On April 28 Bradley Skeete will venture across to mainland Europe bidding to become the welterweight king of the continent. He travels to Bilbao to take on the local favourite Kerman Lejarraga and it is an opportunity that hasn’t come a moment too soon for the Penge pugilist, who is determined to make his mark on the world scene, as he explains is his latest Fighter Diary…
FIGHTER DIARY BY BRADLEY SKEETE
I FIRST GOT an inkling over the possibility of fighting for the European title when I took a call from Andy (manager, Ayling) in February saying the opportunity could be on the cards.
He then added that it would be away from home and I said: “book the flights, I’m going”.
I didn’t know much at all about Kerman Lejarraga before this point, although I had been asking for the European title since it became vacant when Mohamed Mimoune moved down in weight and gave it up.
I messaged Andy straight away and said ‘get me the European’. He put it forward to the EBU but they had already nominated Lejarraga against somebody else for it. There was then a withdrawal and that was when I slipped in.
I was in position and was ranked as the next available contender, so here we are.
I have talked about wanting fringe world level opponents and this is a good fight for me – one I probably need at this stage of my career.
He is unbeaten – although not really known – and a big puncher going off his record of 19KOs from his 24 fights. He is also world ranked with the WBA, who I am not listed by.
It creates another route I could go down.
It is a good title to fight for, even though in the past I have said I was beyond European level when Sam Eggington had the belt. I felt I was because I beat Eggington and beat him comfortably.
It is the right time to go for it now because I have had no luck over the last six months or so and have been jinxed with fights and nothing happening.
On the world scene you have the elite level fighters who I am not going to get a look in against because I am not at the level yet because I need to prove myself.
So I think, looking at it now, this is the perfect fight for me – and also a hard fight, don’t get me wrong. At this stage of my career now, going over to Spain to fight for a European title is what I need.
I now realise my wish to take on fringe world level contenders was probably unrealistic because I don’t bring anything to the table except and uncomfortable night where heads will be continually pinged with jabs.
People with ambitions of their own don’t want to fight me and that is what has been happening. Opponents that have been mentioned are just asking for silly money and, with no titles on the line, that sort of money won’t be paid just to get a fringe level opponent over.
Where the misfortune all started for me was Jeff Horn switching horses at the last minute when everything had been agreed and I was left in limbo.
I admit my patience had been wearing thin but, by holding out and being patient, this could well be the start of big things for me now.
It is how it works in this game and it goes to show the value of sticking in the gym and waiting your turn.
I’ve now got a new lease of life and this is a big opportunity for me to showcase what I am all about.
It will be another piece in the jigsaw for me because I have worked my way up from the bottom with Masters, Southern Area, English, British, Commonwealth, International, WBO European and now European. If I get this I will have all the belts bar a world title.
It would be a dream come true to get every single belt.
I recently travelled over to Bilbao for the press conference and it was mad really. We got there thinking with being Spain it would be nice and warm, but it was snowing!
We couldn’t believe it and neither could the locals who were saying it has not snowed for over 20 years there.
There was a bit of a standstill going on over there, but we were dealing with nice people and the promoter came and picked us up and showed us around the arena.
We had the press conference and I was getting a bit of praise for coming over and taking the fight, so they respect me as a well-ranked fighter and they believe it is a good 50-50 fight.
It is a top arena and it reminded me of being in the Copper Box. There is definitely a big local interest and Lejarraga is on a bit of a pedestal over there and is up there as one of the sporting stars.
The promoter and the press all said he brings a big following and I am told the 11,000-seat arena is going to be sold out.
So it is going to be hostile, but that is what I want. I’ve said before that I got into boxing wanting to be top of the bill fighting in front of full arenas and being centre of attention.
That is what I want, that is what gets me going and makes me perform.