From Dubois to Conlan -- ESPN picks seven British & Irish prospects to watch in 2018

Britain has an abundance of established boxers, such as the above, but who will next be joining them on this list in 2018? ESPN

It was a bumper year for British and Irish boxing in 2017. Last year not only saw Anthony Joshua unify the heavyweight division against Wladimir Klitschko infront of 90,000 fans but also witnessed the likes of George Groves and Ryan Burnett pick up world titles. But who is the next biggest star in British and Irish boxing?

Here, ESPN picks out seven British and Irish boxers to look out for in 2018.

Michael Conlan (5-0, 4 KOs)

Featherweight prospect Conlan has a growing fanbase on both sides of the Atlantic and in 2018 his aim is to move closer to his division's elite.

Conlan, 26, gained valuable experience on big bills in 2017 after fighting on the undercard of ESPN's world super-featherweight title bout between Ukraine's Vasyl Lomachenko and Cuba's Guillermo Rigondeaux at Madison Square Garden's Theater on Dec. 9.

Belfast-born Conlan, who trains in California, will be back at the same New York venue on St Patrick's Day -- March 17 -- after he cruised to a one-sided shutout decision against Argentina's Luis Fernando Molina (7-4-1, 2 KO) last month.

Expect Conlan to face harder tests in 2018, with talk also of a first professional appearance back home in Belfast.

Frampton might be the biggest boxing star from Belfast at the moment, but Conlan has the backing from promoter Top Rank to emulate or even surpass his friend in the next two years.

Daniel Dubois (6-0, 6 KOs)

Challenging for world titles will be too soon for Dubois in 2018, but a domestic title shot is certainly within his reach.

Still only 20, there are rumours that the south Londoner dropped Anthony Joshua in a sparring session some time before Joshua became world champion in April 2016.

Dubois is uncomfortable with the comparisons to Joshua, but that will continue as long as he keep on knocking out opponents like he is. His last win over Dorian Darch on Dec. 9 matched the same two-round demolition Joshua managed in his fourth professional fight in 2014. Dubois is 6ft 5in, 16st 7lbs and still growing.

"I think he punches harder than any British heavyweight I've ever seen," said Dubois' promoter Frank Warren.

"We're talking harder than Anthony Joshua, Frank Bruno, Lennox Lewis, all of them. In terms of potential, I think he's in front of anyone I've ever had.

"I think he's in front of all of them at this stage of his career, he could win the British title tomorrow."

Anthony Yarde (14-0, 13 KOs)

The Londoner with dynamite in his fists is set for exciting things in 2018 after making easy work of his opponents last year.

Light-heavyweight contender Yarde stopped Nikola Sjekloca in the fourth round last month to move him up to No. 3 in the WBO governing body's rankings.

Yarde, 26, who started his career late but is moving in a hurry now, wants to win world titles at three weight divisions after only taking up boxing aged 18.

To begin with, Yarde has a difficult task to win a title at light-heavyweight, one of boxing's most competitive divisions. Sergey Kovalev, the U.S.-based Russian, is WBO titleholder with only America's Marcus Browne and Ukraine's Oleksandr Gvozdyk ahead of Yarde in the WBO rankings.

Josh Taylor (11-0, 10 KOs)

Scotland's super-lightweight boxer was a joy to watch in 2017 and looks like a world champion in waiting.

Despite only having 11 professional fights, a title fight later in 2018 is not too soon for Taylor who is ranked at No.5 and No.10 by the WBC and IBF respectively.

Taylor failed to shine at the 2012 Olympics but has quickly put himself in position for world titles in 2018.

The 27-year-old from Edinburgh, who trains in London, made a statement in his last fight when he became the first man to stop Mexico's Miguel Vazquez -- a former IBF lightweight champion for more than four years -- in November.

Before that, England's previously unbeaten Ohara Davies was left bamboozled by Taylor's sharp boxing and array of combinations in a seventh round win in July.

Andrew Selby (10-0, 5 KOs)

The Welshman looked in need of harder tests when he comfortably won a WBC world title eliminator on points against Maximino Flores in October.

It was too easy for Selby against Flores, so much so that he allowed his Mexican opponent free shots at him.

Like his brother Lee, the IBF world featherweight champion, Selby has slick skills and movement around the ring.

After reaching the 2012 Olympic quarterfinals, Selby has shown the quality needed to compete with the best in his division as a professional.

Selby is ranked at No.2 with the WBC, whose world title belt is held by Japan's impressive Daigo Higa (14-0, 14 KOs). Selby may have to travel to Japan for a difficult opportunity, but he is good enough to win.

Joshua Buatsi (3-0, 2 KOs)

The Ghana-born Londoner, who won a light-heavyweight bronze medal in 2016, can be expected to make quick progress this year as long as he stays free of injuries.

The 24-year-old has his fourth professional fight on Feb. 3 after turning professional in July and was taken to points in his last outing on Oct. 28.

A fight against the likes of British champion Frank Buglioni, Callum Johnson and Hosea Burton may be too soon for 2018 but expect a step up towards the end of the year. Talk of a future fight with another British light-heavyweight prospect, Anthony Yarde, is also seems premature for this year.

Buatsi is promoted by Eddie Hearn's Matchroom Sport and managed by world heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua.

Zelfa Barrett (19-0, 12 KOs)

The unbeaten super-featherweight is tipped to be the next big hit out of Manchester, following in the footsteps of Anthony Crolla and Ricky Hatton.

The 24-year-old, who has a crowd-pleasing style, is the nephew of former British and European champion Pat Barrett and can be expected to make a name for himself this year.

A world title shot in 2018 might only be a remote possibility since British rivals James Tennyson and Liam Walsh are above him in the world governing bodies' rankings.

But there are still some potentially interesting fights available to Barrett if they can be made in 2018 against the likes of Stephen Smith, who was stopped by a gruesome ear injury against Francisco Vargas last month, and British champion Martin Joseph Ward. If those fights can be made, they will give an indication about how far Barrett can go.