Lee Selby Interview: Big year planned for 2018

Q & A with Lightning Lee Selby
Lee Selby stands over a fallen Andoni Gago.

Welsh boxer Lee Selby (26-1, 9 KOs) has established himself, as one of the top 126lbers in the world. He won the IBF title, in 2015, by dethroning then-unbeaten Russian Evgeny Gradovich. He’s won five fights since, including four defences of his World title.

On the 19th March, he faces England’s Josh Warrington at Elland Road Football Ground, Leeds, England. A crowd of 40,000 is expected and the champion will be stepping onto hostile ground. I caught up with Lee, at the St. Joseph’s gym, Newport, South Wales where he is trained by Tony Borg.

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Two months until your fight with Josh Warrington. How has training camp gone?

To be honest, I don’t really have training camps. I train all year round. I had the Christmas period off, had a nice rest, then got straight back to work. It’s all going good, just started sparring—sparring’s going well. I’m in great shape.

Will all of your camp be in the UK or in the US as well?

I’m going to go to America, more than likely, Los Angeles in two or three weeks’ time. The main gym we use for the training, in between the sparring days, is Maywood Gym in East L.A. It’s a little Mexican gym in the backstreets of L.A. It’s rough and not many people speaking English there but they’ve made us very welcome. We know the head trainer Mando and, his son, Charles Huerta, is one of the fighters there and I get to work with him.

We normally do our normal training there, travel to different gyms for sparring–the Wildcard, the Rock gym in Carson, we’ve been to Ponce DeLeon’s gym. We travel around and find the best work. I’ve sparred with all types of fighters out there like World Champions, up-and-coming fighters. In some of those little gyms in LA, the Mexicans are so tough, even though they’ve only had a handful of fights, they give you top sparring. Out there everyone wants to spar, back home they aren’t so keen.

The Boxnation Face-to-Face show, was that the first time that you’ve taken part in that kind of format? How did you find the whole experience?

It was ok. It’s not something that I enjoy. I’d rather be in the gym working and getting ready for the fight. Not talking nonsense trying to build a fight that’s already sold.

Watching it, Warrington seemed to have a genuine dislike for you. Where has that come from?

I’m not sure. I don’t know whether he’s putting it on or whether he does dislike me–I don’t know. To me, he’s just another opponent. In boxing, you can’t let your emotions get involved when you’re in the ring cos you could get unstuck. You gotta stay focused, stay disciplined. Like I say, he’s just another opponent, another challenger trying to take my title.

You don’t see him as a rival, just another defence?

I don’t see him as nothing, just another defence.

What would you say are his qualities?

He’s had some good learning fights and twelve round fights. He’s got a decent work rate, good left jab, good chin and he’s an all-around fighter. He’s good at everything but not exceptional at one thing. He’s a decent fighter.

Big crowd expected for the fight. Are you expecting it to be hostile in Leeds?

Yes, I expect it to be hostile. I’m the away fighter and that’s how it should be. I’ve boxed in front of hostile crowds before. I’ve boxed in Liverpool and Belfast when the whole crowd was against me. They are like boxing cities. I won the fights, they booed me on the way in and give me, like, a standing ovation on the way out cos they were boxing people.

I don’t expect the same up in Leeds. I expect to get booed there–on the way in and the way out.

Is the deal with Frank Warren (promoter) for three fights and is the third fight against Carl Frampton?

Yes, for three fights. It looks likely (Frampton), as long as we both come through our next fights.

How many times would you like to box in 2018?

Ideally, and I think it’s perfect for most World Champions, three fights a year. That’ll give you the traditional training camp of three months a fight, then a month’s rest. I had three fights last year, the same this year would be great.

All in the UK or would you like another fight in the US?

Anywhere. In an ideal world, I’d like to beat Warrington, beat Frampton and then fight one of the Americans, in a unification fight. Either here or in America. But nothing usually goes to plan (laughs).

Some big names in the division. If you could choose who you could fight, who would it be?

Ideally, beat Warrington, beat Frampton then fight Leo Santa Cruz. I think he’s the highest profile featherweight out there. If I can beat Frampton, it’ll be a massive fight for Santa Cruz, because they had won one a-piece.

Do you consider yourself to be in your prime?

To be honest, I still feel young and I don’t feel like I’m at my best, I don’t feel like I’ve peaked yet. I’m 31, but a young 31, I’ve looked after myself outside of the gym every day. I feel like there is more to come.

How many more years do you see yourself boxing?

To be honest, in my boxing career I haven’t had a hard round never mind a hard fight. I got put down by Eric Hunter, but I felt I won the rest of the round. I’ve got a few years left yet.

What are your thoughts on the recent Oscar Valdez vs Scott Quigg fight?

I didn’t watch the full fight, I watched highlights. From what I saw, Quigg gave a very good account of himself. It was very exciting and they had a bit of a tear-up. It was more of a fight than a boxing match.

What did you make of Quigg not making weight?

It must’ve been genuine, cos he’s a true professional. Trains hard and I don’t think it was an intentional thing.

If you could name one boxer, in the St. Joseph’s gym, for people to look-out for (apart from your brother). Who would it be?

It’s difficult, there are a few good fighters. I’d go with Ashley Brace (9-0-1), she’s fighting for a European title (super flyweight). If she can win that, it’ll be the second European champion from the gym. So, she’ll be the furthest down the line and in only a handful of fights. I think she could go a long way.

Will we see you defending the belts in Wales?

The thing with Wales is the venue situation. We’ve got the Motorpoint Arena, which holds 5,000 and I’ve sold that out twice, when Anthony Joshua fought on my undercard (laughs). I’ve sold that out twice, so have sort of outgrown that. The revenue it brings in won’t really cover a big fight and big undercard. The next step up is the Principality Stadium, and that’s way too big. Our City (Cardiff), is lacking a 10-15,000-seater arena. The other cities, like Manchester and Liverpool, they’ve got them arenas. That’s why I haven’t boxed at home as much.

With Anthony Joshua, making the Principality Stadium, in Cardiff, his home. Is there any chance that you could be on the cards?

In the future, if I can win these big fights against Warrington and Frampton. Then I believe I could bring 40,000 to the Principality, where they can partition it off. But, it’d be difficult for any featherweight in the world.

What’s your prediction for the Warrington fight?

Just to win. A ‘Lightning’ Lee Selby win.

Would you like to knock him out?

It’d be nice to get the stoppage but a win is a win at the end of the day.

Prediction for the Anthony Joshua vs Joseph Parker?

I’d have to go for a knockout. Just a knockout (either way), I’d put money on it.

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