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Four UK Fighters To Watch in 2017

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The calendar is about to turn from 2016 to 2017. Many of us will celebrate this passing of time in a festive atmosphere with family and friends, then look to reset and knuckle down to whatever goals we have set ourselves for the new year.

For boxers, whether looking to build on good work during the year just gone, or to bounce back from a defeat and regain momentum, the dawning of a new year also offers a time for self analysis and future planning. Choices need to be made in order to give themselves the best chance of attaining their goals in the year ahead. Of course fighters know that decisions based on who promotes or trains them will only take them so far; realising their dreams is dependant on themselves putting in the work required.

This article features four fighters who, if they make sound decisions and work hard, could all end up having a very rewarding 2017. I have selected one boxer from each country that makes up the United Kingdom – Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and attempted to outline why their fights will be worth paying attention to in the next twelve months.

Just to be clear, the men chosen from each country are in my opinion those whose careers are at a very interesting point; I am not in any way declaring these boxers the greatest from their respective nations or anointing them as their country’s best prospect. This is just a bit of fun for the end of 2016 and we shall see come the end of 2017 what rewards their efforts will have brought them.

Now for the four headliners……

Beginning in Scotland I have picked the man known as “The Tartan Tornado,” Josh Taylor. Taylor (7-0-0, 7KOs) campaigns in the 140lb division and has looked fantastic since turning professional. The Scotsman, signed to Barry McGuigan’s Cyclone Promotions and trained by the excellent Shane McGuigan, made his professional bow in July 2015 and in his last outing in October lifted the Commonwealth Light-Welterweight title.

Fighting for this particular title in his 7th contest shows that his team are not going to hang around with Taylor, it also looks like they won’t be afraid to step him up in class when opportunities to do so arise. Winning the belt in such impressive fashion (KO5) shows that his team were correct.

Taylor has already fought twice in America, on Carl Frampton undercards, and his next bout is scheduled for Las Vegas on January 28, again on another card headlined by his fellow Cyclone fighter Frampton.

Taylor has not put a foot wrong in the professional ranks so far. Comfortable switch-hitting, he mixes up his attacks to head and body very well. Taylor looks to have the perfect blend of power and speed that will make him a threat to whoever he faces.

Look for Taylor to continue to improve in 2017 and possibly get himself to the verge of world title contention. Who knows if things fall into place perfectly, maybe an all Scottish showdown with Ricky Burns may happen before we begin 2018.

A quick westerly hop over the Irish Sea and we are in Northern Ireland. Perhaps strangely, given the talent from there at the moment, I have tabbed a man yet to receive his first professional pay-day as the Northern Irishman to watch next year. Michael Conlan, of Belfast, provided one of the enduring memories of the Rio Olympics. Being the victim of abysmal judging which ended his medal hopes, Conlan had his gloves removed and showed those responsible for the decision what he thought via a middle finger salute from the centre of the ring.

Conlan, who had already made it known he would be turning over after the Olympics, took some time to consider his options before deciding to sign with Las Vegas based Top Rank. With his promoter stationed in the western United States Michael also made the decision to move there full time, relocating to southern California where he will be trained by 2016 Trainer of the Year contender Manny Robles.

The Belfast man will box in the Super-Bantamweight division and is due to debut on St. Patrick’s Day in The Theatre at Madison Square Garden in front of what is guaranteed to be a vocal sellout crowd. Watch with interest to see how busy Top Rank keep Conlan and how he deals with the step up to professional boxing as 2017 progresses.

Travelling south-east back across the Irish Sea we hit land in Wales. Boxing in the 154lb division, Liam Williams (16-0-1, 11KOs) is the man many Welsh boxing fans will be hoping can bring high profile fights and opponents to their part of the world. The current holder of the WBO European belt at Light-Middleweight, Williams also holds the number three spot within that sanctioning body’s world rankings.

Promoted by Frank Warren of Queensberry Promotions the Welshman has put past hand injuries behind him and is currently on an eight fight stoppage streak.

Also the holder of the British Light-Middleweight belt, Williams boxes in an exciting fashion and is rarely in a boring fight. His fight with Gary Corcoran from July is worth looking up if you have the time.

The coming year may well conclude with Williams facing his promotional stablemate Liam Smith in what could very well end up being a final eliminator to contend for the WBO World title.

Following Williams in 2017 should be a thrilling ride, one which the Welshman hopes will end with some sort of tangle carrying world title implications.

That brings us to the largest and most heavily populated country in the UK – England. Due to the larger number of boxers hailing from England this was the hardest one to narrow down to just one man. I decided upon a fighter with a famous name who boxes in the Heavyweight division, Fury…………….. Hughie Fury.

Fury (20-0-0, 10KOs) is the cousin of Tyson Fury. Also trained by Peter Fury, his father,  the younger Fury has been moved along steadily since his 2013 debut.

A few frustrating spells on the sidelines due to injury and illness are now happily behind Hughie as he looks to get himself into the world title shakeup. Fury is promoted by Frank Warren and the experienced promoter is on record as saying that a scrap with recently crowned WBO Heavyweight champion Joseph Parker is currently being negotiated.

If that fight does happen next all well and good, if not it will still be worth observing Fury’s bouts from this point forward as the 22 year old is only going to get better. Depending on how other fights turn out there could be some huge all UK clashes in the Heavyweight division next year and Hughie Fury will want to be involved.

So four fighters from all parts of the UK to watch out for next year. Their journeys in 2017 may not be all plain sailing but it should be fascinating viewing watching each man plot his campaign over the coming months as all four look to benefit from the seeds which may be being sown as new year’s resolutions right about now.

HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL READERS OF NY FIGHTS

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