TO steal a line from the 1976 film Network, Bradley Skeete is mad as hell and not going to take it anymore. Until he gets the outcome he wants (and deserves), the Tooting super-welterweight has to grudgingly look back on a December 4 fight against Hamzah Sheeraz with a mix of emotions, of which anger remains the strongest.
Nailed three times while grounded in the eighth round, Skeete was not just beaten by his 22-year-old opponent that night (stopped in the ninth) but beaten at a time when he was both in the ascendency and expecting protection from the referee and the rulebook.
“I was schooling him,” Skeete told Boxing News. “He was so frustrated the round before that he pushed me down on the floor and then in round eight he did what he did. The initial shot he landed, which made me take a knee, was to the back of the head anyway. But that’s fair enough. It’s a fight. I was rolling out. After that, though, I’ve gone down and he’s hit me three more times. That final hook, he could have caused serious damage with that. It’s disgusting. He’s done it before, too. He has hit an opponent on the floor before.”
Recalling the moment he found himself on the floor, Skeete added: “I’ve gone down and then been put in a situation by the ref [Steve Gray]. My main focus is on Dom [Ingle, trainer], who was telling me to stay down. I’ve said to the ref, ‘That’s a liberty that he’s hit me on the floor,’ and he has said, ‘Calm down, take your time, take as long as you want.’
“He’s then come back over, the ref, and positioned himself so I can’t communicate with Dom and asked me if I could get up. At that time, I was in no position to get up. He said, ‘If you don’t get up, I’m going to stop the fight.’ He wasn’t talking to me like he was going to stop it for a DQ or anything like that. If the fight was stopped, I was losing. So, I got up. I’m a fighter. But when he told me to walk you could see that I was ‘gone’. It changed the whole fight.”
Prior to the stoppage, Skeete was outboxing Sheeraz, the heavy favourite, and threatening to come good on all his pre-fight predictions. He was, at 34, feeling as good as ever.
“No one gave me a chance,” he said. “But I knew I wasn’t done. I took a break, yeah, and my last couple of performances before the break weren’t the best, but the way people were talking it was as if all my achievements and what I had previously done were brushed off. I was in with this 22-year-old kid with 13 fights – a novice – and they were talking like he was going to demolish me. I just knew they were wrong. I said what I was going to do and I did it.
“That was my first competitive fight in three years. The June one against Dale Arrowsmith was a tick-over job. My last competitive fight was December 2018. So, imagine what it would have looked like if I’d had some momentum behind me as well. I’m not finished. I’m far from finished.”
If not finished, Skeete does admit to being “gutted” by recent events. He says the Sheeraz incident has left a “bitter taste” in his mouth at a time when he was starting to rediscover his love for the sport, and now fears the sport’s ability to attract controversy will mean the incident is quickly forgotten.
“There’s boxing every weekend and there are controversies every weekend,” he said. “It’s easy for this – and incidents like this – to be brushed under the carpet.”
Speaking before the British Boxing Board of Control’s ruling Skeete added, “I don’t know what the Board are doing. They say they are having meetings, but it’s clear as day. Robert Smith was there himself. He [Sheeraz] has illegally hit me three times and it’s disgusting, sickening.
“Steve Gray spoke to a member of my team at breakfast the next day and said to them he knows he made a mistake.
“I don’t deserve to have that loss on my record. I’m saying it should be a No Contest but really he should be disqualified. This is not MMA. You can’t ground and pound in boxing. I was defenceless and he took advantage of that.”
Days after the fight, Skeete’s opponent released a statement in which he expressed a desire to grant Skeete a rematch in 2022. Yet Sheeraz’s statement, though praised far and wide on social media, was interpreted quite differently by Skeete.
“He put out a two-bit statement offering me a rematch,” he said, “but, listen, everyone needs to forget about the rematch for a minute. They need to realise what damage could have been caused by his actions. If I was in a coma right now, would anyone be talking about a rematch? No. They would be talking about the illegal shots he hit me with to put me in that coma.
“We all know the risks when we step through those ropes, but you abide by the rules and there is a referee there to make sure you do. That night he came into the changing room before the fight and gave a big speech about the rules. One of those rules was this: ‘If you drop your opponent, do not hit your opponent on the floor’. A rule is a rule. You can’t go around breaking rules, hitting people illegally, and knowing the biggest punishment is a rematch.
“That statement of his was very calculated. It was done to make him look good. He also knows a rematch is a good thing for his career at this point. Instead of being punished, a rematch gives him the chance to earn more money from a controversy. How is that right?”
The Board’s statement in full:
REFEREE Steve Gray appeared before a Sub-Committee of the British Boxing Board of Control in relation to his performance in the Hamza Sheeraz v Bradley Skeete contest on December 4, 2021, in particular his actions in round eight.
Having considered his explanation and options available to him under the rules, the Board accept his account as to his actions
Whilst the Board have accepted Mr. Gray’s explanation, they would support the World Boxing Organisation ordering a return of this contest
In addition, Boxer Hamzah Sheeraz will appear before the Southern Area Council of the British Boxing Board of Control at a date to be confirmed.