Having established himself as king of the domestic crop, reigning British welterweight boss Bradley Skeete is growing anxious to expand his empire in 2017, writes Glynn Evans.
Already ranked fourth in the world by both the IBF and WBO, the classy 29 year old punch picker from Penge hopes to take the outside lane to securing outright custody of the Lord Lonsdale Belt he so cherishes, prior to launching an assault on the major international belts before the year closes.
‘I’ve been a pro seven years now. It’s time I got this Lonsdale Belt wrapped up and move on,’ says ‘Super’ Skeete, who returns to duty with a second defence of his domestic belt against Colne’s Shayne Singleton at the Brentwood Centre on Friday week (June 2nd).
‘I know I’m at least European level because I’ve already handled the European champion (Birmingham’s Sam Eggington) pretty comfortably on his own show, in his hometown.
‘Before I beat him, Sam was knocking everybody out. Since I beat him, he’s stopped Frankie Gavin, Paulie Malignaggi and the defending European champion (Ceferino Rodriguez). But I’ve no need to chase a return because I already hold the win over him and I’m ranked far higher in the world ratings. It’d be a backward step.’
The skilful 6ft 1in stylist acquired his title with a comprehensive caning of Eggington at Birmingham’s Genting arena in March 2016 and retained his claim with an equally emphatic 12 round decision over Edinburgh’s John Thain, in late November.
‘Last time out I was happy with the win but I entered with a niggle to my right thumb which wasn’t quite serious enough to pull out of a British title fight but did affect me a bit,’ confessed the champ who is managed by Andy Ayling and coached by long time mentor Al Smith at the iBox Gym in Bromley.
‘John Thain is a very underrated fighter, very tricky, and he gave it a serious go. Early doors he caught me with a few long shots but I knew I’d get him under control as we approached the championship rounds. Experience. I think Thain is a better fighter than Singleton.’
That impressive clinic came shortly after the 25-1 (11) south Londoner renewed his deal with Hall of Fame promoter Frank Warren, an alliance Skeete believes will culminate in both wealth and glory.
He says: ‘I started out as a pro with Frank and I intend to finish my career with him. I’m hoping to reap the rewards of my loyalty. I’ve not boxed on BT yet but I’m really looking forward to that exposure in the near future.
‘I understand the winner of me and Singleton has to face Dale Evans and, if I emerge unscathed, I’d be very happy for that to take place on the Billy Joe (Saunders) bill in London on July 8th.
‘Before the close of the year, I’d like to test myself against a meaningful name at world level then advance to a world eliminator – if not a world title crack – by early 2018. Who’d have thought (WBO champ) Manny Pacquiao would defend against Jeff Horn?!
Though dormant for half a year since taming Thain, Skeete warns us to expect an improved version when he re-surfaces against Singleton.
‘I’ve not fought for seven months only because shows have been postponed through no fault of mine,’ he stresses.
‘I’m always fit and in the gym, improving myself under Al (Smith, his coach). My strength, fitness and boxing skills have all developed since I last fought. People go on about me being nice and quiet but I’ve developed a nasty streak in the ring.
‘Last week, Sam Webb (ex British super-welter champion) who helps out at the gym commented on what a seasoned pro I’ve developed into. Everything is coming together now.’
The Tooting born talent expects to deliver emphatic evidence of his evolution when he headlines before BoxNation cameras in Brentwood next week.
Mandatory challenger Shayne ‘The Pain, from Colne, Lancashire has conceded just once in a 25 fight career that dates back to 2009 but Skeete expects to make short shrift of him.
‘I’m sick of hearing Singleton’s name. It should’ve happened last October but he withdrew injured. I just need to get him out of my head,’ he says.
‘I don’t know a great deal about him other than Eggington dropped him and got him out of there (rsf5, March 2015). Last fight he was dropped again by a Lithuanian journeyman (4-5-2 Evaldas Korsakas) and I hear lucky to get a draw. He’s the mandatory but I’d have picked him as a voluntary anyway.
‘It’s his big chance, he knows he’s up against it, so no doubt he’ll train like a mad man. But I take every fight as a tough one. I need to be at my best but I know my best beats Shayne Singleton’s best pretty easily. I don’t just want to win this Lonsdale Belt outright, I intend doing it with a bit of style and panache, make a statement.
‘Topping the bill and having my face nice and big on the poster is a wicked feeling. Come June 2nd, I intend to show that the Shayne Singletons are not in my class, that I’m leaps and bounds above domestic level.’