Lee Selby says he’ll prove he can back up the hype around him as he faces Joel Brunker in a final eliminator for the IBF Featherweight title at The O2 on Saturday night, live on Sky Sports.
The Welshman has enjoyed a brilliant 18 months in the ring, beating British rivals Martin Lindsay, Rendall Munroe and Ryan Walsh and overcoming stiff international overseas tests against Romulo Koasicha and Viorel Simeon to be one fight away from fighting for a World title.
The 27 year old must see off the dangerous, unbeaten Australian to land a shot at IBF king Evgeny Gradovich, and he believes that if he does, he’ll prove that he can be a major force in the 126lbs division.
“This is the one to see if I really am a good fighter or I'm over-hyped like some people have been saying,” said Selby. “I believe that on my day I can beat anyone. If I can take my best into the ring, I don't think there's a Featherweight out there that can live with me.
"I am not saying that based on my last performances, but in sparring and in the gym I believe that if I can replicate that I will prove it, and I need to deliver that tonight. I believe I can become the best Featherweight on the planet – and if you don't believe me, I'll open the gym up and let people come down to the gym and watch me spar.
“Joel is a tough customer, he has power in both hands and is the real deal so this is the time for me to prove I can get to the top and stay there. I have made my hard fights look easy recently, if I had stood and had a fight with them I might have made them look good but I boxed on the back foot, used my skills, and got easy wins. That's maybe why I am not getting the credit that I should be getting.”
Selby and Brunker have met in sparring in Las Vegas in the past, and now lock horns with the chance for World honours at stake. While the Welshman isn’t giving anything away about the sparring, he believes it will be a great fight and his recent sparring with former IBF Super Bantamweight champion Kiko Martinez has him in the perfect shape for the hard-hitting Aussie.
“We sparred a couple of years ago when he was 23-0, it was the first time I went to America, so he's only had four fights since,” said Selby. “We sparred at Mayweather's gym a couple of times and it was competitive and then we sparred again in Eddie Mustapha's H.I.T Factory gym a couple of times.
"We didn't talk about fighting really, I was Commonwealth champion at the time and he's Australian so I had thought about it but not too much and neither had he, and we certainly didn't think we'd be meeting in a final eliminator for a World title. If the sparring is anything to go by, the fans are in for a treat tonight.
“I was in Spain sparring with Kiko ahead of his World title fight with Carl Frampton. I did 30-odd rounds with him and he punches really hard. I am going to go flat out Saturday night, I had a week off after the last fight and I've been in the gym since then. I am in tremendous shape, I have had all sorts of sparring, everything is on track and I expect to be at my best.”
Selby had been hunting down the WBC champion Jhonny Gonzalez after claiming the International belt last July and facing Koasicha in an eliminator in May, but his desire for World honours meant he had no hesitation in taking the chance to fight for the IBF crown – and he believes Brunker is a tougher fight than one with IBF champion Evgeny Gradovich.
“The plan was to go for the WBC but then this opportunity came up and I had to grab it with both hands,” said Selby. “That's what I am in the game for, to become a World champion: IBF, WBC, it doesn't matter to me which one I win. They are all World titles and these days no one title is outstanding, they are all important and valuable.
“Gradovich seems to be fighting in Macau, I'd love to go out there to fight; I'd enjoy it. It's nice to have home advantage but if you're good enough you're going to win anyway. Kell Brook proved that in California. It could set up a big money fight, like a unification. That's what I am in the game for; money.
“I think that this is a tougher fight than facing Gradovich. He's a similar type of fighter but Gradovich doesn't punch as hard as Brunker and he's not as relentless with his pressure either so he'd give me more time to get my shots off and outbox him.”
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