Commonwealth Heavyweight Champion Matt Skelton has passed up the opportunity to challenge for a major world title in his next outing, revealed the fighter’s promoter last week.
It is believed that Team Skelton were offered a 23 December ate with newly crowned WBC Champion Oleg Maskaev, but turned down the title shot after deeming the terms of the out-of-the-blue offer to be unsatisfactory.
Skelton, 39, and his closely-knit team have justified the ostensibly imprudent decision by saying that they were neither happy with the money being offered to them or the fact that accepting the fight would have meant traveling to Russia, the rugged champion’s homeland.
“The money they were offering was not by any standards good to fight as a challenger,” explained Skelton in a recent interview. “With him just winning the title, they want to have the fight in his country. It’s like a homecoming. I would have to go there and be convinced I would stop him to get the decision.”
Though he will not be swapping blows with Maskaev this year, the 20-1 (18), Londoner nonetheless remains optimistic that a contest between him and the American-based Russian, who was sentimentally dubbed “Cinderella Man” by sports writers after his title winning victory over Hasim Raman in August, can still be made, perhaps as early as the New Year.
Having spoken to his promoter about the possibility of resurrecting a meeting with Maskaev next year, perhaps in Britain, the Bedford fighter has been quoted as saying that “there is still hope” the fight will be made. However, with the notoriously inconsistent Maskaev defending his title in December against a solid looking opponent, nothing can be considered certain.
After defeating the oily, slick James Toney earlier this month in a WBC eliminator, it was almost universally thought that number one contender Samuel Peter would be Maskaev’s first defence. But, having craftily sidestepped that particular mandatory obligation, it now appears that a different Peter will be getting the chance.
Although a far less formidable proposition than the once beaten Nigerian knockout artist, the 18-4 (16) record of Ugandan journeyman Peter Okhello suggests that he will have at least a puncher’s chance against Maskaev, an aging former solider who has suffered five stoppage losses in his storied career. Skelton, one imagines, will therefore be a very nervous viewer when the pair meet.
There are those who question the wisdom of his decision not to accept the short money to fight Maskaev in Moscow, as Oleg is currently looked upon as perhaps the most vulnerable of all the heavyweight titlists. The concern is that he may well have turned his nose up at the best chance he will ever get to win a portion of the greatest prize on earth.
And with his 40th birthday fast approaching, the clock is ticking.
“I want to earn a good living,” said the former K1 competitor, “and you are only as good as your last fight.”
It is clear that he thinks he made the right call, but only time will tell.