Top Boxing Prospects From The UK And IRE That We Think Can Be Big Stars In Years To Come
In the 2nd instalment of our prospects to watch series, we will be taking a look at the lighter weight classes. Despite not necessarily having the same shine as the heavier weights, this doesn’t mean there is a lack of talent, with a mix of Olympians, and small hall prospects, this list will give you the names to look out for in the coming years.
Welterweight (147lbs) – Paddy Donovan (9-0 6KOs)
Limerick man Paddy Donovan has looked very impressive since making his professional debut in 2019. The Andy Lee charge signed with US promoter Bob Arum’s Top Rank from debut. Despite this, he has been based in the UK and Ireland for the entirety of his professional career. The Ireland amateur standout has impressed with his defensive momentum and combination punching, which has led to 6 stoppage wins in 9 fights.
The 24-year-old southpaw would have gained useful experience through sharing camps with superstar Tyson Fury, as well as another world-level fighter Joseph Parker. In his most recent outing, Donovan moved up to 8 rounds for the first time, winning a shutout against Tom Hill in Glasgow in August. He has been struggling with injury since and will look to return this spring.
Super Lightweight (140lbs) – Pierce O’Leary (11-0 6KOs)
Pierce O’Leary has impressed massively over the course of his 11-fight career. His first 9 bouts were in small hall shows, and he caught the sights of Frank Warren, who was quick to sign him up. The 9x national Irish amateur champion possesses electrifying power, producing one of the best knockouts of the last few years against Jan Marsalek in 2021.
The Dublin man has since gone on to score another impressive stoppage win on his promotional debut on the undercard of Sheeraz vs Torrez in July. In his last outing ‘The Big Bang’ stepped up to 10 rounds for the first time, winning his first professional title, the WBC International, against Emmanuel Mungandjela, putting the Namibian down twice on the way to a unanimous decision victory.
Lightweight (135 lbs) – Gary Cully (16-0 10KOs)
Giant Lightweight Gary Cully has looked very spectacular so far in his professional career. The Irishman, who signed with Matchroom in 2022, is currently riding a 6 fight knockout streak, that has catapulted him into the mainstream boxing consciousness. 6’3 Cully is a ridiculous size for 135lbs and uses his natural attributes superbly, keeping opponents at the end of his piston-like southpaw jab.
Holding a stoppage win over former world champion Miguel Vazquez, Cully will look for a step up next time out, which was supposed to be the chief support of the highly anticipated rematch between Katie Taylor and Amanda Serrano in May but with the postponement of that, his next fight date is unknown at this time.
Super Featherweight (130lbs) – Royston Barney-Smith (5-0 3KOs)
‘Sugar Boy Roy’ was a highly touted amateur, with connoisseurs of the unpaid code being excited about the Poole prospect. The 19-year-old has lofty ambitions of being Britain’s youngest post-war world champion, whilst this may be a bit of an extreme pace to move RBS in, he will almost certainly reach world level, if moved correctly, at some point in his career.
Barney-Smith is being guided by trainer Ben Davison and has fought on two Tyson Fury undercards at Wembley Stadium and the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium so far in his young career. The switch-hitting super featherweight is currently riding a 3-fight 1st-round KO streak, getting his last win in under 30 seconds on the undercard of David Adeleye vs Dymtro Bezus in February this year.
Featherweight (126lbs) – Peter McGrail (6-0 5KOs)
Commonwealth Games gold medalist and 2020 Olympian McGrail could be the most talented fighter to come out of the United Kingdom in a long time. Having recently inked a promotional deal with promotional powerhouse Matchroom, the Liverpool man will look to fight for domestic titles before the end of this year.
Riding a 5 fight KO streak, you may be fooled into thinking McGrail is just a power puncher, however, he is much more than that. Not losing a minute of his pro career so far, the scouser has shown immaculate punch-picking and superb defensive movement. With the experience of two international outings in the UAE, and most recently in Japan, the Everton Red Triangle prospect will return on the Callum Smith vs Pawel Stepien undercard in his home town of Liverpool.
Super Bantamweight (122lbs) – Dennis McCann (14-0 8KOs)
Dennis ‘The Menace’ McCann has been displayed on BT Sport for his entire career, making his debut on the undercard of Billy Joe Saunders vs Shefat Isufi. The Maidstone man scored an impressive stoppage win that night and hasn’t looked back since.
The talented southpaw throws unconventional lead hand shots and has had early comparisons to ‘Prince’ Naseem Hamed. The multiple-time national amateur champion has made steady progress in his career, most recently winning the Commonwealth title against former Team GB amateur Joe Ham. McCann will return to the ring on the 15th of April, on the undercard of Joyce Zhang, to once again defend his Commonwealth title.