By Thomas Gerbasi
Ace publicist Bernie Bahrmasel has probably heard it all over the course of his duties in the boxing world. What likely never showed up in an interview was a 10-minute discussion of toys, but that was the case after it was suggested that junior welterweight prospect Cletus Seldin’s all day, every day visits to the gym could make him a less than fun guy to be around.
“I’m a fun guy,” laughs Seldin, who faces Roberto Ortiz at Nassau Coliseum this Saturday. “When I go to the gym, I don’t want no one calling me or talking to me; I’m working out. But as soon as it’s over, I’m a huge geek and nerd. I love Star Wars, Marvel, all those shows. I collect Funko Pop figurines and I have a full-blown addiction to it. That part of me, everybody loves.”
To clarify, Seldin doesn’t have a few Darth Vader or Tyrion Lannister figures around the house in Long Island. By his estimation, he’s got 1,500 Funko Pops in his collection, instantly removing that “no fun” stigma.
So it’s likely that after he makes his HBO debut this weekend, there will be some Funko hunting going on for “The Hebrew Hammer,” but first, there’s Ortiz and the biggest fight of a pro career that began in 2011. At 20-0 with 16 KOs, many believed this day was going to come a lot sooner for the 31-year-old, but he wasn’t one of those expecting a quick rise to the top.
“Due to what happened with injuries and the process, I knew it was gonna take me quite a while because that’s just the way it goes for me in life,” he said. “And the one thing I did know was to keep training and it will eventually come. The next thing I know, I get a call after my last fight. I’m a little banged up and sore still, and I’m like, ‘Yes. Absolutely yes.’ HBO, Nassau Coliseum, I don’t care who the opponent is. Book it.’”
That last fight, a 10-round decision win over Renald Garrido in September, came after 15 months away from the game, a time punctuated by a pair of drug tests that saw him come back with elevated levels of testosterone as well as one positive test for metabolites of the steroid stanozolol. Before that, Seldin, who voluntarily submitted to the tests and listed his involvement with testosterone replacement therapy, dealt with a pair of shoulder surgeries, keeping him on the shelf for extended periods of time.
So when you can’t fight, you learn patience. That didn’t keep Seldin from the gym, though.
“I stayed patient just knowing the way I grew up and knowing that everything I had to get I had to work really hard for and fight for it – literally - and eventually it will come through the hard work,” he said. “And that’s exactly what happened here. I was out before my previous fight for 16 months and I trained almost every single day and I grind it out. I went to training camp three or four times last year just so I could keep that groove. When you get to a bigger stage, there are a lot more politics and there’s always a lot of talk that this possibly could happen, but you just keep grinding.”
Through it all, the grind is what’s kept Seldin sane. And like his addiction to collecting Funko Pop figures, the gym is an equally all-encompassing endeavor.
“I don’t know how other fighters do it, but I have an addiction to training and trying to become perfect at it,” he said. “If I was supposed to work out for a day and I wasn’t able to, I actually get depressed. So I have a full-blown addiction to doing some form of exercise every single day. If not, I get sad. It’s horrible to say (Laughs), but it works good in my business, at least.
“And I have ADHD, so I hate doing the same workouts over and over again,” Seldin continues. “So I have to constantly change my workout up. I ride the bike, I run, I swim, I do the spin bike, I do sprints, I do yoga, speed training, everything. Whatever I can think of because it all benefits me in the ring.”
Note that he said the ring, because there was speculation that Seldin might give MMA a go, considering his high school wrestling background as well as a blue belt in jiu-jitsu and some kickboxing fights. But for now, he’s all-in on the sweet science.
“I actually did think about it for a good month,” he said. “The MMA guys are a little bit older, so there’s always a Plan B. Maybe one day it will happen. But my heart’s in boxing right now.”