By John MacDonald
Lee Selby 18-1 (8), is looking to take one step closer towards his world title dream when he defends his WBC International featherweight title against Romulo Koasicha 21-3 (12) at Cardiff’s Motorpoint Arena this Saturday, in a fight that doubles as WBC eliminator.
The Welshman currently holds lofty rankings with each of the four major sanctioning bodies but rather than choose the path of least resistance, he has set his sights on the green belt currently in the possession of Jhonny Gonzalez.
Nine months ago, Gonzalez claimed the title by halting - then undefeated - Abner Mares in the opening round. Selby respects the champion’s power but believes he has the strategy to neutralise it.
“Don’t let him hit me on the chin or it’ll all be over,” Selby told BoxingScene when asked what his game plan would be. “I’d stick to boxing, try and out-box him, make him work because he’s getting on a bit. He’s been at his best I believe.
“He’s a really, really big puncher so you can’t mix it up with people like that because it only takes one shot at that level - never mind against a big puncher like him - and it’s all over. I’ve got a good chin, but like I said if you get hit right by someone who can really bang it don’t matter because you’re going to get knocked out.”
A fight with Gonzalez would likely take place either in America or Mexico. While this may be a daunting prospect to some, the 27-year-old relishes the challenge having already established domestic dominance while travelling the length and breadth of Britain. In 2011, Selby made his name by upsetting the odds to dethrone Stephen Smith as British and Commonwealth ruler in the champion’s home city of Liverpool and would embrace the opportunity to repeat the feat on the world stage.
“I enjoy it, I prefer it [fighting on the road]. I get more recognition if I beat a champion in their backyard. If they bring them over you don’t get the recognition but if I travel to America and won in style out there, my name would sky-rocket. It would make me a star overnight.”
In the spaces of a few weeks, spread over May and June, each of the major titles in the 126lbs weight class are to be contested, three in one night alone. While Selby sees Gonzalez’s defence against the undefeated but untested, Clive Atwell, as a foregone conclusion, he will be a keen observer of the other bouts as he looks to establish himself as the dominant force in the weight class in the near future.
“There’s some big names there [in the division]. So hopefully I can get a title and challenge some of these big names and earn some serious money. Vasyl Lomachenko, he’s fighting against Gary Russell Jr, I think the purse bid was like $1.5 million. If I can get anything like that, it’ll be a dream come true.”
During his six years as a professional, Selby has worked his way up from small hall shows to arena shows, from prospect to domestic champion and now world title contender. In stark contrast, former amateur stand-out Lomanchenko, was handed a shot at the WBO title in just his second fight. In that contest, the Ukrainian lost a split decision to Orlando Salido but since the former champion weighed in over the division limit the two-time Olympic Gold medallist had been given a chance to contest the vacant title, a subject which Selby has strong feelings on.
“He’s paid his dues in the amateurs but it’s a bit disheartening for guys like me who’ve come right from the bottom, working our way up the hard way to try and get a world title fight when he’s had one straight away in his second fight.
“He got beat and he’s straight back in. It’s not really fair but he did pay his dues in the amateurs and he’s an excellent fighter but the professional game is different. I think he should have to work his way up like everybody else but he just gets handed shots. It’s a bit disheartening seeing people thrown straight in to it.”
The journey to this stage has seen Selby visit more British towns and cities than a long-haul truck driver. When he had fought in Wales, his fights took place in a leisure centre. This was the case until February of this year when he stopped former world title challenger, Rendall Munroe, in the sixth round to add the European title to his collection in front of 5000 fans at the Motorpoint Arena, Cardiff. It made a mockery of the belief that the Welshman couldn’t sell a ticket.
“It’s amazing. When I used to box in front of a home crowd, it was a few miles away, way up in Newport. That was on the small hall shows and I’d have a little bit of support. Now I’m boxing in these big arenas, selling the place out. It’s just fantastic.
“Now I’ve been promoted well, Eddie Hearn with Matchroom Sport, they’ve taken me around the country, showcased my talents to all corners of the country then brought me back home and sold the place out. That gives Eddie Hearn the incentive to bring another one back and hopefully this one sells well again so we keep having big shows in Wales, that’s what the country needs as a boxing country.”
Earlier this week, ‘Scene reported that Selby may vacate the Lonsdale belt having won it outright with victories over; John Simpson, Martin Lindsay, Ryan Walsh and Munroe. While he would neither confirm nor deny the rumours, he did admit he felt he nothing left to prove domestically.
“Maybe. You’ll have to wait and see what happens. I’m beyond the domestic scene, I’ve won the Lonsdale belt outright, and I’ve done everything I can with the title really. I’ve beaten all mandatory challengers to win the Lonsdale belt. That’s what people don’t realise, there was not one voluntary defence. They’ve all been [the] mandatory and I’ve beat them all in style.”
Editor’s note: Selby has now vacated the British title as of the evening of 14th May 2014 Tags: Jhonny Gonzalez , Lee Selby