YOUR victory over Mickey Bey in December was the biggest of your career so far. Do you feel that was the ideal fight to prepare you for Lee Selby?
Mickey Bey is a veteran of the sport and a former IBF lightweight champion. He was in top condition, but I put in a great performance and cemented it with a knockdown in the last round. Even though one of the judges gave it to him by a point, I truly believe I should’ve been awarded a unanimous decision. I’ve been regularly fighting away from home, so I know that sometimes you’re going to get scorecards like this. Bey was a perfect opponent to prepare me for what I’m going to come up against when I fight Lee Selby. Selby has got a decent jab, but Bey has got an even better one. Yet I was able to avoid his jab and land my shots. In Selby, I’m coming up against another former IBF champion, albeit at featherweight. I’ve left no stone unturned for this fight.
You train in Davie, Florida under the guidance of Javiel Centeno. How has the sparring been with your gym-mates, Emmanuel Tagoe and Xander Zayas?
It’s world-class sparring. Xander Zayas is not a small guy. He’s a big, big welterweight with a long range. He’s being touted as the next Miguel Cotto and Felix Trinidad. Emmanuel Tagoe is one of the top contenders in the WBO ratings [at lightweight]. The sparring for this camp has been fantastic. I also had some great sparring back home in Australia before I flew out to South Florida. Travelling thousands of miles and pushing myself so hard in the middle of a pandemic shows the kind of fighter I am. I don’t take any shortcuts when it comes to my preparation. All of my sacrifice, hard work and dedication will pay off on [Saturday] October 31.
You’ve previously sparred Selby. What are your memories of this?
We sparred three or four years ago. It was only four rounds but I had him running all over the ring. And I’m a whole different fighter now compared to how I was back then. Since that spar I’ve fought all over the world and in the biggest arenas, like the MGM Grand and Madison Square Garden. I’m a totally different beast now.
Selby only moved up from featherweight to lightweight last year. He’s also 33 years old now. Are you confident that your youth and size will prove too much for him?
My whole game will be too much for him. Everything I possess – my speed, power, explosiveness and boxing IQ. I’m a very smart pressure-fighter. I’ve just got too much for the guy. It’s a perfect fight for me. I’ve wanted it for a long time and I can’t wait.
You’ve fought in Australia, New Zealand, America, Malaysia and Greece. How are you feeling about competing in the UK?
I’m upset that there won’t be any fans, but it’ll be amazing to fight in the UK. I’ve always dreamed of fighting there. With the way I’ve prepared, I don’t plan to leave this to the judges. I’m coming to the UK with bad intentions. But if Selby does somehow survive the brutal punishment that I’m going to inflict on him, I hope that the judges are fair and give the right man the decision. In the Lewis Ritson-Miguel Vazquez fight recently [in Peterborough], that was a very, very bad decision. I have a job to do and I’m not focused on the judges. It’s up to them to do their job correctly.
Your clash with Selby is an IBF final eliminator, so the winner will be the mandatory challenger to Teofimo Lopez. What did you make of Lopez’s recent win over Vasiliy Lomachenko?
He boxed real smart and kept to a great game plan. I really don’t know what Lomachenko’s game plan was. He didn’t throw enough punches in the first six rounds, but that’s not the way I fight. I know Lopez. We’ve fought on the same card and we’ve met multiple times. He’s called me out in the past and he’s been very excited to come out to Australia. Congratulations to the kid. He deserved the win. He did the business against an ageing Lomachenko. Now it’s my turn to do the business against an old Selby. This is a young man’s sport. This is a whole new era. The new breed is here. This isn’t the old school any more. The young lions are coming through now. What’d be better than having two young, hungry, undefeated lions fighting each other for the undisputed lightweight title?
You acted as Manny Pacquiao’s chief sparring partner ahead of his bouts with Jeff Horn, Lucas Matthysse and Adrien Broner from 2017 to 2019. That must’ve provided a huge boost to your confidence and skillset?
You can’t beat that experience. The way we trained and the way we pushed each other – Manny absolutely loved me. With the amount of leather we’ve traded across 250 rounds of sparring, it’s been incredible for my career. Now I’m a world-rated contender and I’m going for my own glory. I’m ready for the big fights now. Whatever Selby tries to bring, I’ll be ready for it.