From Lee Selby’s perspective, trash talk is cheap. All that really matters is what transpires within the four corners of the ring.
So don’t look for Selby to dazzle the boxing world with profound statements of intent in advance of his American debut tonight against former three-division champ Fernando Montiel (54-4-2, 37 KOs) in Glendale, Arizona (ESPN, 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT).
Indeed, the 28-year-old Welshman might float like a butterfly and sting like a bee, but outside the ring he’s no Ali.
“True enough,” Selby said. “I can’t see the point in it really, just talking nonsense about your opponent. Sure, if somebody gave me a bit of stick I’d give it back, as I’m not one to back down from anything. But I won’t do it just for the sake of it, just to look big.
“There is only one place that you need to look big in boxing and that’s in the ring.”
Since debuting as a pro in 2008, Lee Selby (21-1, 8 KOs) has definitely done a lot of talking with his fists, culminating with his eighth-round stoppage over Evgeny Gradovich five months ago. The victory not only earned Selby a 126-pound world title, but it made him something of a superstar in his native South Wales.
He was brought up in Barry, a port town of about 50,000 seven miles southwest of Cardiff, which was in its heyday a busy dockyard for the local coal-mining industry. The mines are long gone, and with their demise has brought the social problems that are prevalent in so many towns across post-industrial Great Britain.
“I walk around now in Barry and it is different, because people point at me and come up to me to say, ‘Hi Lee,’” Selby says. “But I’m no different; I’ve not changed a bit. I love the people, and I love the fact that I have put Barry on the map. It is a town that has suffered a lot, but the people are still very strong. You have to be tough to grow up in Barry.”
“ There is only one place that you need to look big in boxing and that’s in the ring. ” Lee Selby
As for Selby’s clash with Montiel, he’ll come up short when it comes to experience—his 36-year-old foe has nearly three times as many fights under his belt—but he’ll certainly have the size and strength advantages.
Selby is a natural 126-pound boxer, and hit the scale at 125.8 pounds at Monday's weigh-in, whereas Montiel started his career out at 112 pounds in 1996 and progressed from there. He’s tipped the scales above 122 pounds just five times in 60 fights, and weighed in at 125.6 Monday.
And while Montiel has only been stopped once in his long career, it was a devastating left-hand thunderbolt by Nonito Donaire that put the Mexican into the middle of next week back in February 2011. Donaire certainly hits hard, but so too does Selby: His record may only include eight stoppages, but previous opponents have all spoken of the Welshman’s heavy hands.
Finally, when it comes to career trajectories, Selby has been quite active and is very much on the upward slope, while Montiel has fought just five times in the past three years.
Not that you’ll get Selby to bad-mouth Montiel’s résumé or disparage him in any way—again, it’s just not Selby's style. Besides, he holds the former champ in very high esteem.
“If I had a bit of needle between me and another fighter, I’d be more than prepared to dish it out. But only if I knew him,” Selby says. “I wouldn’t do it to someone like Montiel, as he’s got a fantastic career behind him, great names on his record and he is clearly a top-level boxer.
“The only thing that matters to me is making sure he knows that I am here to stay, here to dominate the [126-pound] division, and he is just a steppingstone in that direction. Having said that, he is a steppingstone I very much respect.”
For complete coverage of Selby vs Montiel, check out our fight page.