As fans await the confirmation of Fury vs. Joshua in the next few weeks, the heavyweight fight will mark the end of British boxing’s best period.
The United Kingdom enjoyed a surge from 2012 onwards as a spate of young boxers emerged from the 2008 Olympic games and began a new era at the top of the sport.
James DeGale, Tony Bellew, Nathan Cleverly, George Groves, Billy Joe Saunders, Carl Frampton, Kell Brook, Ricky Burns, and many others were already on the early path to a world title.
Domestically, David Price was exciting at heavyweight, alongside Derek Chisora and a certain Mr. Tyson Fury. The future was undoubtedly bright.
Then, the London 2012 Games hit, and the United Kingdom scene went into overdrive. Anthony Joshua led a new crew of Great British would-be-stars.
An entire generation of boxers with new-found exposure to the sport was making its way to the top.
There was an unprecedented amount of world championship contenders coming through back then. They added to the already seasoned world champions Amir Khan, Nathan Cleverly, and Carl Froch.
Over the next few years, the sport boomed in the UK as promoters Eddie Hearn and Frank Warren attempted to outdo each other on their respective platforms.
Sky Sports and BoxNation offered unbridled coverage as a host of fighters become world champions.
At one point, British stars held no fewer than thirteen world crowns between them in 2016.
Joshua, Fury, Saunders, Frampton, DeGale, Brook, Froch, and Burns were joined by Jamie McDonnell, Terry Flanagan, Liam Smith, Anthony Crolla, Lee Haskins, and Lee Selby as world rulers.
Cleverly had lost his belt previously to Sergey Kovalev, or it could have been fifteen.
There were undoubtedly others who could have boosted those numbers.
British talent’s strength and depth seem to be bolstered year upon year as more and more came through the system.
But cut to 2018, Fury had been stripped, and no fewer than double figures had lost their belts in less than two years.
Joshua, Selby, and McDonnell were the only three remaining. By that time, Groves had picked up a title alongside newcomers Ryan Burnett and Kal Yafai.
Those six carried the flag as it was evident that the pool of talent was drying up at a world-class level.
Burnett retired soon into his reign. Groves then stepped away early after losing to Callum Smith.
Most recently, Yafai ran into trouble in the shape of Roman Gonzalez.
A further two years on, British Boxing World Champions are again at six and averaging out. Unlike 2018, it’s hard to see where the next generation of top-level operators will come from in 2021.
Remaining in the hot seat, and the longest-reigning ruler is Joshua. He continues to fly the flag. Fury has since dusted off his demons to join him.
Saunders continues to hold a world title without setting the world alight. At the same time, Warrington and Josh Taylor are two of just five at the helm.
BRITISH BOXING FUTURE
After Fury vs. Joshua, that will be four. The other three are all now 30 or above too.
So, where do the next world title-holders come from in this age?
Many see Josh Kelly as a shoo-in to be champ. In contrast, every one of the top 50 British pound-for-pound fighters is pushing towards 30.
Kelly is 26, Jack Catterall, who is another tipped for the top, is 27. Conor Benn is probably the most high-profile boxer under 25 right now.
That fact comes after Daniel Dubois lost to Joe Joyce and disappeared from future star lists despite just one defeat.
Sadly, there are no other world championship contenders over the next two years who have longevity going for them.
It truly is a sad state of affairs for the sport in the British Isles.
Once the dust settles on the undisputed battle set for this year, and which isn’t even going to occur in the UK, British boxing faces a massive rebuilding job.
The Olympics in 2021 can’t come soon enough.
The views expressed in this article are that of the Editor, Phil Jay. WBN celebrated its 10th Anniversary on August 1st, 2020, and is the top-visited independent boxing news website in the world.