Selby and America gel nicely
It has been a more than successful year for British fighters in America. Jamie McDonnell, Carl Frampton, Amir Khan and James DeGale have memorably covered a small portion of the Star Spangled Banner with a little bit of Union Jack in 2015.
The mini-invasion continues this week when Welshmen Lee Selby and Nathan Cleverly aim to leave their own lasting impression when they take on Fernando Montiel and Andrezj Fonfara, respectively, within 48 hours.
Selby, the IBF world featherweight champion, makes his stateside debut when he defends his newly acquired strap for the first time against Montiel on Wednesday, live on Sky Sports in the UK and ESPN in the US.
The 28-year-old was in a super confident mood when Boxing Monthly spoke to him last week. The IBF champ was making the most of the American sunshine and eager to showcase his skills at the Gila River Arena in Glendale, Arizona.
“It’s really exciting and I’m just looking forward to it. Hopefully, I can put on a show for the fans and they’ll enjoy my style and they’ll support me,” said Selby.
“The main thing is to win,” he added, “but secondly it’s to look good and make a statement. Obviously, I want to make a name for myself out here in America. So I’m looking to put in a good performance.”
Montiel (54-4-2, 39 KOs) made his debut back in 1996 and has captured world titles at flyweight, super-flyweight and bantamweight. The Mexican, 36, has danced the fistic dance with names such as Mark Johnson, Jhonny Gonzalez and Nonito Donaire. Selby told BM it is an ideal first defence and the perfect way to showcase his abilities on American television under the Premier Boxing Champions banner.
“I’m expecting a tough fight,” Selby told BM. “He’s not your typical Mexican fighter who comes forward. He can mix it up and box on the back foot so to be honest I’m not too sure how he’s going to come out, we’ll see what he does on the night.
“He’s an established former champion, he’s well known out here so if I can beat him on free TV I’ll notice a change in my profile overnight, but if I was staying back home this would not be an ideal fight. He’s a dangerous fighter and a big puncher. If I was back home I’d probably have a nice easy defence.”
Not that the boy from Barry Town has forgotten about his fans back home in Wales and the rest of the United Kingdom. Selby hopes to return to a British ring next January or February before returning to America for a ‘big fight’ afterwards.
“I want to be in big fights against one of the other names like [Leo] Santa Cruz or Gary Russell Jr,” he commented.
Selby, who now has Al Haymon in an advisory role, was in Los Angeles picking up some sparring before the City of Angels watched Santa Cruz and Abner Mares battle it out for Mexican and local bragging rights. What ensued was a smarter and more logical Santa Cruz using his brains as well as brawn to take a majority decision verdict.
“I thought it was a very good fight,” Selby said of the encounter. “Their styles complemented each other and Santa Cruz proved he can box at a high level because his opposition has been quite poor. He showed he could box and not just fight because he outboxed Mares in the fight. Mares was meant to be the better boxer but Santa Cruz came out on top.”
On his various gym visits, Selby hasn’t searched for fighters who can replicate Montiel’s style, instead he has mixed it up with the short and the tall as well as front foot and back foot fighters.
Selby and America have gelled nicely. The IBF champion has been made to feel welcome wherever he has gone including Freddie Roach’s Wild Card Gym facility and the Mayweather Boxing Club in Las Vegas.
“I’ve been getting on with everyone in the gyms,” Selby told BM. “They’re all friendly and welcoming, especially the Mayweather Boxing Club. They made me feel at home and set up sparring for me and it’s been good. And the weather’s good, too. I don’t miss that Welsh rain!”
Photo: Lawrence Lustig, Matchroom.