It is too early to write off Lee Selby; Britain hopes he will triumph against undefeated Australian George Kambosos in the IBF World Lightweight title eliminator on October 31. But while this promises to be a thriller that is more than likely to go the distance, Selby’s toughest battle will be to maintain his relevance in a division where the heat just got turned up more than a few notches.
‘Welsh Mayweather’ Selby (28-2) meets Kambosos (18-0) more than a year after scraping a majority decision against Ricky Burns – Scotland’s first three-weight world champion and, at 37, in the twilight of his career. ‘Ferocious’ Kambosos, at 27, is six years Selby’s junior with, he claims, the hunger to match.
On balance, Selby is the boxer and Kambosos the puncher: the Welshman fighting off a snappy jab, precision overhand rights and lightning reflexes to avoid the knockout; the Aussie with a relaxed and economical style belying the devastating blows that have helped to propel him to the IBF’s number three spot, just above his opponent. The short right uppercut that felled former IBF world champion Mickey Bey was felt by all watching.
Both men, however, love to fight. Selby doesn’t only have heart:he keeps coming forward with a tremendous workrate, never neglecting the body, and showing unflinching bravery. Kambosos loves to intimidate and presses ahead undeterred. The one near-certainty of this bout is that it will be toe-to-toe for probably 12 rounds.
So far, what’s not to like? The winner of what promises to be a great fight will be earning every bit of his mandatory challenger status. Nonethless, If there is such a thing as a lightweight elephant in the room, it’s the new unified champion Teofimo Lopez, who earlier this month unseated pound-for-pound legend Vasily Lomachenko.
Lopez is by no means a 135 lb Andy Ruiz, six months away from handing over his four belts. After the Loma shock, boxing fans are coming round to the idea that he might just be the real deal, despite his world-class cockiness and the Ukrainian’s less-than-stunning performance. At 23, it’s arguable that Lopez is only going to get better and will tighten his grip on the division. The chances of a Loma rematch already look slim, denying Selby or Kambosos a date with one of the greatest fighters so far this century.
Whether or not we see Loma-Lopez 2, ‘Ferocious’ is more than confident that he can repeat the schooling of a thirty-something at Halloween, before making it all the way to the top. Selby might yet clinch a narrow win, but his quest to become Wales’s first two-time world champion seems no easier without Loma.
by Ben Stephens