LEE SELBY: ‘I’M STILL A NOVICE, STILL LEARNING.”
Where had Barry’s Lee Selby been hiding prior to his valedictory British and Commonwealth featherweight title win over Stephen Smith last September?
The cocksure 25 year old Welshman from Tony Borg’s flourishing St Jo’s stable in Newport proved a revelation by comprehensively outboxing, then felling, the former European amateur medallist in his home city of Liverpool.
Selby then consolidated with an equally impressive wipeout of John Simpson before the year was through.
Prior to making a second defence of his Commonwealth strap against Patrick Okine at the Newport Sports Centre tomorrow night (Friday 25th May), the richly talented switchhitter spoke at length to boxing writer Glynn Evans about his career thus far and his future aspirations
*SELBY v OKINE WILL BE LIVE AND EXCLUSIVE ON BOXNATION (SKY CH. 456/VIRGIN CH. 546) FROM 7PM. JOIN AT WWW.BOXNATION.COM *
How did you first become interested in boxing?
My dad’s a huge boxing fanatic. You get quite a bit of trouble in the town where I live (Barry), some real rough places, same as everywhere. But I’ve never had a street fight. From a very young age, I was always in the Rhoose ABC gym where (ex British and Commonwealth welter challenger) Michael Smyth boxed. He’s kind of related to me, my uncle is his stepdad. After we left the Rhoose gym to join the Splott Adventure gym in Cardiff, he never spoke to us!
What are your memories of your amateur career?
I had my first bout a couple of days after my 10th birthday. All told I’d have had about 90 bouts, lost about 20. I won the Welsh (title) every year including three Welsh seniors but didn’t get many international vests. They kept picking the kids I’d beat ahead of me.
I did box (Scotland’s former British champion) Paul Appleby twice in the Four Nations. First time he beat me by a point and I was robbed. Second time he beat me fair and square. But I weren’t very dedicated as an amateur, hardly trained, just messed around. I fought up at lightweight- I still only walk around at about 10 stone - and I regret that. Because of my style, I could’ve been a great amateur. Today I’m far more professional, both in style and my attitude.
The only blip on your 13 fight pro record is a four round points loss to Hull’s former ABA finalist Samir Mouneimne in your fifth start. What went wrong that night?
To be honest, I don’t know how I passed the doctor. I had lumps around my throat. Still, I thought I beat Samir. First two rounds I just messed around but I had him out on his feet, third round. However, back then, I lacked the experience to finish him off. I definitely won round four but they gave it him in a bad decision. If we boxed again now, I’d definitely knock him out.
The St Joseph’s gym in Newport where you train under Tony Borg is fast emerging as one of the best in Britain. What makes it tick?
It’s the boxers that make the gym. There’s top class kids like (reigning British superfeather champion) Gary Buckland and his younger brother Mitchell, my brother Andrew and Fred Evans (both 2012 Olympians), Joe Cordina and Sean McGoldrick (both Team GB members), plus good pros like Frankie Borg and Lee Churcher.
We’re all talented boys, all get along, work together. There’s a great team spirit here. We’re very competitive in the running and circuits, and we punch lumps out of each other in the sparring ring. We all want to be the best.
We mix the sparring up so that we get plenty of fast sharp stuff with the amateurs and rougher, heavier stuff with the pros. I’ve only been dropped once, by (Britain’s 2012 Olympic welter representative) Fred Evans in the gym. I was giving it him and he caught me coming in with a hook. I just knocked out a few press ups and climbed back up!
There’s not any good professional gyms in Cardiff any more. That’s why I travel about 20 miles each way to train with Tony three or four times a week. He’s a really excellent coach, the best in Britain. Tony’s a really good guy to get along with, never puts himself above you. But there’s no easy sessions at this gym. If you’re not prepared to put the work in, Tony won’t bother with you and that’s how it should be.
Of course, he did it all himself as a top amateur and ex-pro. He’s an excellent pad man, always focuses on correcting your mistakes, improving you rather than telling you how fantastic you are. To be honest, he’s the only coach who’s really shown me much, taught me to hide my chin behind my shoulder. I’m naturally unorthodox, most of it’s just instinct. Ali was my hero, hence the showboating but I’ve cut down on that now, become more professional.
Despite winning Welsh and Celtic titles you’d not been past six rounds when you challenged Scouse amateur star Stephen Smith for his British and Commonwealth belts last September. You were also forced to go to his home city. How confident were you going into that fight?
I’m confident going into every fight because of all the quality sparring I do with far heavier boys at Tony’s gym. After taking it to middleweights in sparring, I find it very easy when I’m in against kids who weigh the same as me. I’m very big for featherweight and, now I’m getting proper notice to make the weight properly, I’m very, very strong. Before, at just one or two weeks notice I was only showing half of myself.
Going in, I wasn’t given much of a chance because no one had really seen me. I’d not been on TV or even on the internet much. I was sent up there to get beat. Being in his home city, I knew that if I outboxed Smith, they’d still give it to him on points.
The hostile crowd certainly never bothered me.Two fights previously, I’d fought at the same arena, stayed at the same hotel and that helped. Compared with Smith, I’m very big at the weight. I’m also very fast. Every shot I landed, I could feel the strength draining out of Smith. I knew he was going to go. Sure, he can have a return but I’m not sure he’d want it. I was hurting him every shot I hit him.
You’d only registered two stoppage victories in 11 previous gigs yet the scything left hook that ironed Smith out in round eight was a strong candidate for British Knockout of the Year. Did you surprise yourself?
Not at all. I always have been a puncher but, earlier in my career, my manager Chris Sanigar advised me to get the rounds in the bag. He told me that journeymen are there to learn from, not to knockout. Now I’m at championship level I’m allowed to let the shots go.
People don’t realise how hard I hit. But every title fight, when my opponent has had to get down to my weight, I’ve stopped them. When I boxed Dai Davies for the Welsh superfeather, he was ‘out’, gone from one punch, just like Smith was. Now I can knock ‘em all out.
You proved the upset over Smith was no fluke when you wasted teak tough Scot John Simpson with a body shot (rsc5) in your maiden defence at the York Hall, three months after.
That’s right. I was extremely confident going in because I’ve always been able to box the heads off the shorter, compact types. After the sparring I do, there’s no chance these little nine stone fellas are going to push me back.
I wasn’t shocked at all that I won but I was a bit shocked that Simpson fell so early and so easily because he’d never been stopped before. It wasn’t really a hard shot but must’ve just landed in the right place. I think I’m frightening off all these little British featherweights.
Last year, your younger brother Andrew ripped up a few trees by storming to the European amateur flyweight title and qualifying for London 2012 by making the final at the world amateur championships in Azerbaijan. How significant have Andrew’s successes been in helping you focus on realising your own potential? What role will you play in his Olympic preparations?
It definitely gave me a bit of a kick up the arse. I’m very proud of him. He’s definitely the best medal prospect in Team GB and I think he’ll win the gold.
Andrew’s just over a year younger than me and, growing up, we always trained together and sparred together. We weren’t overly competitive, we always got on well. It was always me who ended up with the black eyes cos he’d hit me so hard!
We still spar and he still likes to have a go. He’s a very good boxer and we learn off each other. He’s improved my defence. We sparred before the Smith fight at home, in the kitchen!
When he’s home from (the Team GB training base in) Sheffield, we’ll run and spar together and we work together very well with each other on the pads. I’m hoping to be ringside for him but he only gets two comps per bout and the whole family will be scrambling for ‘em. Two tickets ain’t enough.
Friday sees you defend a major title for the first time back in Wales. Are you looking forward to the homecoming or does it add unneeded pressure?
For a start it’ll be nice to enter an arena where the fans clap me rather than boo me. I was given 120 tickets and I should do the lot. Hopefully, I’ll be able to please all my family and friends but I’ll not be going out to be a hero. I’ll just be going out to win the fight and keep my belt. If the kayo doesn’t come, I certainly won’t be disappointed.
You spent a week of your preparation over at the Mayweather gym in Las Vegas. How did that opportunity materialise and what did you hope to gain from the experience?
My manager Chris Sanigar is good mates with Cornelius Boza-Edwards from their time boxing together at the Fitzroy Lodge gym in London. Chris wanted me to have a taste of what life’s like at the very top and Boza arranged accommodation and sorted out sparring and everything for us.
Originally, we’d hoped to spar (WBA and IBF feather king) Yuriorkis Gamboa but we’d just missed him. However, I did get quality sparring with Joel Brunker, an Australian who’s number three featherweight with the WBO, and Kevin Johnson, an amateur light-welter from the Mayweather gym who was good but not as good as me! I also sparred a Canadian welter who was 15-1. Getting the better of top boys like them gave me a lot of confidence.
At the Mayweather gym I got to watch Floyd Jnr train and spar. 50 Cent was there plus guys like Andre Ward and Zab Judah. The most impressive thing about Floyd is how he takes his time and wastes nothing; lands almost every shot. We had a photo taken, shook hands and he wished me well with my career. His uncle Roger took me on the pads, showed me some defence and said he was impressed with me.
I really enjoyed it and would love to return sometime, hopefully to challenge for a world title at the MGM Grand. I’m only about 18 months off, if I’m kept busy and keep winning.
What do you know about your Ghanaian opponent Patrick ‘The Mallet’ Okine?
He’s got a good record (11-1-1) with a very decent knockout percentage (nine stoppage wins, including his last five fights).
Africans are usually very tough and, from what I’ve seen of him on You Tube, he’s very strong and not scared of letting his punches go. But he’s nothing too special technically.
I’ve not boxed for over five months yet I’ve been in the gym for almost every day since and, for the last eight weeks, I’ve been at it, flat out. I’m feeling very sharp and ready to go.
Finally, if you prevail on Friday, what are your plans for the remainder of 2012?
I’d like a Lonsdale Belt and my (British) mandatory is up next. I’m unsure who it is but there’s some good fighters in the division such as Smith, Martin Lindsey and Joe Murray. I’ll oblige any of them. Fighting away really doesn’t bother me at all. I’d happily fight Martin Lindsay in Belfast if the money’s good.
I’m also mandatory for the European which is held by a kid (Georgia’s Alexander Miskirtchian)who lost on points to Paul Truscott so he can’t be too clever. However, some of those (contenders) behind him are very good boys and when I land at that level I want to be ready for any of ‘em. I’ve only had 13 fights. I’m still a novice, still learning.
Two undefeated prospects from the Ural Boxing Promotions stable, Anton Novikov (24-0, 10 KOs) and Aslanbek Kozaev (20-0, 6 KOs), will make their California debuts on the undercard of the May 25, 2012 War At Woodland Hills 8 boxing show at the Warner Center Marriott. Novikov, is currently ranked #7 in the WBC ratings and is the sanctioning body's Baltic Welterweight Champion. Kozaev, is the EBU's External European Welterweight Champion and recently introduced himself to Manny Pacquiao at Wildcard Boxing Club with several tough rounds of sparring in anticipation for his bout with Timothy Bradley.
Novikov and Kozaev's 6-round bouts will be in support of the 12-round main event of Cleotis "Mookie" Pendarvis (14-3-2, 5KOs) vs. Robert "Red Hot" Frankel (30-11-1, 6KOs) for the vacant USBA Light Welterweight Title and Frankel's WBC USNBC Light Welterweight title. Pendarvis and Frankel will start the Memorial Day weekend fireworks with a heated battle to determine which fighter earns a top 15 world ranking and a shot at an IBF or WBC world title.
Also on the undercard will be the Woodland Hills return of Tyrell "Hollywood" Hendrix (8-1-2). Hendrix impressed during the last War at Woodland Hills show with a 4th round stoppage of Puerto Rican Reynaldo Rodriguez (6-3-1). Rounding out the undercard will be a 4-round grudge match between local fighters Raymond Chacon (4-1) and Erik Ruiz (4-0) and the professional debut of Jason McGrue.
Tickets to WAR AT WOODLAND HILLS VIII, can be purchased online by going to www.bashboxing.com or by calling (626) 388-8888. WAR AT WOODLAND HILLS VIII takes place on Friday, May 25, 2012 at the Warner Center Marriott Grand Ballroom in Woodland Hills. Doors Open at 7:00 pm, First Bout at 7:30 pm sharp.
WAR AT WOODLAND HILLS VIII is presented by Art Of Boxing Promotions in association with Bash Boxing, Pitbull Boxing, and Ural Boxing Promotions and is sponsored by Pitbull Energy Drink and Energy Bar, Roscoe's Chicken 'N Waffles, Dickerson Employee Benefits, Zeke's Bail Bonds, Frog Environmental, Hollywood Law Center, and Futurola The Dutch Rolling Company.
VERO BEACH, FL -- Heavyweight road warrior Sherman "Tank" Williams, a Bahamian sports legend, will travel halfway around the world to challenge WBO Asia Pacific and WBC Asian Boxing Council Champion Chauncy "Hillyard Hammer" Welliver on June 28 in Macau, China.
Williams (34-11-2, 19 KOs) hasn't fought in 1 ½ years, since he was involved in a highly-controversial "no contest" with Evander Holyfield for the World Boxing Federation title, at The Greenbrier in White Sulpher Springs, West Virginia.
"I'm looking for a break," Williams said about his fight with Welliver (53-5-5, 20 KOs). "I'm not discouraged. I'll be coming to fight like I always do. I've been sitting on the bench, training in the gym, and I couldn't wait to fight. This is an important fight for me. I don't know too much about Welliver other than he's had a lot of fights. The only two guys he's fought I'm familiar with are David Bostice and Bert Cooper in his last fight. He has a lot of experience and I'm sure he coming in top shape to fight. I have a lot of experience, against better opponents, and I'm sure that he's never fought anybody like Sherman 'Tank' Williams. A lot of his fights have gone the distance, so he better put on his track shoes. I should be able to go over there and take him into the ocean. It's going to be a helluva fight.
"Everybody knows I was robbed against Holyfield. I studied his fights tricks and tactics and noticed that he didn't like to be roughed up or hit to the body. He was open for overhand rights and left hooks. I followed the game plan and was on the verge of upsetting Holyfield and shocking the world. The referee was in over his head and never should have been working a big fight like that. Holyfield was cut over the eye in the second round but the referee didn't say anything about a head-butt - the rules state that he had to after the second round - until after the fight was over. He was confused and negotiated with Holyfield's corner. He ruled it a no contest draw, but there's no such thing as a no contest draw. I was robbed, shattered and hurt."
Holyfield said in a post fight interview on the pay-per-view broadcast that he would give Williams a rematch in the Bahamas but it never happened. "We negotiated between March and September but no numbers we discussed were suitable for Holyfield," Williams explained. "Hey, I'm Bahamian and Caribbean people are tough skinned. I refuse to lose or let anybody take me down. The Holyfield fight really hurt my career. I had been on a pretty good roll, winning my last 10 of 11, but I had been out of action 16 months from a car accident in 2009. Holyfield's team picked me as an opponent because I'd been inactive for so long. He would have been knocked out if he came out for another round and that's why he wouldn't fight me again. That unfortunate injustice really hurt me and my family."
"Sherman is a strong guy who has been avoided by top heavyweights," Williams' manager Si Stern commented. "They've come up with every reason not to fight him. Sherman has a good record and he's a super nice guy, too. We're hoping that this fight is the start of something good for him."
The Holyfield win he should have had in West Virginia most likely would have gotten "Tank" a world rating or close to it. Without that victory or an opportunity for a rematch, Williams was unable to secure a significant fight, and he went back to serving as a sparring partner for the Klitschko brothers, Wladimir and Vitali, and others.
Williams continues to chase his dream to fight for a world championship. He can position himself closer to his goal by impressively defeating Welliver, who is ranked No. 6 by the WBC and No. 8 by the WBO.
"I'd like a shot at the Klitschkos or Povetkin," Williams concluded. "I tried to fight the British heavyweights - Haye, Chisora or Fury - but those guys just like to talk about how good they are. They aren't interested in fighting a tough guy like me. I wish heavyweights today were like Ali and Foreman, who fought everybody, including the absolute best of their era. My opportunities have been too few and far between. I haven't been out the past 1 ½ years by design. Over the years, I've been a true road warrior, fighting who and where I had to, suffering some losses because of that. I'm going to Macau and I plan to take Welliver's belts back to the Bahamas and United States."
Twenty six semi-finals will be decided at the 2012 National Youth Championship at Dublin's National Stadium today, Friday May 25th.
Hannah Carthy and Oliwia Samsanov get proceedings underway in the light-flyweight class, while Thomas Conroy v Nathan Cahill will bring the current down on a very competitive looking last-four program.
The Cavan BC will have the highest representation at Friday's deciders with Daria Lach, Michaela Jannick, who meets European Junior Championships silver medalist Christine Gargan, John J Nevin and Hugh Nevin between the ropes.
The IABA are building up toward the 2012 AIBA World Men's Youth Championships in Thailand in October.
Ireland claimed six medals at the last two AIBA World Youth Championships in Mexico in 2008 and Azerbaijan in 2010.
Ray Moylette (gold), Joe Ward (gold), Jamie Kavanagh (silver), Ryan Burnett (silver), Tommy McCarthy (bronze) and Davey Joe Joyce (bronze) finished in podium positions in Guadalajara and Baku.
Burnett also secured an historic gold medal for Ireland at the 2010 Olympic Youth Games in Singapore.
Friday's semi-finals glove off at 5pm.
The finals will be held Saturday, May 26th, beginning at 11am.
The weigh-ins for Friday's and Saturday's semi-finals and finals will be held at the National Stadium between 8.30am and 9.30am each day.
National Youth Semi-finals Friday May 25th National Stadium Dublin (5pm)
48kg Hannah Carthy (Paulstown) v Oliwia Samsanov (Smithboro)
49kg Martin Reilly (Enniskillen) v Adam Courtney (St Marys Dublin)
49kg TJ Waite (Cairn Lodge) v Keith Flavin (Paulstown)
51kg Nicole Meli (Immaculata) v Daria Lach (Cavan)
52kg Eugene Brady (Riverstown) v Kieran Kenny (Monkstown Dublin)
52kg Kurt Walker (Canal) v Scot Hanway (St Saviours OBA)
54kg Michaela Jannick (Cavan) v Christine Gargan (St Georges)
54kg Rebecca Cawley (Ardnaree) v Lycia Heneghan (Ballinrobe)
56kg John J Nevin (Cavan) v Joseph Fitzpatrick (Immaculata)
56kg Ian Byrne (Neilstown) v Christopher Nevin (Holy Family Drogheda)
60kg Louise O’Donoghue (Geesala) v Kayleigh Murrihy (Kilfernora)
60kg Antoinette Keane (Ennis) v Niamh Ball (Trojan)
60kg John Stokes (Mulhuddart) v Dylan Carr (Ryston)
60kg Craig Ronan (St Saviours OBA) v Hugh Nevin (Cavan)
64kg Nicholas Gallagher (Ardagh Cross) v Thomas Waite (Holy Trinity)
64kg Jack Scally (Dungloe) v David Roche (Riverstown)
69kg Noel Murphy (Macroom) v John Harty (Rathkeale)
69kg Stephen Mulholland (St Malachys) v Robert McGreevey (Sacred Heart)
75kg Patrick Ward (Gurteen) v Tony Brown (Crumlin)
75kg Anthony Coyle (Geesala) v Michael Stokes (Glasnevin)
81kg John Joe McDonagh (Crumlin) v Patrick McDonagh (Dunfanaghy)
81kg George Boylan (Drimnagh) v Patrick Gaffey (Clann Naofa)
91kg Thomas Carthy (Corinthians) v David Joyce (Moate)
91kg Bernard O’Reilly (Portlaoise) v Stephen Stokes (Twin Towns)
91+kg James Barrett (St Michaels Galway) v Darragh Keenan (Arklow)
91+kg Thomas Conroy (Boyle) v Nathan Cahill (Paulstown)