Lee Selby: No way back for loser of fight with Ricky Burns

By Michael PearlmanBBC Sport Wales
Lee Selby 'never thought path would cross with Ricky Burns'
Lee Selby v Ricky Burns
Venue: O2 Arena, London Date: Saturday, 26 October
Coverage: Full live text commentary on the BBC Sport website and app.

Lee Selby says there is no way back to world title level for the loser of his fight with Ricky Burns on Saturday.

Former IBF featherweight champion Selby faces former three-weight world champion Burns at the O2 Arena in a bout neither man can afford to lose.

The former sparring partners are both looking to re-establish themselves at world title level at lightweight.

"There is a lot on the line in this one, it could be career-defining, you could say," Selby told BBC Sport Wales.

Welsh boxer Selby, who is 32, is currently ranked in the top 15 with three of the four main boxing organisations and has a top five rating with the IBF and WBO.

He has fought twice - winning both times but also suffering serious cuts above his eyes - since losing his IBF world featherweight title to Josh Warrington in Leeds in May 2018.

Most recently a super-lightweight world champion, 36-year-old Burns lost a unification fight to Julius Indongo in 2017, before a loss to Anthony Crolla.

However, Burns has also won successive fights at lightweight, including last time out against Scott Cardle.

Selby believes Burns, four years his senior, will retire if he loses in London, but admits his own plans for another world title tilt will evaporate if he is beaten by the Scot.

"Ricky Burns is a great fight for boxing fans; it is a real 50/50 fight," Selby said.

"It's a former three-weight world champion against a former world champion and that makes for a great night.

"There is a lot on the line, career-defining you could say.

"If Ricky Burns loses to me then it looks like retirement for him.

"If I lose, then I have to be realistic and say it doesn't look like I am going to win another world title and I will have to drop down a level.

"It's the only way to look at it. I am a realist and if I can't beat Ricky Burns I am not going to beat one of the world champions.

"I was IBF featherweight champion and retain a good ranking with them. As long as I beat Ricky Burns I should be in a position to be in a final eliminator for a world title shot and that is what I am looking to do."

Ricky Burns, Eddie Hearn and Lee Selby
Ricky Burns and Lee Selby, pictured here with promoter Eddie Hearn, will meet at the O2 Arena where Selby boxes for the seventh time and Burns for the first time

Respect for former sparring partner

Selby believes his style will mesh well with Burns' and believes their fight will appeal to boxing purists.

The Welsh boxer is familiar with Burns, having sparred with him ahead of Burns' 2014 defeat to Terrance Crawford.

Burns lives with another Welsh boxer, Joe Cordina, who is a former stablemate of Selby's and Selby admits he never envisaged fighting Burns.

"This would have been a headline fight four or five years ago, but because of the weight difference I never thought I would fight Ricky," Selby told BBC Sport Wales.

"I have been up to Scotland to spar against him... but I didn't think our paths would ever cross.

"I have respect for his career and for him personally, he's a genuine guy.

"He's a similar type of fighter to me as well, dedicated, hard-working and he's shown that in his career.

"I want the biggest fights possible and the biggest name opponents so this fight was ideal.

"I am hoping that this fight will allow me to show my technical skills.

"In my last fight against Omar Douglas I got cut again, over both eyes, and it was a case of having to grind out the win, but hopefully fight Ricky Burns brings the best out of me on the night."

Lee Selby in action in last fight
Lee Selby moved up two weight divisions after losing his world title and won his first fight at the new weight, on points, against Omar Douglas

Hoping cuts issues under control

Selby has been beset by issues with cuts opened by head clashes since the Warrington fight and admits it has led to him having to grind out victories, including against Douglas.

He has also made the permanent switch to lightweight after explaining the difficulty in making the featherweight limit led to 'a dangerous weight battle.'

Selby is hopeful the fight with Burns will be a chance to showcase his skills, rather than his ability to box through a crisis when he is partially blinded.

"There were times in my last two fights when all I could see was a silhouette of my opponent, I couldn't see the ref, you just need to keep a straight face and get on with it," Selby explained.

"You get doubts in your head during the fight but you just have to try and put them aside. If you stay in your own head you come unstuck.

"If I was wiping the blood out my eyes all the time I would look vulnerable, so you just get on with it.

"Those moments are when you really find out about yourself, when you have to really dig in and find out about yourself.

"There is nothing worse than being in the ring with a live opponent, who is desperate to win and you've got blood in both your eyes and can't see; you are just fighting on instincts."