The former featherweight champion wants a shot at the winner of Saturday night's world title bout on Showtime between lightweights Robert Easter Jr. and Rances Barthelemy.
It has been nearly a year since Lee Selby was a world champion and that is long enough as far as he is concerned.
At 32, the former IBF world featherweight champion stepped up two weight divisions to win his lightweight debut in February and now has his eyes on a world title shot in one of boxing’s hottest divisions.
The Welshman will be an interested observer Saturday night when Robert Easter Jr. and Rances Barthelemy meet in Las Vegas for the vacant WBA lightweight title. The fight headlines a triple-header on Showtime (10:00p.m. ET/7:00 p.m. PT).
If Selby wants a title shot, the winner of Easter-Barthelemy may be the easiest fight to make.
“I’d like to face the winner,” Selby said. “Barthelemy has been mentioned before as a possible future opponent, but I’d be happy to fight either.
“I’m happier facing a good boxer. In my last couple of fights, I have been facing smaller guys. They’ve come in with their heads and I’ve had to deal with cuts. I’ve had five cuts in my last two fights and that just ruined the fight for me. Taller guys, nice clean guys, like both Barthelemy and Easter, they would suit me better.
“They are both hungry still like me. They’ve both only had one defeat. I’d pick Easter to win. He’s fresher, I think he is just a better all-round fighter, a better boxer. He had a good fight with Richard Commey, he’s proved himself.”
After losing his world title to Josh Warrington in Leeds last May, when he suffered three bad cuts, it was a baptism of fire for Selby at his new weight when he faced Omar Douglas in February, at the O2 Arena, in London, on the same bill as Chris Eubank Jr’s win over James DeGale.
Cut over the left eye in the second round and over the right in the seventh, Selby had to fight through a mask of blood before earning a hard-earned unanimous points decision over the American.
“When the clash happened, I realized straight away I was cut and though ‘oh no, not again,’” Selby said. “It stopped me from performing how I know I can.
“When I got cut, I couldn’t see a thing. It looked like the blood was running down the side of my face, but as soon as a speck went in my eye, covering my pupil, I couldn’t see a thing. When I got close, I had to hold, I couldn’t see where the punches were coming from.
“Maybe my opponents see I am a nice boxer on the backfoot, they don’t think they can outbox me so they try and rough me up. I am as tough as they come, but those head clashes do change the fight.
“I always keep a straight face, I don’t show no emotion in the ring, but it is a distraction. During the fight, with blood in my eyes, it’s like the opponent is a silhouette, I couldn’t see the referee, I couldn’t see ringside. I just have to keep a straight face. Just get on with the job.
“ For my next fight, I just want the biggest fight possible. ” Former World Featherweight Champion - Lee Selby
“I don’t think the British fans knew much about Douglas, but I had watched him previously and knew he was a rough, tough handful. He had two losses on his record and you could have made a case for him winning them both. He is a good world-class fighter.”
While Selby’s struggle at the scales at featherweight had been known for some time, some were surprised at his decision to bypass super featherweight and move up two divisions. It was a sign, he says, that his battle to make weight had become more extreme than he let on.
“I didn’t think the four pounds would benefit me,” he said. “It wasn’t like I had nine pounds to put on, I just had nine pounds less to take off. I felt a lot better at the weigh-in and leading up to the fight.
“Before I boxed for the IBF title [where boxers would only be allowed to put on 10lb by the morning of the fight], I would weigh-in at 126 and rehydrate to 148. The last few fights with the IBF, because of the morning weigh-in, I was only going up to 139. That is still a lot though. Making 135 means I can eat the right foods. It’s still hard work.”
Since the Douglas fight, Selby hasn’t been at home much. There was a holiday in Malta, then over the Easter school holidays, a two-week holiday in Tenerife. Spending time with his young children was the reason that Selby did not consider going to Mexico to support his brother Andrew, who was boxing in a WBC flyweight title eliminator.
“I was in Peppa Pig World with the family,” Lee said.
Training began in Tenerife, running each day and using the hotel gym to work the pounds off again. Back in South Wales, he will be back in the gym with Tony Borg, his trainer, and is planning a training camp in the US with Chris Sanigar, his manager, ahead of hopefully returning to the ring in June or July.
“For my next fight, I just want the biggest fight possible,” he said. “I don’t want to be messing about with warm-up fights. If I can face the winner of Easter and Barthelemy, great, but I will face anyone out there. [Vasiliy] Lomachenko is the best lightweight out there, but Commey, Luke Campbell, any of them, I just want the biggest fight I can get.
“I’m quite mentally strong. In my previous fights, whether I have won or lost, I am quite good at putting them behind me and focusing on what is ahead. I won my ninth championship belt in my last fight but that is gone now, I have to look ahead. When I am retired, then I can look back and everything I won.”
For a closer look at Lee Selby, check out his fighter page.
- Lee Selby