Where Are They Now? The 2005 ABA National Championship Winners

The ABA class of 2005 provided Britain with some of the finest boxers of the last two decades
16:05, 27 Dec 2021

The roll call of the 2005 ABA National Championship is utterly stacked with talent. The 119th iteration of the amateur boxing tournament produced some of the fighters that would come to define the domestic sport in the years that followed. Of that group, only one boxer is still plying his trade. Derek Chisora, last seen in a thriller with Joseph Parker earlier this month, is the only one of 2005’s ABA champions still swinging. Here’s what happened to that glorious class of 2005. 

James Fowl 48kg

Not much is known about James Fowl, with most information available on him coming from either before or shortly after the 2005 championship. His brother Ben Fowl reached an ABA final of his own three years later, and was still boxing as of 2010. James Fowl is very much an anomaly on this list, as a boxer who seemed to take the sport no further after his win.

Paul Edwards 51kg

The Liverpool fighter would go on to enjoy a brief but highly-creditable spell in the professional ranks. Edwards beat Shinny Bayaar to capture the British flyweight title in 2008. After losing the title to namesake Chris Edwards in his next bout, he fought on until 2012. Edwards’ last outing was a Commonwealth title loss to Kevin Satchell. He now coaches at Salisbury Amateur Boxing Club.

Nick McDonald 54kg

The bantamweight ABA winner dipped his toe into the waters of the pro ranks, punching for pay on five occasions. He lost his debut to tough Georgian Mykyta Lukin, before winning four on the spin. McDonald’s career was interrupted by a jail term for grievous bodily harm, and his final outing came against Welsh journeyman Dai Davies in 2011. The man he defeated in the National Championship final, Stuart Hall, went on to win the IBF bantamweight championship.

Stephen Smith 57kg

Part of the iconic Liverpool Smith boxing clan, ‘Swifty’ went on to great things in both amateur and professional boxing after his 2005 triumph. A year later, he took home gold at the Commonwealth Games. His pro career featured British and Commonwealth title reigns, and two shots at the world crown before his 2021 retirement.

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Anthony Crolla 60kg

‘Million Dolla’ got off to a slow start in the professional ring, suffering losses at domestic level to the likes of Derry Matthews, journeyman Youssef al-Hamidi and Gary Sykes. When Crolla hit his stride though, he became one of the very best fighters on this list.

A brilliant fifth round stoppage of Darleys Perez netted him the WBA lightweight title, which he successfully defended against Ismael Barroso. The popular Mancunian would lose his strap to the great Jorge Linares, before outscoring the world class Ricky Burns. His penultimate fight was a losing world title challenge to pound-for-pound candidate Vasiliy Lomachenko.

James Cox 64kg

Better known as Jamie, Cox stayed at amateur level through the Commonwealth games, where he claimed a gold medal. Cox marked himself out as a real talent after turning over, racking up a 24-0 record that earned him a world title shot. That chance arrived against a fellow Brit, WBA super middleweight champion George Groves. Cox was stopped inside four rounds by ‘Saint’ George, and has fought just twice since. His final outing was a second-round defeat to John Ryder.

Denton Vassell 69kg

Great things were expected when ‘Achilles’ stepped into the professional game. In his 15th fight, he decisioned Lee Purdy for the Commonwealth welterweight crown. Vassell would hold that title for three years, before being stopped by another British amateur standout in Frankie Gavin. The Manchester fighter lost his next outing too, against the talented Sam Eggington. From there, Vassell was largely relegated to the realm of opponent, going 5-3 in his final eight fights.

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James DeGale 75kg

The only fighter on the list that took home an Olympic gold medal, DeGale went all the way at the 2008 Beijing games. His professional career was equally tremendous. After a loss in his eleventh outing against old Amateur rival George Groves, DeGale would not taste defeat for six years.

During that time he won the IBF super middleweight title, beating names like Lucien Bute and Andre Dirrell along the way. Caleb Truax scored a big upset to defeat ‘Chunky’ for that title, but DeGale would reclaim his belt in a rematch. The Hammersmith fighter would fight just twice more, beating Fidel Munoz before losing his final outing to Chris Eubank Jr.

Tony Jeffries 81kg

An Olympic teammate of DeGale, ‘Jaffa’ scooped a bronze medal at the 2008 Olympics. The Sunderland-born boxer only managed ten professional outings, and was forced to retire in 2012 with a hand injury. His post-ring life has been incredibly interesting, however.

Jeffries was the face of a worldwide billboard campaign for jeans giants Levi’s, has acted in James Spader TV vehicle The Blacklist and has served as the trainer of UFC fighter Brendan Schaub. As boxing retirements go, ‘The Mighty Mackem’ might boast the coolest ever.

Tony Bellew 91kg

Another boxer from the 2005 tournament to make it onto celluloid, Tony Bellew’s acting immortality came via the role of ‘Pretty’ Ricky Conlan in Rocky follow-up Creed. 

Before all that though, ‘Bomber’ was a boxer from Toxteth, and a world class one at that. After losing a brace of light heavyweight title shots to Nathan Cleverly and Adonis Stevenson, the Everton-mad fighter hit his stride up at cruiserweight. After avenging the Cleverly reverse in the higher weight class, Bellew spent the next two years working his way through contenders until securing a shot at the WBC cruiserweight championship.

‘Bomber’ stopped future ‘Canelo’ foe Ilunga Makabu in three rounds to realise his world title dream, and defended it successfully against BJ Flores. A brief sojourn to heavyweight followed, where he won both fights in a bitter rivalry with former cruiserweight and heavyweight champion David Haye. Bellew would box once more at cruiserweight, being stopped in a bid for Oleksandr Usyk’s undisputed cruiserweight championship. Tony retired after, and is now a successful analyst and presenter.

Derek Chisora over 91kg

The lone wolf of the class of 2005, Derek Chisora is still battling as of 2021. ‘Del Boy’ only had around twenty amateur fights, one of which was his ABA finals victory over Tom Dallas.

Chisora stormed the domestic scene as a professional, winning the British and Commonwealth titles before losing to an up-and-coming young Mancunian named Tyson Fury. Less than a year later, Chisora earned a shot at WBC heavyweight champion Vitali Klitschko. He lost on that night, but put ‘Dr Ironfist’ under more pressure than anyone had in a decade. 

His post-fight spat with David Haye led to a box office showdown between the pair. ‘Hayemaker’ knocked Chisora out in their grudge match, before ‘War’ racked up five wins on the spin to earn a Fury rematch. ‘The Gypsy King’ beat Chisora again, and after a controversial 2016 European title loss to Kubrat Pulev, the Finchley puncher found himself installed as somewhat of a gatekeeper.

Chisora has given Dillian Whyte, Joseph Parker, Agit Kabayel and Oleksandr Usyk some of their more difficult nights in the years since. He rarely triumphs at the highest level, but at the age of 37, Derek Chisora can still give any heavyweight on the planet a good go.

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