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After retiring Bradley Skeete looks back in anger

Bradley Skeete
Leigh Dawney/Getty Images
With a bad taste in his mouth Bradley Skeete says goodbye and good riddance to boxing, writes Elliot Worsell

IT has been a tempestuous, up-and-down love affair, but Bradley Skeete’s relationship with boxing is over. The well-schooled former British and Commonwealth welterweight champion has announced his retirement at the age of 34, citing the sport’s politics and tendency to disappoint as reasons for his exit.

“I went over to Fuerteventura for pretty much the whole of January and I had a good chat with Dom [Ingle, trainer]. I decided I was just done with it,” Skeete, 29-4 (14), told Boxing News. “There’s too much at stake for me now to get involved with all the politics and corruption side of it. It’s ruining the sport and it has done for years.”

The latest incident to have soured Skeete’s love for boxing occurred last December when he was stopped by Hamzah Sheeraz in the ninth round of a fight that Skeete, until that point, was winning handily. It was not the defeat that broke Skeete in the ensuing weeks but the nature of it, with Sheeraz turning the fight on its head having nailed a grounded and defenceless Skeete with three illegal shots.

“There was that much uproar I actually thought the [British Boxing] Board [of Control] were going to do the right thing. But that wasn’t the case,” said Skeete. “That was a serious case yet I didn’t get called up once to be part of it. They called up Steve Gray, the referee, to get his account, but nobody cared about my side of the story. This is my life. I should have been heard by these people who claim to be looking out for my wellbeing.

“[General Secretary] Robert Smith said the referee had three options and the referee chose the option to take time and give me the chance to carry on. But my instinct is to fight. That instinct – my instinct – shouldn’t make a referee’s decision for him. If you ask me if I’m okay, of course I’m going to say I’m okay. Even when then giving me time to recover, I’d have got more time to recover from a low blow than I was given for three clean shots to my head.”

In the end, as far as Skeete is concerned, bad behaviour went unpunished. He was offered a rematch with Sheeraz in February, which granted him very little time to prepare, and he was certain all the same that his rival had other plans anyway.

“I wasn’t even saying it should be a disqualification. I knew that wouldn’t happen,” said Skeete. “But the right thing to do was make it a No Contest and order a rematch.

“Because, no matter what Hamzah and his team said, they had no intention of doing a rematch unless it was ordered. [I was told after the fight] he was moving up to middleweight. He’s now fighting Jez Smith at middleweight next, which says everything.”

Like plenty before him, Skeete, the opponent, was ultimately silenced, then forgotten about. Now, at 34, he is just another former fighter left disillusioned by a sport to which he offered his blood, sweat and tears.

“When the bad times start to outnumber the good you know it’s time to go,” he said. “I fell out of love with boxing before my last fight, but I moved to Sheffield, I sacrificed, I put in the work, and I got that love back. It showed in my last performance. That was one of the best performances of my career. I was in with a 22-year-old so-called future superstar and was schooling him. For it to all end like that was gutting really.

Bradley Skeete
Julian Herbert/Getty Images

“The behaviour from the Board has been disgusting from the moment the incident happened. They have done nothing for me. All they did was wait for it to be forgotten and swept under the carpet. Has Hamzah even been disciplined at all for breaking the rules? Has he been fined? Has he been given any sort of suspension? No. Nothing has happened. What does that say about our British Boxing Board of Control? I don’t want to be part of this sport anymore. They don’t have my best interests at heart.”

Thankfully, others have at various points had Skeete’s best interests at heart, and these people helped make the Tooting man the champion he became.

“I don’t want the bad times to overshadow the good because I’ve had a great career,” he said. “I turned pro with Frank Warren [in October 2010] having met Frank as a kid and told him I would one day be promoted by him. That was ticked off. Dean Powell was my manager and I had a great relationship with him.

“I moved well, I won some titles, and I feel like I did it all the right way. The fight that defines my career was probably the Sam Eggington win for the British and Commonwealth titles (in 2016). It was a boyhood dream to win the British title and I then went on to win it outright. That goes down in history and will live with me. I can show that to my daughter. My family is proud of me. That’s a big thing.

“I started with Al Smith and Eddie Lam at the iBox gym and I want to say a massive thank you to them for everything they did in my career. I then had that break and moved to Sheffield to train with Dom at the Ingle gym. He got the fire back in my belly and I believe that my performance against Hamzah was my best to date. That was all thanks to him.”

Because it is rare that a fighter gets to call their last fight their career-best performance, Bradley Skeete must now take heart from the fact that, while the result itself may have been disappointing, his final ring outing captured him at his best and not at his lowest ebb. In a sport as unforgiving and cruel as boxing, there is perhaps no greater victory than that.

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