The next level: Bradley Skeete interview
British welterweight champion Bradley Skeete talks to Shaun Brown about his ambitions for 2018 and why he believes he is "genuinely a world level fighter"...
Bradley Skeete continues to patiently wait for that litmus test to find out where he is on the world welterweight scene.
The 30-year-old Londoner (27-1, 12 KOs) fulfilled a boyhood dream by winning the British title outright in 2017, which culminated in defeating Dale Evans on points last July. That was nearly seven months ago and that was the last time that the world rated 147lbs fighter fought.
On Monday 22 January Boxing Monthly spoke to Skeete about a host of boxing subjects - including what was meant to be his first outing in 2018 against Laszlo Toth on 10 February - only for Frank Warren to pull the plug on the card two days later after it was down to its bare bones following the withdrawal of heavyweight hot prospect Daniel Dubois due to illness.
"We’re in the business of giving value for money to the fans and our broadcaster, and unfortunately withdrawals have made this event one that would not have been as strong as the other events we have staged over the past year," said Warren in a statement . “As a result, we’ve made the decision to cancel the event to give the injured and unwell fighters time to recover. We of course apologise to the fans for any inconvenience caused.”
A few days later a philosophical Skeete wrote on Twitter "Patience is not the ability to wait, but the ability to keep a good attitude while waiting." #mytimewillcome
And undoubtedly his time will come. A time when this ever improving boxer, who is continually finding spite and power to accompany a skill set full of guile and technique, shall come face to face with a fellow world-rated contender that will pose the questions that many of us and Skeete himself want answered.
"I genuinely believe I'm a world level fighter, that's not taking into account the elite level champions which every champion barring Jeff Horn in the division is. I really believe I need to start mixing at world level to be pushing on, and then at the end of the year looking at where we're at and seeing if we can get them elite level fights," said Skeete 48 hours before his 29th fight was cancelled.
Of course, the fight against Laszlo Toth wouldn't have told us anything about Skeete that we didn't already know. And while Skeete admitted that Toth wasn't the calibre of fighter he was wanting to face, it was still vital for him to be back out there doing his job.
A few days prior to this interview one of the welterweight division's most menacing men, Errol Spence Jr, had his first fight of the year when he took apart Lamont Peterson bit by bit over seven one-sided rounds.
It was the IBF champion's first appearance in a ring in eight months, much to the frustration of fans around the world. But we are where we are, and at the very least Spence has the ball rolling on what could be a memorable 2018 for who Bradley Skeete calls the best welterweight out there.
"I think he's the best out the lot of them," said Skeete. "I think there's some great fights to be made. With [Terence] Crawford coming up to 147 that could be a great fight. Spence has been calling out [Keith] Thurman for a while now.
"Thurman's been inactive, hasn't boxed but he's been out injured so I think you've got to go with Errol Spence. The way he's been dealing with opponents. He's been dealing with them in good fashion so I'd definitely pick him to be number one."
Skeete is humble and realistic enough to know that he isn't quite in the mix with the elite in his weight class just yet. And that goes back to the urge for him to have a test to discover how far away he is from the kings of the division.
One such name may be Peterson. Speaking to his representative Andre Johnson prior to the fight with Spence, Johnson told me how much they would love Peterson to fight in the U.K. Whether that remains the same following the loss to Spence is anyone's guess but BM put the speculative match-up of Skeete vs Peterson to the Brit and asked him whether Peterson would be the ideal step-up for him.
"Definitely," Skeete answered. "He's been there and done it. He's a great fighter. He's boxed some great names at world level and elite level so yeah, why not. He's just come up to the welterweight division so yeah, why not?
"That's a fighter we can gauge and see where I'm at. You've just got to look at who he's boxed and who he's been in with. I can get a good gauge on where I'm at fighting someone like that."
Having some extended time off since his last fight has been a positive for Skeete in its own way. A few holidays, some sunshine, some time with his family, away from gym life and having a bit of normality back on his plate was just the ticket. Now, he's back to the grind of it all looking to climb further up the rankings (currently WBO #3, IBF #6) and to challenge for a world title.
A world title shot was what he was mightily close to securing last December against WBO champion Jeff Horn. After Horn and his team withdrew from negotiations, Skeete was left to sit and wonder what might have been, and even more so when he saw his friend Gary Corcoran get the call to go 'down under' to challenge Horn for his title in Australia.
And such is the duties of a fighter nowadays Skeete was called into the Boxnation television studio to work as guest analyst during their coverage of the fight. A fight which Corcoran would lose in the penultimate round of his first world title challenge, despite a typically valiant British effort.
"I was gutted watching and just thinking I was so close to getting the fight," Skeete recalled. "We agreed all the terms set out and it was just like they went away, done their research and swerved the fight. They didn't want the fight, it's as simple as that.
"And it was gutting to watch because watching him [Horn] I know my style beats him every day of the week so I can see why they swerved the fight, and I can see why they picked Corcoran because that's the sort of fight they wanted. Someone who was going to come at him and do what he did.
"When I was watching it just put the icing on the cake to say that's why they swerved the fight. My style is all wrong for him and he would have been losing his belt in his home town, and there's no way they wanted to do that and miss out on this big money fight with Crawford. It was hard to watch but it's boxing. It wasn't meant to be. It wasn't my time. I just have to wait for my opportunity when it comes and take it with both hands."
Skeete seized the day at British level winning the illustrious Lonsdale belt in 2016 when he outclassed then champion Sam Eggington. From there Skeete would successfully defend against John Thain, Shayne Singleton and Dale Evans giving him the three defences that gave him the title for keeps.
While Skeete is still classed as British champion it is only a matter of time before he vacates and gives the opportunity to another U.K. welterweight to take home domestic honours. But who does Skeete think will be the next British welterweight champion?
"I think my [I Box Gym] stable mate Johnny Garton's coming through. I think he's definitely the next one. I think he beats all of them. The likes of Tamuka [Mucha], John O'Donnell... I think Johnny Garton beats both of them. I think the next British welterweight champion is Johnny Garton."
Writer's note: O'Donnell and Mucha meet for the English welterweight title on 16 February at York Hall, a fight that will also double up as a British title final eliminator.