Anthony Joshua may have taken some flak in 2018 for the fights he did not have, but he remains ESPN’s British No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter for the year.
Britain finishes 2018 with five world titleholders — Joshua, Callum Smith, Josh Warrington, Kal Yafai and Charlie Edwards — which is down from last year.
British boxing ended 2016 with 13 world titlists and seven this time last year when Joshua was again ESPN’s British pound-for-pound king.
Who else makes our top 10 list, and is there room for some well-known former champions?
1. Anthony Joshua
Joshua is the only Briton to be ranked No. 1 in his weight class in most independent listings, including ESPN’s, after victories over Joseph Parker (UD points) and Alexander Povetkin (WTKO 7) this year.
The victory over Parker in a title unification fight in March earned Joshua a third belt and cemented his place at No 1.
Deontay Wilder, the WBC titleholder, and lineal champion Tyson Fury may claim to be the heavyweight No. 1, but Joshua holds most of the belts and for most is the man to beat.
The 29-year-old’s clinical finish of Povetkin showed he is still in form — but there will be increasing demand for him to face the winner of the possible Wilder-Fury rematch later next year to settle any doubt over his status.
Joshua (22-0, 21 KOs) is likely to face Dillian Whyte next on April 13 before another world title unification fight.
Josh Warrington goes the distance with Carl Frampton and retains his IBF World Featherweight belt via unanimous decision.
2. Josh Warrington
Warrington has arguably enjoyed a better year than any other British boxer after beating one reigning world champion and one former world champion.
First, his pressure fighting was too much for Welshman Lee Selby in May, in a performance that earned Warrington the IBF world featherweight title.
Then, in another upset, Warrington unanimously outpointed Carl Frampton in a first defense on Dec. 22. Again, Warrington (28-0, 6 KOs) was full of energy and his furious bursts of punches threatened to overwhelm Frampton early on.
Leo Santa Cruz, the WBA champion, remains ahead of Warrington in the global nine stones rankings, but the win over Frampton erased doubts about the Leeds boxer’s place among the elite in his division.
A unification fight awaits in 2019, perhaps against WBO champion Oscar Valdez.
3. Callum Smith
Boxing, as the saying goes, is all about timing, and Smith had it in abundance this year.
Smith (25-0, 18 KOs) knocked out George Groves in the seventh round to be crowned WBA super middleweight world champion in the World Boxing Super Series (WBSS) final in September.
Smith, 28, beat his English rival to capture his first world title and it was not only the timing of his punches that was spot on against Groves.
Smith faced Groves at the perfect time of his career. Groves has had a few hard fights and the final against Smith was delayed because he needed shoulder surgery earlier this year.
Only WBO champion Gilberto Ramirez can claim to be ahead of Smith in the supermiddleweight rankings.
4. Tyson Fury
Fury came close to pulling off the perfect ending to a dream comeback in his fight with WBC heavyweight world champion Deontay Wilder on Dec. 1.
A lot of people thought Fury should have been given the decision against Wilder, but instead he had to settle for a split draw after one judge scored it even.
It means a rematch is likely for 2019, but no one can deny that Fury boxed brilliantly against Wilder and controlled most of the rounds. Fury courageously got to his feet after a heavy knockdown in the last round to avoid defeat too.
Fury (27-0-1, 19 KOs) claims he is still world heavyweight No. 1 because he is unbeaten, holds the lineal championship and gave up the three belts he won from Wladimir Klitschko in November 2015.
But to stop the arguments and to be properly recognized as the top heavyweight, he still has to beat Wilder and then Joshua.
After returning from over two-and-a-half years out, following problems with depression, alcohol and drugs, Fury can look back on a great 2018. After two warm-up fights, he came close to beating Wilder and he will be confident of more improvement in 2019.
Dillian Whyte absorbs a punch from Dereck Chisora, then drops Chisora with a strong left hand for the 11th-round KO.
5. Dillian Whyte
Whyte produced the KO he needed in Round 11 at a time when two judges had Dereck Chisora ahead on Dec. 22.
It kept Whyte in the hunt for world titles and he is in a good position to get a shot at Joshua since they share the same promoter [Eddie Hearn].
Whyte (25-1, 18 KOs) is ranked as the No. 1 heavyweight with the WBO and WBC, and No. 4 with the WBA. After beating Chisora, who was No. 5 with the IBF, he can expect to gain a high ranking with that world governing body and it is hard to imagine how he cannot get a world title shot in 2019.
The Chisora win was the least impressive of three victories this year by Whyte, who began the year by knocking out Lucas Browne, then outpointing former WBO champion Joseph Parker.
Whyte remains the favorite to be in the opposite corner when Joshua makes his next defense at Wembley Stadium on April 13.
Josh Taylor remain unbeaten by knocking out Ryan Martin in the quarterfinals of the World Boxing Super Series.
6. Josh Taylor
Taylor continued to show his potential this year with three sparkling wins that have given him the chance to become world champion in his next fight.
The Scotsman, who is ranked No. 1 with the WBC and No. 3 with the IBF, stopped unbeaten American Ryan Martin in November after a unanimous decision victory over former champion Viktor Postol in June.
The victory over Martin set up a clash against IBF junior welterweight world champion Ivan Baranchyk in the WBSS semifinals, with a potential final against American Regis Prograis.
Taylor (14-0, 12 KOs) has been a delight to watch this year with his slick boxing — but in 2019 he could expect tougher tests of his ability.
7. Charlie Edwards
Edwards upset the odds when he earned a unanimous decision over Cristofer Rosales to lift the WBC flyweight world title when many thought he was not ready for the opportunity.
The 25-year-old’s first world title shot in 2016 was too soon as he was stopped by John Riel Casimero for the IBF belt at the same venue where he was successful on Dec. 22.
Paddy Barnes could not cope with Rosales’ body shots in August, but Edwards (14-1, 6 KOs) produced a mature performance to earn his first world title.
Interestingly, Andrew Selby is the No. 1 WBC challenger and that would make an interesting all-British fight for Edwards in 2019.
8. James DeGale
DeGale was in a bad place a year ago after a surprise and humiliating defeat to Caleb Truax. After losing his IBF world super-middleweight title on points, after a listless display, DeGale’s future in the sport looked in doubt.
But DeGale (25-2-1, 15 KOs) was in a better place, both physically and mentally, for a rematch with Truax in April when he won back the belt via a unanimous decision.
DeGale, 32, won a keep-busy fight by third round KO in September and is set to face British rival Chris Eubank Jr. early in 2019 when his credentials will be truly tested.
9. Khalid Yafai
Yafai was disappointed by a fourth defense of his WBA junior bantamweight title — a unanimous points win over Israel Gonzalez in November — but nevertheless makes our top 10.
Yafai (25-0, 15 KOs) also had a dominant seventh-round win over David Carmona in the United States in May and he is No. 5 in ESPN’s junior bantamweight divisional rankings.
In 2019 the Birmingham boxer is expected to land the biggest fight of his reign so far against the division’s big names like Roman Gonzalez and Srisaket Sor Rungvisai.
10. Carl Frampton
A defeat against Josh Warrington last weekend was a setback for Frampton in his ambition to regain his status as the world’s leading featherweight and set up a third fight with Leo Santa Cruz.
But the Warrington fight was excellent and Frampton (26-2, 15 KOs) was by no means outclassed.
The Northern Irishman outpointed former world champion Nonito Donaire earlier this year and, at No. 5 in ESPN’s featherweight rankings, leads the way in his division behind the four world champions.
If the 31-year-old wants to fight on, a title shot is possible for 2019.
Note: Those that miss out on our top 10 include former champions Billy Joe Saunders, who was forced to vacate the WBO middleweight title after he was refused a license for a title defense against Demetrius Andrade in Boston, Massachusetts, on Oct. 20 because of a positive test for the banned stimulant oxilofrine, Amir Khan, Kell Brook, George Groves, Lee Selby, Luke Campbell and Anthony Crolla.