After seeing a September 4 bout with Victor Vazquez get canceled, Cletus Seldin decided to go for a little run for his birthday a week later.
How little? “Only” 35 miles.
It’s “only” 35 because the year before, Seldin ran 50 miles on September 11.
“And I fasted for four days beforehand because there was nothing going on,” he clarifies. “I ran from JFK Airport to Shirley (Long Island) on my birthday last year. This year I ran 35.”
Just like the COVID-19 pandemic left him with just one fight in 2020, a February stoppage of Luis Eduardo Florez in defense of his NABA junior welterweight title, 2021 was starting to look like the only action the “Hebrew Hammer” was going to see was running on the road.
Then he got a phone call on September 30 from his promoter, Joe DeGuardia. He had a fight. October 16. A headlining gig against William Silva at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Seldin said yes, then had a brief moment of regret when thinking about his actions the weekend prior to the call from DeGuardia.
“The Saturday before, it was bottomless mimosas,” he laughs. “I had like 15 mimosas, eight pancakes - when I'm in, I'm in.”
He muses, “That was a good time.”
True, but not as good as he’ll feel making the walk for only the second time since the biggest win of his career over former world champion Zab Judah in June 2019. It was a punishing 11 round stoppage for the Long Islander, one that got overshadowed after the 41-year-old Judah was unfortunately hospitalized after the bout with a brain bleed. The Brooklynite was later released and has recovered, but it is still the first thing anyone points to when discussing the Verona bout, which takes some of the spotlight away from Seldin, who still was able to enjoy the victory, though maybe not the week after.
“I really did enjoy myself to some extent, as I would,” he said. “But my problem that week wasn't really him, but the fight was 11 rounds, and it was the first time I had fought 11 rounds. But I knew how everybody was treating me, so I said I'm not losing this, and I put so much effort into it. And afterwards I was so sore and beat up. And then I felt bad for a while (with what happened to Judah) and next thing you know, he goes out there and files a lawsuit against me, and I'm like, okay. And that's actually still going on right now. There's still a lawsuit pending with Zab Judah. It's the craziest thing.”
That’s boxing. But after a solid career with 23 wins and just a single loss to Yves Ulysse Jr. heading into the Judah fight, it was the kind of win the 35-year-old needed to put himself on track for even bigger fights down the line in a crowded 140-pound weight class.
“They said he (Judah) was a little bit older and all that stuff, but honestly, I think I would even beat him when he was in his prime because of my style,” Seldin said. “My style was everything that's not good for Zab Judah - in your face and throwing punches non-stop. I must have hit him with a thousand punches, so I believe I should have earned people's respect from that overall, but we'll see on the next one. I'm excited for the whole 140-pound division - it's such a good division. Everybody's there and I'm so much bigger and stronger than everyone else, so it's such a good opening for me right now.”
A win over the 28-3 Brazilian in a Barclays Center main event will raise his profile even further beyond the New York area and perhaps garner him a Top 10 or Top 15 foe the next time out. He can’t wait.
“This is the biggest event for me, definitely,” he said. “Even though I've been in other ones, I think the biggest factor in here is because of the layoff I had and how much effort I had to put in for that September bout. Even though I didn't get to fight, I had to train so much. It was brutal.”
It (and that 35 miler) also had him in good enough shape that even after the whole mimosas and pancakes incident, he was fight ready. And ready to make a statement this weekend.
“I was on the stage before, but I haven't been able to be here in a while and I miss it, and I keep telling everybody I ain't messing it up this time.”
The Ulysse fight in December 2017 was his second consecutive HBO appearance, and while he impressed in the first one a month earlier in halting Roberto Ortiz, against the Montrealer, he was dropped three times en route to a one-sided decision loss. He wouldn’t fight again for nearly a year, but after a pair of first-round knockouts of journeyman opposition and the victory over Judah, things were looking bright again. Of course he didn’t expect a pandemic to put a damper on his future plans, but when a big opportunity like this falls in your lap out of the blue, you take it.
“I've been boxing for ten years now professionally,” Seldin said. “I've had five major surgeries, I went through the COVID thing and I've always taken a back step to somebody or something. And now I feel like...finally. And I always kept true to myself through the sport. I didn't turn my back on it, I never gave in, and it finally paid off to where now I get to tell people, yeah, I'm the main event at the Barclays Center. And when I see their faces, they're like, finally, too. It's crazy and exciting.”
And what he hopes is the start of something that will lead to a place not too many reach in this sport.
“I’ve talked to Pete Brodsky, my trainer and my manager over these years, and what he wants me to find when I'm done is that peace in boxing, not having that burden on my shoulder for years afterwards, and the world championship is probably gonna be that peace for me and I'm gonna be hunting for it and searching for it like I always have been.”