By Shaun Brown
Is it safe to say you’re frustrated at not getting the big fights?
Luckily IBF Featherweight champion Lee Selby is in a good place right now.
The 30-year-old Welshman is a man working hard in the gym and waiting for that phone call that will give him the breakout fight he desperately craves.
It’s been over two years since Selby shone at London’s O2 Arena dismantling Evgeny Gradovich to take the Russian’s world title from him. Since then it has been a period of frustration for Selby in his boxing career. Defences against Fernando Montiel, Eric Hunter and Jonathan Barros have been painfully easy for him at times, and have never seen him give a performance that is perhaps awaiting one of the other champions at his weight, or Carl Frampton.
“I’m a world champion why don’t they want to come and try and test me? Try and take the title off me or one of the other champions can try and get another title. I just don’t see why not. It’s getting a bit frustrating,” Selby told Boxing Scene.
A fight between Selby and Frampton has been mooted all year with discussions having taken place and both parties appearing amenable to the domestic showdown.
Selby, who is as relaxed out the ring as he is inside it, has no qualms about travelling to Belfast to take on ‘The Jackal’ in his back yard. It could be argued that Selby and Frampton need one another right now, but it is a question of how long can either man wait before this much-anticipated duel takes place. This, particularly, after Frampton’s decision to break what seemed a marriage made in heaven with Cyclone Promotions, thus parting ways with trainer Shane McGuigan to team up with former European Super Welterweight champion Jamie Moore.
Is that a spanner in the works?
“The only way it would is if Jamie Moore wanted time to work with him and have a fight with him beforehand,” Selby answered. “I don’t think Frampton wants warm-up fights, I think he wants to go into big fights. And like I said, the biggest fight for us over here is against each other.
“I don’t know if it’s any nearer but I’m open to fighting him next. He says he wants big fights. A fight between me and him in the U.K. is a massive fight so I can’t see why it can’t happen.”
Be it Frampton, the former WBA Featherweight champion or the other current world title holders Abner Mares, Leo Santa Cruz or Gary Russell Jr. Selby is putting his title over the edge and telling the other champs to come and get it. Selby may be relaxed, albeit a bit frustrated, but his patience for a fight with the big four will likely disappear if one is not delivered by early next year.
Selby isn’t interested in saying that he is being ducked, but he is somewhat bemused that no-one is taking up his offer. In fact, according to the Welshman, Mares told him that he would gladly venture across the water to take him on.
“Abner Mares!” Selby recalled. “When I was in Vegas and the fight (against Jonathan Barros) got cancelled he told me: ‘Oh yeah I want to fight you, I want to come to the U.K.’ They’re talking crap. That’s what he said to me ‘I want to fight you, I want to fight you’.
Mares became WBA Featherweight champion defeating Jesus Andres Cuellar last December, 16 months after losing to Leo Santa Cruz for the WBA’s Super title at 126lbs. The pair now face Andres Gutierrez - a man who lost a fight with a shower instead of Carl Frampton – and Chris Avalos – a man who Frampton took apart over two years ago -- next month before re-matching one another at some point early next year.
“I don’t know if they’re ducking me, but they’re saying they want to fight me and then they’re not fighting me. I want the fights, everyone knows I want the fights. Leo Santa Cruz said he wants to fight me and he’s fighting next someone…. I don’t know who he is,” said Selby somewhat dismissive of the October double header in Carson.
Selby knows that he is an elite level fighter, but none of us have truly seen what he can deliver when pushed to the limit. Training as hard as he does, fighting guys like Jonathan Barros comes easy to him. He may be the equivalent of a supercar restricted to 30mph. However, he doesn’t mind going full tilt in the gym.
“It’s funny,” he said. “When I’m in the gym and I spar, I’m a lot different. You would think I was a fighter not a boxer. I like to have a good tear-up.”
The inevitable question that followed was why is that?
“Probably because there’s nothing to lose. No risk. I’m in great shape. Because I work so hard in the gym I can box and make it easy.”
He doesn’t want it easy, that itself is clear. He has talked about how he is desperate to face the division’s best. To push himself, to prove to himself that when confronted with a challenge that many believe to be equal or superior he will stand up and display a skill set that has only been witnessed in glimpses.
Challenges. To be the best. To be remembered. To leave a legacy. It might not come at Featherweight for one reason or another. That doesn’t mean he has to restrict himself to a weight that he doesn’t make “super easy” as he told us, but is always professional enough and disciplined enough to not come in over the limit.
For the rest of 2017 and the whole of 2018 the mountains to climb may lie higher.
“If a big fight come up at super featherweight, lightweight, light welterweight I’d take it. No problem,” he declared.
And then a pause from the champion.
“I’m normally too big for guys on the night anyway. Lightweight would probably suit me better. I’d definitely jump up to lightweight if a big fight was offered, 100%.”
And, at time of writing, the word around the campfire is that a big fight might not be too far away for Selby after all.