By Thomas Gerbasi
No two injuries are ever the same, but if Long Island welterweight prospect Cletus Seldin was watching super middleweight champion Andre Ward impressively win his first fight back after shoulder surgery against Edwin Rodriguez last Saturday, he had to be happy about the prospect of returning to form when he steps back into the ring Friday night at The Paramount in Huntington, NY.
“I feel really good, definitely about 98 percent there, and I had one of the top surgeons working on me, so that gave me a lot of confidence,” said Seldin, who faces Illinois’ Gilbert Venegas in his first bout since May surgery to repair his right rotator cuff and labrum. Like Ward, Seldin had dealt with the injury for quite a long time, finally realizing that it was time to get it fixed. And now that he’s back in business, the knockout artist dubbed “The Hebrew Hammer” is aiming for even more early wins.
“I injured it right out of high school, and it never fully healed by itself, so I never really used it to my full potential and I was already hurting everybody when I was boxing them,” said the 11-0, 9 KOs Seldin. “So now that it’s completely healed, I’m really excited to see how it’s gonna feel on my first fight back when I can really hit somebody. And if it’s better than what it was, there’s gonna be a lot of problems on the boxing scene because I was already knocking everybody out with my right hand as it was. If it’s a hundred percent now, there’s gonna be some trouble in my weight class.”
Let’s face it, everyone loves a knockout, and Seldin delivers on that count nearly every time. Add in a strong local following and the catchy nickname, and there are high hopes for the 27-year-old, who believes that despite the injury-induced layoff, he’s within striking range of taking his appeal across the country.
“I believe I’m right on track,” he said. “The layoff set me back about three fights, so if I wasn’t in that spot of missing those three fights, I believe that at the two year mark, I’d be able to fight on TV already. I believe that if I didn’t get those injuries, this fight or the fight after it would be on TV, and that’s exactly where I want to be. So now, I need about one or two fights to get to that TV spot, which I really, really want.”
Seldin would be a TV favorite, simply because he isn’t one to dance around or wait for the fight to come to him. And while he’s fought the typical suspects up and comers get fed on the way up, he usually does what you’re supposed to do to lesser opposition, and that’s get them out of there. Of course, there is the question of his age and its relativity to where he’s at in his career, but considering that he’s a late comer to the game, he’s not doing too badly for himself.
“I wasn’t in the boxing game at eight years old; I started going to the boxing gym at 21, 22,” he said when asked if he feels that he needs to accelerate things in his career as he approaches 30. “But for me, to be at my level of fighting - which is very aggressive with a lot of endurance - I need to fight often so my body is always in peak condition. So it’s always kind of a rush with me and it’s not really that big of a problem. I need to be in top shape, so by having all these fights back-to-back-to-back, it actually helps me at the same time.”
And if not for the reality that mixed martial arts isn’t sanctioned in his home state of New York, Seldin – a former high school wrestler – might have chosen a career in MMA.
“Actually, when I first started all of this, I was doing MMA,” he said. “I got a blue belt in jiu-jitsu, I did a few kickboxing fights, and all of a sudden my MMA career ended when I realized that MMA was illegal on Long Island. I would hear all these stories on how kids from Long Island would try to get fights in Atlantic City, they would travel there, and their opponent wouldn’t show up, so that discouraged me a lot. And when that happened, the MMA gym I went to shut down, so I started going to my local boxing gym. I always told myself that I would get good at boxing and go back to MMA, but I just got really good at boxing and they kept me.”
Now it’s all boxing for “The Hebrew Hammer,” who forecasts a big 2014.
“I’m hoping 2014 starts like the beginning of 2013, when I fought in January and February,” he said. “So if I can keep that pace of having those fights, I would see it going just the way I pictured it, my manager’s pictured it, and my promoter’s picturing it.”