Welsh boxing legend Joe Calzaghe insists Lee Selby could rule the roost in the 126-pound division for many years—as long as he develops a detonating knockout punch.
“Lee Selby is very good at everything he does, but I think to take himself to another level he has to develop a knockout punch with either his left or right hand,” says Calzaghe, who was raised in South Wales, only 30 miles from Selby’s hometown of Barry. “He has to work on that. He has to create a touch more power, and I believe he can.”
Calzaghe certainly knows a little something about knockout power. Not only did he retire unbeaten in 2008 after having been the dominant force in the 168-pound division for a decade, but he knocked out 32 of his 46 victims.
By comparison, Selby enters Wednesday’s fight against former three-division champion Fernando Montiel (54-4-2, 39 KOs) in Glendale, Arizona, with a 21-1 record, but just eight knockouts.
That’s a ratio Calzaghe is convinced his 28-year-old countryman can improve upon if he works on mastering a power punch.
“Lee is a brilliant boxer with a cracking technique, and he could be a top fighter for many, many years, as he has that look about him,” Calzaghe says. “He is a bit cocky, but not in an arrogant way. I like his attitude. He believes in himself, something you have got to do as a fighter.
“But it is vital he develops [knockout power], because it will help him get out of a lot of pressurized situations. It will also make him dangerous all the time, and that is a factor no opponent will like.”
The obvious question: Can a skilled boxer who is used to a certain style of fighting acquire devastating punching power when he’s so far along in his professional career? Calzaghe insists the answer is yes, and believes it’s something that will prolong Selby’s boxing lifespan.
“It is a hard life when you are [always] winning your fights on points; power punchers make their life in the ring so much easier,” he says. “Lee has got fantastic movement, he rarely gets hit and he has bags of stamina. So I’d just like to see him move up to the next level by stopping a few opponents, to show he has power [along with] everything else.”
Selby did halt his most recent opponent, as a cut near Evgeny Gradovich’s right eye caused by an accidental head clash forced Gradovich to bow out of their May showdown in the eighth round. The contest in London went to the judges, and the Welshman was a clear victor on all three cards.
However, taking out Montiel before the final bell figures to be a tall order, as the 36-year-old Mexican has only been stopped once in 60 fights, that being a second-round TKO loss to Nonito Donaire in Las Vegas in 2011.
Even Calzaghe acknowledges the most important thing for Selby at this point in his career is to win Wednesday night by any means necessary. If it comes via knockout, great; if not, Calzaghe is certain there’s still plenty of time for the young champion to build on his power.
“I like everything about Selby, I really do. I think he is the real deal in the [126-pound] division,” Calzaghe says. “He will want to keep improving, as he knows the quality of opponents he faces will only get better. So if he can develop a really solid punch, that will make him even more formidable.”