World ranked British welter boss Bradley ‘Super’ Skeete has been forced to dig out his passport in an attempt to strong arm his way into a long overdue world title tilt.
On April 28th in a Bilbao basketball arena, the 30 year old punch picker from Penge looks to add the vacant European belt to his expansive horde when he trades knuckle with unbeaten and WBA rated Basque banger Kerman ‘Revolver’ Lajarraga.
Earlier this week, the 27-1 south Londoner explained to Glynn Evans how he intends to reign in Spain.
You’re highly rated by the WBC (12), WBO (6) and IBF (5). Why take the risk of fighting abroad?
You’re right. I’m on the fringe now and could f*** everything up, if I get beat here. Defeat puts me right at the back of the queue.
But nothing was happening for me at home and this opportunity came. It can open doors at world level, see me crash the WBA rankings, really put my name out there. I desperately want to get to the next level and it’s a case of having to force it.
What value do you place on the EBU belt?
It’s the traditional European title, right up there, just one rung beneath the major world belts. To be honest, I thought I was above European level when Sam Eggington held the title because I’d beaten him so comfortable at domestic level.
However, subsequently, the welterweight division has become ruled by real elite level fighters so this is a sensible step; acquiring some experience at European and fringe world level before hunting the big guns, the pound-for-pounders.
You’ll have been out of the ring for almost ten months – a career high- by the time the fight comes around. How do you guard against ring rust?
It’s not ideal. I’ve suffered my longest break before my biggest fight. It’s not been through any injury or fault on my part. I’m constantly active in the gym but you need the nerves of performing before the lights and cameras.
Initially the Spaniards thought they were getting me on just a few weeks’ notice but obviously the month delay (the Spaniard was cut in sparring) has changed that and now they’re ‘locked in’!
It’s the first time you’ve fought outside the UK as a professional and the Basques are a notoriously proud and passionate breed. Does that make you nervous?
Not especially. As an amateur, I fought in a number of very hostile venues such as Bosnia, Morocco and Italy. And I’ve won on rival promotions and rival TV channels before. I beat Sam Eggington before his mob in Birmingham on a Matchroom/Sky Sports bill. They were against me at the start but appreciating me by midway.
For me, fighting away from home, staying in a nice hotel, is a bit like going on holiday! We’ll go over the Tuesday before. It’s just a two-hour flight, so no jet lag.
I was treated very well in Bilbao when I went over to announce the fight and the 11,000 Arena is wicked. I hear Lejarraga brings a good crowd and I‘m getting goose bumps from the anticipation of performing there.
Only 43% of your fights have ended in stoppage victory. Are you apprehensive about getting a square deal from the notoriously unpredictable EBU judges if the fight in Bilbao goes to the cards?
All I want is a fair crack. Fighting abroad, I know I’m going to have to win every round big which will mean deflecting a little from my normal game, taking greater risks. I can leave no room for questions. If he just hits my gloves, all his crowd will roar and that can sway the judges. I can’t let it look like he’s scoring, even if he isn’t.
What have you been able to find out about your 24-0 (19) Spanish opponent?
Kerman’s record suggests he can really punch but the only recognisable name is Denton Vassell, who’d already been stopped over here by Sam Eggington and Frankie Gavin so was clearly on the dip.
He’s aggressive and swings hard but his footwork ain’t great and he advances in straight lines. And he obviously takes a few. He was badly marked up at our press conference, got cut in sparring to force the delay, then had different bumps in a recent press photo we saw.
Apparently, he enters the ring above 75kilos (11st 11lbs, 16lbs over the welter cut-off) so he’ll be sluggish. He’ll just look for one big shot.
Why do you win?
I’m confident because of the levels we’ve boxed at. I’ve boxed better opponents and come through harder fights.
I just need to be me. I’ll have big advantages in height and reach as usual and his style is made for me. He’ll come charging forward and I’ll box his ears off, make it as awkward as possible, put the Skeete skates on!
I’ll probably need to push the fight a bit more, let the right hand go more than usual, land clean, perhaps go in twice, rather than just moving off.
He says there’s no pressure on him. Really?! It’s a huge fight over there. He’ll be expected to set a high pace. Let’s see how his face holds up when I start to pepper him.
Ideally, what does a win in Bilbao lead to?
I’d vacate my British title so that (stablemate) Johnny Garton can have a crack at that, then hopefully have some meaningful defences or fights against the division’s top gatekeepers- Ortiz, Guerrero, Rios – to raise me to the next level.
I want to be topping the big Copper Box and O2 bills, not supporting on them. I can’t keep shouting that I’m world level, then not do a job on Kerman Lajarraga in Bilbao.