here and abroad, over the next 5 to 10 years, as we support the most talented boxers on our shores. Interestingly enough, the three most talented boxers actually draw some very close parallels to the three legends mentioned at the start of this article.
The New Ricky Hatton?
Dagenham's Kevin Mitchell, 31-0 (23 KOs), was long considered a hot boxing prospect by boxing aficionados. Like Ricky Hatton, Mitchell turned professional after winning an ABA Title at the tender age of just 18, rather than attempting to succeed at International Level in the amateur ranks.
However, with his perfect display of boxing in scoring a near shut out 12 round points decision over Breidis Prescott in December 2009, Mitchell graduated from world class prospect to a genuine world title contender.
Mitchell draws many similarities to Hatton - both can box brilliantly but often prefer to get in a brawl and both possess knockout power, just see Hatton's chilling knockout of Carlos Maussa or Mitchell's annihilation of Ignacio Mendoza for supporting evidence.
In addition, both fighters have an almost fanatical fan base; Hatton's has travelled all over the globe to follow him in droves, in addition to packing out the City of Manchester football stadium (over 55,000 in attendance) whilst Mitchell is expected to draw a crowd of 35,000 plus for his next contest at the home of West Ham Football Club, Upton Park, in London's East End.
There's also the fact that both have been brought through the ranks very cautiously by Britain's top promoter, Frank Warren. Hatton's graduation into world class against the excellent Australian Kostya Tszyu was his 39th contest as a professional.
Mitchell's next contest, his 32nd, will be his first foray into world title level. Coincidentally, it will also see him facing an Australian opponent, Michael Katsidis, in a fight that is pencilled in as being for the Interim WBO Lightweight Title, although rumours persist that the fight may actually be for the full title if Juan Manuel Marquez moves up to the Light Welterweight division.
Hatton has been a two weight world champion and excited us in Britain for years - is it heaping too much pressure on young Mitchell to draw these similarities? Not if you ask me. Mitchell has the talent to succeed against Katsidis and enjoy a long and successful career at world title level.
Interestingly, the only way I see Mitchell failing is if he tries to move up in weight too far. He's a good sized Lightweight but for me, that's his limit. We saw how Hatton struggled terribly when venturing out of his natural weight division and I hope Mitchell can resist the temptations that saw Hatton struggle against Luis Collazo and Floyd Mayweather Jr.
The New Joe Calzaghe?
Amir Khan, 22-1 (16 KOs), may at first seem a rather poor comparison to the 'Pride of Newbridge' given that Khan has already suffered a defeat as a professional, something that Calzaghe avoided throughout his epic 46 fight career.
But, hear me out. There are more similarities than you'd think; let's first look at the amateur statistics. Both boxers were outstanding amateurs - nobody needs any reminding of Khan's amazing run to a silver medal as a 17 year old at the 2004 Olympics after all. Whilst Calzaghe was denied the opportunity to go the Olympics at Barcelona in 1992 (Robin Reid was selected for those games, somewhat controversially), Calzaghe to this day remains the only boxer to win Senior ABA titles in three successive years in three different weight divisions.
Both fighters key attribute is their speed with their hands seemingly able to rattle off huge numbers of punches in seconds, completely bewildering their opponents. And both also know how to get off the canvas to win; something we saw Calzaghe achieve against Byron Mitchell, Bernard Hopkins and Roy Jones Jr. Khan has had similar experiences against Rachid Drilzane, Michael Gomez and Willie Limond.
Both fighters started out with Frank Warren before going setting out on their own promotional path too, Calzaghe very late on in his career and Khan ditching Warren as soon as he hit the heights of WBA Light Welterweight Champion.
Next up for Khan is a test against Paulie Malignaggi at New York's legendary arena of Madison Square Garden (MSG). The same MSG where Calzaghe secured the forty sixth and final victory of his incredible career.
Khan may be unable to retire undefeated like Calzaghe did but I am convinced that he has the ability to perform at the highest level for a similar number of years. Like Calzaghe, it would be no surprise to see Khan end up as a multiple weight world champion either.
The New 'Prince Naseem Hamed'?
Hailing from the same Sheffield gym as Hamed and trained by the same trainer in Brendan Ingle, it is hardly surprising that so many have made comparisons between Hamed and Kell Brook, 21-0 (14 KOs).
Whilst, quite pleasingly, Brook is less cocky and arrogant than his one-time mentor Hamed, there is a certain conviction and confidence in the way Brook talks about his abilities that cannot help but get you thinking about the young 'Prince'.
When you watch Brook in the ring, it's impossible not to miss the same traits that have been taught to both Brook and Hamed by Ingle; both carry their chins a little bit higher than most would like but get away with it, both carry fantastic power in each hand and their speed of hand and foot leaves opponents with nowhere to hide.
Both fighters, under the advice of Ingle, had incredible success as amateurs as Junior level and decided to turn punch for pay at the first opportunity, rather than look for amateur success at Senior level.
Hamed struck an unbeaten run of 20 fights culminating in winning his first world title against Steve Robinson and Brook is not far behind at all; it seems likely he'll soon be the number one contender for the WBO Welterweight crown in the very near future.
Welterweight is a talent packed division with many former champions such as Miguel Cotto, Antonio Margarito and Paul Spadafora still in action and if Brook were to overcome those foes it would be very much akin to Hamed taking out Tom Johnson, Cesar Soto and Wilfredo Vasquez in his march through the Featherweight division.
It's still early days for Brook and even coming close to matching Hamed's achievements would an incredible feat, but who knows.....Brook may just possess the talent to surpass them.
And the best news for British boxing fans?
All three of the aforementioned fighters are still so young. Mitchell is the oldest at 25, whilst Khan and Brook at 23, so all have years and years of top level boxing still ahead of them.
Intriguingly, all three are very close in weight too - Mitchell a Lightweight, Khan a Light Welterweight and Brook a Welterweight. So, it's not beyond the realms of possibility that they could dominate their respective weight divisions before tackling each other in bouts of stature similar to the great Eubank/Benn/Collins wars of the 1990's!
Don't despair British boxing fans....things are definitely on the way up!
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