The name ‘Selby’ should at least sound familiar to most boxing fans. Those who recognise it are most likely thinking of IBF featherweight champion Lee Selby, a slick and talented fighter from Wales who is certainly up there in Britain’s pound-for-pound rankings. After suffering an early loss in 2009, he rapidly worked his way through the domestic belts, picking up Area, Celtic, British, Commonwealth and European titles on the way to winning world honours last year, and has looked very good in the process.
However, by his own insistence, he isn’t the best fighter that goes by the Selby name. Younger brother Andrew Selby (6-0, 4 KOs) is quickly becoming Britain’s worst kept secret, and is picked by Lee to achieve even greater things than he has. “If Andrew trains and lives the life of a professional boxer, he could be the best Welsh boxer ever”, he claims. “I believe my younger brother is going to be the next world champion to come out of Wales”.
So far, it looks to be a safe bet. The 27-year-old is already the most decorated Welsh amateur in history, having won two gold medals at the European Championships, and a silver and a bronze medal at the World Championships. He was a quarter finalist at the 2012 London Olympics (losing to eventual winner Robeisy Ramirez from Cuba) and was a member of the British Lionhearts in the popular World Series of Boxing, racking up 10 fights for the team.
Such achievements made a switch to the professional ranks a logical move, one which Selby made towards the end of last year with his brother’s promoter and manager, Chris Sanigar, who was quick to play the news down: “We’re not going to fast track him”, he said following the announcement. “We’re going to wait and see how he gets on in his debut. Just because they’re top class amateurs doesn’t always mean the pro game is going to suit you. We’ll take it steady.”
Selby, however, had other ideas. During his 12 months as a pro he has had six fights, won them all, finished four early, and became the holder of the British flyweight title in his fifth fight. Louis Norman, whom he bested for the belt in May, tried to match him for speed but just couldn’t negotiate his awkward switch-hitting style, fighting on the back foot from the third round onwards and eventually losing a unanimous, and wide, decision.
Jozsef Ajtai, an elusive boxer incredibly difficult to pin down who has given the likes of Chinese superstar Zou Shiming all sorts of problems, was knocked down in the first and then stopped in the second, suffering his first career loss in the process.
The way Selby darts around the ring can only really be described as ‘natural’, in its most honest sense. His footwork is intelligent, his punching is fast and his movement appears effortless at times, and when he combines all three he really does look like he could turn into one of those exceptional fighters. You might draw premature yet oddly reasonable similarities between a couple of them; Prince Naseem Hamed, who’s feats in the ring occasionally defied description, shared part of the same fluid and bombastic style as the Welshman. Brief flashes of Vasyl Lomachenko, the Ukrainian master who was perhaps the greatest amateur ever and who’s footwork utterly confounds opponents, are called to mind when Selby glides in and out of range. It is, at times, lovely to watch.
— Jamie Sanigar (@JamieSanigar) October 30, 2016
Despite Selby’s obvious talent, there hasn’t been the usual fanfare that normally surrounds a fighter with such promise. Broadly speaking, flyweight is a particularly tough sell in Britain; although we have had some excellent fighters at 112lbs in the past, the British scene often lacks the depth needed to provide an up-and-coming flyweight with enough experience to go on and test the waters at international level. This also means that big domestic clashes are rare, and aside from Charlie Edwards (who is coming off the back of a world title defeat) there isn’t anyone else who, when matched with Selby, would produce a clash to capture the imagination of the British public. After knocking out Felix Moncada in five one sided rounds last week, no one knows this more than Selby himself. “I was out for seven months because no one in Britain would fight me,” he claims, “So I think it’s time for Chris Sanigar to get me a European title shot. I’ve proved I’m the best in Britain… [so] if I go to European or world level we will get the big bucks in”.
The breaking news is that he has apparently got his wish; WBO Asia Pacific champion Jake Bornea (11-1) is confirmed to be his next opponent, who will meet Selby on the George Groves – Eduard Gutknecht undercard on November 18th, with the vacant IBF Inter-Continental title on the line. A good win here will see the flamboyant Brit move considerably higher in the rankings, and move a little closer to the world title he insists will be his by his 10th fight. The lighter weight classes have been enjoying some deserved limelight over the past couple of years, and it won’t be too long before Andrew Selby joins the flyweight frontrunners in the very centre of it.