By Danny Winterbottom
In the space of three months at the back end of 2011, Welshman Lee Selby put the cat amongst the pigeons in the domestic 9st division with a pair of knockout victories that raised more than a few eyebrows in the trade.
In September, the 25-year-old from the coastal town of Barry travelled north to challenge defending British and Commonwealth champion Stephen Smith in his home town of Liverpool, stunning the locals with a devastating eighth round knockout before proving it was no fluke by halting teak tough Scotsman John Simpson with a body shot in five, last time out.
The manner in which those victories were attained, especially the dismantling of Simpson, sent shockwaves through the division, but Selby certainly wasn’t one of those who subscribed to that theory as he explained when talking to Secondsout.com.
“I wasn’t surprised how easily I dealt with Simpson, no. When you are sparring middleweights and light heavyweights and then get in a ring with someone who weighs 9st it is easy to push them around.”
In the aftermath of the Smith knockout people close to the likeable Scouser cried a lucky punch was responsible for the demise of their man but Selby feels he was in total control of the fight throughout.
“Smith took me lightly without a doubt. I was an unknown fighter who had come from small hall shows with no TV exposure so I think I surprised him and his team how good I am. I beat him up for the whole fight then knocked him out in front of his home crowd”
A rematch between the pair was mooted but has gone quiet in recent months, something that doesn’t surprise the champion.
“I would fight him again tomorrow, definitely, but deep down he doesn’t want it. Once you have been knocked out in the manner he was it stays with you and will always be at the back of his mind, especially if he stepped in with me for a second time” said Selby
In late April an opportunity arose for Selby and his manager Chris Sanigar to travel over to Las Vegas and spend a week sparring and training out of the Mayweather gym. With rumours circulating that he had not only impressed “Uncle Roger” on the pads but also Floyd himself in some competitive spars and how he had dealt with world rated Yuriorkis Gamboa, I was keen to separate fact from fiction.
“I never sparred Gamboa. The intention was to get in with him but he had left for Mexico a day or so before we arrived” he admitted.
“I did spar an Australian boy, Joel Brunker, who is undefeated in 22 fights with 11 knockouts and rated number three by the WBO. I also worked with a Canadian light welterweight who is something like 15-1 and also one of Mayweather’s amateurs, Kevin Johnson. It went brilliantly and I got the better of all of them in our sessions.”
“The Doghouse” the name given to the three rings that adorn the Mayweather gym, is notorious for its no holds barred atmosphere something that the Welshman experienced first-hand.
“It is certainly lively in there that’s for sure. You have guys all around the rings shouting and cheering for the new boys to step up and fight; it can be an intimidating place.”
On May 25 a mandatory defence of his Commonwealth title sees the Tony Borg trained champion defending his belt against Ghanaian Patrick “The Mallet” Okine. The mystery man from the fighting town of Accra has a record worthy of attention with an eye catching nine knockouts in 11 fights, but as is par for the course in these sorts of fights Okine could be anything.
“He lost to Paul Truscott and his knockouts have come against what looks like poor opposition” admitted Selby. “I’m not expecting too hard a fight and it could go the distance as I don’t need to have a war with him.”
With all four of his career knockouts coming in his last five fights the Welshman seems to have suddenly developed into a puncher, but Selby admits to not always putting maximum power into his shots on his way up.
“In my early fights against Journeyman my manager was telling me not to punch too hard as I needed rounds to learn the pro game. I was taking fights at short notice as well but more recently I have had up to eight weeks to get prepared for fights allowing me more time to do the weight and be in top condition which has helped my power.”
He added “I want to move onto European level very soon. After this fight my mandatory for the British title will be up against either Joe Murray or Martin Lindsay but then I want to chase the European and world titles.”
“At the moment Lindsay is probably the toughest challenge out there for me domestically but apart from him nobody springs to mind.”
The dream and ambition to one day fight for a world title has always remained at the forefront of his mind and despite having had only 13 fights Selby is confident even now he could mix it at world level.
“I’d beat Billy Dib in my next fight. He’s the IBF champion but looks the weakest out of the four belt holders to be honest. I can’t see anybody coming through at domestic level to trouble me. Joe Murray looked awful in his last fight then called me out but I feel I have moved on from that level now.”
Having acquitted himself well out in America, impressing influential people in the process, the remainder of 2012 could well be the start of bigger things to come for the Welshman.