LEE SELBY admits he is feeling the pressure ahead of his IBF featherweight title defence in Las Vegas this weekend due to the possibility of a fight with WBA boss Carl Frampton.
Frampton tops the card at the MGM Grand in a rematch with Leo Santa Cruz while Selby faces his mandatory challenger, Jonathan Victor Barros, on the undercard.
If both win, there is a good chance they will meet later in the year but the Welshman is well aware he can’t afford to slip up on Saturday.
“There is a lot of pressure but I just try to blank it out. I can blank a lot of things out. I just stay focused on my job and it is hard but I can blank it out. It comes with boxing,” he said.
“He [Barros] is a good fighter, experienced and has an unorthodox style. He throws shots from funny angles.
“He is as dangerous as he has always been. This is his chance. This is probably his last chance to win a world title again. He knows that. He has worked hard to get here.”
A potential Frampton-Selby unification fight has been mooted to take place in Carl’s native Belfast, perhaps at Windsor Park.
Selby has no problem with travelling to the lion’s den for such a fight, and has experience of fighting in the Northern Irish city when he beat Martin Lindsay for the British and Commonwealth titles in 2013.
“They are just expecting me to come over and get beat by Frampton. That is how they are thinking and this is how they are treating it,” he continued.
“They are bringing me over as an opponent. Eddie Hearn made that mistake when he brought me over to fight Martin Lindsay. There was a bit of a shock there. I went over to Belfast into hostile territory and defended my title. The Irish are boxing fans and they booed me into the ring and jeered me and swore at me. Then they gave me a standing ovation after. I thrive in that environment. It is not proving the boxing people wrong, it is proving the crowd wrong as well.”
Selby was ringside in New York when Frampton upset the odds to beat Santa Cruz in one of the best fights of 2016. He expects the Ulsterman to repeat the trick this weekend, and also reflected on how he would approach a fight with ‘The Jackal’.
“It depends how he wants to fight. If he wants to box, it would be a skilful technical boxing match,” he said.
“But if it was like the Santa Cruz fight where he liked the tear up, I like a tear up but I try and stay disciplined. If he wants to have a fight we’ll have a fight, either way it’d be a great spectacle for the boxing fans. The main thing is to win, so I’d probably try and stick to my boxing.”
Selby rose to world-level prominence in 2015 when he dazzled against Evgeny Gradovich to lift the IBF title. He has only fought twice since then, and only had one outing last year, rising from the first knockdown of his career to outpoint Eric Hunter.
He hopes to fight three times this year, and is keen to secure fights that will raise his profile and make him an “established fighter.”
“I just need that one big fight to let everyone know what I’m about,” he said.
“Against someone like Santa Cruz, Frampton, Gary Russell Jnr, Abner Mares. They’re the fights I want and I think they’ll happen.
“On my day If I box to the best of my ability I believe I can beat them all.
“I’m looking at a lot of options, there’s other featherweight world champions who have mentioned my name who would like to fight me so hopefully I get through this ok and we can look at that before maybe looking at the weight above.”