By Lee Elford
Lee Selby shocked the domestic scene in September 2011 when he brutally knocked out the then British and Commonwealth champion Stephen ‘Swifty’ Smith in the eighth round. A virtual unknown commodity, the jury was out as to whether the featherweight from Barry, Wales had scored a one off giant killing with all eyes on his next contest, against Swifty’s rival – Scotland’s competent ex-British champion John Simpson – the following December.
Heading into the first defence of his newly acquired titles, the full analysis and attention had been firmly on Selby for the first time in his career as he faced the expected tough task of putting away the man who had taken Liverpool’s promising Smith the full 12 rounds on two exhausting and evenly matched occasions before falling agonisingly short.
What materialised was an eighth round stoppage for our current champion who ended the seasoned pro’s gutsy challenge with a deflating body shot – nobody was questioning the ability and authenticity of the Welshman afterwards as he cemented his claim and genuine potential for bigger honours after his remarkable rise from obscurity.
Selby gave a small insight into his early years, his training and how he relaxes when asked by Boxingscene. He said: “Life was a bit hard and a bit of a struggle in the beginning. My oldest brother started boxing first, I followed after him and my youngest brother followed after me. I started training when I was about 8 years of age and started boxing when I was 10. I had about 80 or 90 fights as an amateur, winning most of them. I won the Welsh national championships every year. I got the ABA semi-finals twice. I lost to Paul Appleby, which I should have won, but I lost on points.’’
The likes of Joe Calzaghe and Nathan Cleverly owe much of their supreme cardio fitness to running up the hills where they are based in the Welsh Valleys, but Lee owes his success to something similar if more accessible.
“There are no mountains in the part of Wales where I am, I’m closer to Cardiff City,” said Selby. “One of my training routines is running up and down about 300 steps which ascend a steep hill. That is the one different thing I do other than the usual of running groundwork and pad work. I feel that those steps coupled with the sparring I do give me that edge.’’
When he’s not training, Lee, who owns two Lurcher dogs, likes to walk his pets and go Rabbit hunting as well as watching DVD’s when chilling out. Boxingscene asked Lee to reflect on those two career changing wins.
“I’m improving in every fight. I’m getting better with each fight and I’ll show that in my next one. Against Smith, there was only one fight they could have seen of me and that was on YouTube against Ben Jones. I took the fight at a week’s notice so I weren’t fit – I boxed on the back foot so that’s what he would have expected. When I pushed Smith back it was a shock to him. He only fights one way and that’s going forward, so when I pushed him back on the back foot he couldn’t handle it.
“John Simpson would have watched the fight against Smith and thought I would come out again and have a fight – I just boxed him, I caught him with a body shot, it wasn’t a hard shot but he threw a punch which I slipped and I caught him with a little shot and he went down. He’d never been stopped before.”
Last Friday, Stephen Smith stopped former Selby victim and the aforementioned Ben Jones with an emphatic first round knockout, and one of the four fighting Smith Brothers immediately stated his desire to go at it again with Lee Selby – The Welshman says he’d welcome the challenge.
“I have a voluntary defence in the beginning of April so we’ll take care of that and he’ll (Smith) probably be mandatory then so I’ll box him again then. I have no clue as to who I’ll be fighting as yet, that’s all left up to the management. I’ve beaten number one and two in Smith and Simpson so whoever they put me up against I’m not worried.
“In April the European champion Alexander Miskirtchian is fighting in a voluntary defence and I’m mandatory so after that we should fight each other. I think I’d beat him comfortably. I’d make a couple of defences of that and then anything can happen as I climb the ratings. Hopefully we can fight after my voluntary defence in April but if not I’d defend against Smith first. I’m training hard and looking forward to my next fight. I’d like to thank all my fans for their support.’’