Bouts: 21 (20 wins, 9 KOs)
September calling for Super Skeete
By Richard Hubbard
It is rare that a defeat can be considered to be the making of a fighter, but Bradley Skeete suspects it might just be the case for him.
At the back end of November last year when some 18,000 were packed into the ExCel Arena awaiting the set-to between Billy-Joe Saunders and Chris Eubank Jnr, one of the chief support acts served up an intriguing contest between the multi-titled Frankie Gavin and challenger Skeete.
It was a step up in class for Skeete and when the bell tolled to signal the end of the 12th round, it appeared to be too close for anyone at ringside to confidently call. The judges had a job to do though and each favoured the come-forward approach of the heavily marked-up Gavin over the more precise work of the man from Penge.
Such losses usually result in a slip down the pecking order and a rebuilding job, but Frank Warren was quickly on the scene to provide a tonic to an obviously distraught Skeete and his trainer Alan Smith.
Impressed with his toying with the world-ranked welterweight, the promoter assured that a title shot was in the offing and three months later Skeete was co-headlining at Wembley Arena winning the vacant WBO European title inside two minutes of the first round against the Georgian Anzor Gamgebeli. A tougher defence of the title was undertaken in May when the previously unstopped Brunet Zamora retired after six rounds of suffering on the end of Skeete’s radar-like jab.
“Obviously after the Gavin fight Frank said to me straight away that I would be back in a title fight,” recalled the 27-year-old. “He did ask if I wanted a warm-up but I said I didn’t need one coming off that fight.
“To be fair the opponent wasn’t great, he came in well light. I picked up the WBO European title and that has given me a good ranking. I had a good opponent last time in Zamora, who had never been stopped and I got him out of there.
“I’ve been a pro now for nearly five years and I’ve been with Frank from the start. From then, everything he’s said, he’s done and I can have no complaints – whatever he has promised me he has always done it.”
Social media was particularly scathing ahead of the Gavin date, with many a keyboard pundit pronouncing that Skeete did not belong in such elevated company.
Skeete more than earned his stripes on the night, his features remained unblemished and it is unlikely Gavin would volunteer to do it all over again. It was possibly a case of the judges simply favouring the aggressor over the artist.
“I was fine and to this day I still get messages and people calling me telling me I won the fight. That is in the past now, the judges had a job to do and picked Gavin as the winner.
“On the night I knew it was close, but watching it back I just thought I won it on the cleaner work and punches. He was pressing the fight but I was landing the cleaner shots. It is whatever they want to see and, on that night, they wanted to see who was pressing the fight and he was the champion as well.
“I’ve got no complaints and I’m not bitter about it, he won the fight.
“If anything it has put me in a better position. I would do it again! I don’t think he would, to be honest.
“I think me being in there now would be completely different, I know what I would need to do to win. I think Frankie had to really dig deep and he knew he was in a fight with me. I don’t think there were many things he could have done differently, while there is a lot of things I could have done differently to win that fight.”
Word has it that Skeete will be back in the ring on September 26 at Wembley on a bill topped by Frank Buglioni’s challenge for Fedor Chudinov’s WBO super-middleweight crown.
The Penge pugilist is seeking to scale the domestic heights over his next few outings before testing his attritional, probing approach work at world level.
“Yes that is what I am hearing, I’ve been back in the gym a few weeks now so hopefully I will get a good opponent. So I will be out again in September then I would like to be out again before the end of the year. I want a big year next year.
“I want to step up now. I want a few domestic fights and there are some good ones out there for me, as well as to keep climbing the rankings on the world scene.
“I know I am not quite ready to fight at world level just yet, but it is good to build your ranking and get your name in there. Then one day the phone could ring with the offer of a title shot and that would be my dream come true.”
The welterweight division in the most recent British ratings published in Boxing Monthly last week from one to four reads IBF champion Kell Brook, Amir Khan, Frankie Gavin, followed by one Bradley Skeete. Gavin could also be removed from the equation if he sees through his pledge to shed a few pounds and move to light-welter.
It shows what Skeete is up against when it comes to punching his weight at the elite end of the market, something he acknowledges he is a little undercooked for at this point in time. But there are some tasty looking domestic clashes in the British top ten, not to mention the European title – held by Gianluca Branco – that offers a passport to competing for world honours.
“To be mixing in that level is great, I know I’m not there yet, but I just need a few defining fights. The Gavin fight was one for me. Beforehand a lot of people wrote me off, but I proved I can mix at that level.
“It didn’t go my way on the night but I know I am capable of stepping up and fighting. Now I would like to get in the ring with Branco and take that European title off of him and get that ranking.
“There are a few guys out there at that level who I think I could go in and do a good job on. It is just about getting the right fights now for me.”
Skeete clearly favours science over slugging and puts his preference down to a desire to enjoy longevity in the game when asked to describe his style.
“Sort of like a tall, rangy boxer – counter-puncher sort of thing,” he pondered to the always tricky question of being asked to assess yourself. “People say I can’t punch but out of my last six fights I have stopped five – so the power is coming.
“My jab is the key for me. At welterweight I am really big and tall for the weight so my long arms will give anyone trouble.
“From when I started at Earlsfield ABC, I’ve always been big and gangly for my weight and age, so I’ve always had that long, keep them at bay, style.
“In those ten or 12 round fights you can’t go out all guns blazing, although I know people want to see that. With me, I have said from the start that I am in it for the long run, I am not going in there to come out black and blue with lumps and bumps.
“There have been times in the past where I probably could have stepped on the gas and got them out of there, but I wouldn’t be sitting here now looking to the future because I probably could have run on to a shot and that would have been it. If I’d done that a few times where would my career go?”
It is a career so far where he can’t actually recall being on the wrong end of a severe splosh on the chops.
“Not really, no! I’ve not really come out of the ring marked up or with any bumps. At the end of the day it is the win. In two or three years time no-one is going to look back and think ‘oh Bradley went 12 hard rounds there’, just that I won this fight or that fight.
“As a fan of boxing I like seeing those wars, but I wouldn’t like to be in them. If is has to happen though, trust me I can have a war if I need to.”
His fashion of fighting, complete with 75” reach, has proved compatible with both codes of the game. His frame and boxing measurements he actually shares with a long-time legend of the welterweight division.
“Me and Tommy Hearns, all our statistics match up and are the same – if I can achieve some of what he has done,” said Skeete with a grin, adding that sharing similar tools to the Hitman served him well in the amateurs where a hit and run style often prevails.
“That was the main thing, the point scoring, hitting without being hit – with the computer scoring system.
“A lot of people thought with my style that I was goner be a bit weak and flimsy to adapt to the pros. But a lot of people have been proved wrong I think.
“I think with a lot of people I fight, attacking inside must be their gameplan, to walk me down and break me. It’s getting there though, they’ve got to get through that jab first. Your jab sets up everything.”
While it is not in the nature of the affable and well-mannered Skeete to call out potential opponents, there is a fight that does appeal to him. Sam Eggington was in the right place at the right time to capitalize on Gavin relinquishing his British and Commonwealth titles and has seized both belts in recent months.
Skeete believes he is deserving of a mandatory match-up with Sam ‘The Savage’.
“There are some good domestic fights out there for me now and before I move on to where I want to be I want to clear up domestically. I want to prove I am the best in Britain before I move on to the world scene.
“I am not going to sit here and slag Eggington off because if I was in that position I’d take it. He’s bided his time, had some good fights and some good wins – you can’t take that away from him.
“It has all come at the right time for him and fair play to him. I’m looking forward to fighting him and why not? We are both young and up and coming, I’ve nothing against him, he has got the belts and `I want to clear up domestically and prove I am No.1 before stepping up.
“That is a natural fight. I think he has got momentum and confidence from his good wins and belts. That confidence and momentum makes you hard to beat. It will be a tough fight, but I’ve got to beat people like him to get to where I know I can be.
“I can’t see why I won’t be mandatory and after the Gavin fights I should have been next in line for the belts anyway. There is no-one in front of me.”
They say that sport and politics is a mix best avoided, although Vitali Klitschko and Manny Pacquiao might beg to differ. Skeete himself last week dipped his toe in the political arena with a YouTube video promoting the cause of a London Mayoral candidate.
“My amateur coach was Sid Khan and his brother Sadiq is running for London Mayor. Sid is like family to me and he treats me like one of his sons.”
So does Skeete possess any strong political leanings that could see him become the next parlimentary puncher?
“Not at all! But vote for him though.”