Andrew Selby could be the next big thing in Welsh boxing but refuses to listen to his own hype

Andrew Selby could be the next big thing in Welsh boxing but refuses to listen to his own hype

What’s it like having the hopes of Welsh boxing on your shoulders? Not easy but Barry Town’s talented Andrew Selby (4-0, 3KO) insists he won’t freeze under the burden of expectation on the big stage.

As an amateur, Andrew thrived around the world and stood on podiums at a host of international tournaments, including the European and World Championships. However, defining moments and medals in events closer to home, including the 2012 Olympic and 2014 Commonwealth Games, eluded the flyweight. They were tough lessons to learn and Andrew remains mindful of them now.

He said: “It’s a lot of pressure when I’m fighting at home. Everyone’s expecting big things from me, telling me I’m going to be a world champion in 10 fights. I’ve learned from the Olympics and Commonwealth Games to let it go in one ear and out the other now. I’m just doing what’s best for me.

“I sometimes don’t have the belief when people are telling me how great I am. It’s different for me. It’s a lot of pressure but I’ve learned from before when I thought I’d win golds and took it granted. It’s always easier said than done.”

It was still the best career in a vest and head guard that a Welshman has ever enjoyed and Andrew has been tipped by many observers to rule the roost in the paid code as a professional. His own sibling, IBF world featherweight belt holder Lee, even tips the younger Selby to surpass the achievements of all of his countrymen. The 27-year-old will tackle the first major hurdle of that prophecy when he competes for a first professional title on Saturday. Derby’s Louis Norman (11-1-1, 2KO) will attempt to trip him up when they duel, with the vacant Lord Lonsdale 112lbs belt on the line for the victor.

It will be the first time the ‘AC Superstar’ has fought in Cardiff, the capital city of Wales, since August 2010. That night, he slipped up when representing Team GB against an unknown Chinese representative of a Rest of the World squad, losing on points before avenging the defeat in the same year. Remembering the occasion, Andrew’s determined not to make the same mistake when facing another opponent his home support may not be familiar with.

He said: “Nobody has really watched Louis Norman, everyone’s expecting me to go in there and get him out straight away but he’s a decent fighter. He’s said in interviews, he’s been watching me box as he’s grown up, so he will be prepared. It’ll be a tough fight.

“He’s elusive, moves his head a lot, throws his shots… I think it will be a bit close for the first two or three rounds. I’ll pick it up and get the edge on him then. I won’t just look for the stoppage but if I know I’m hurting them, then I’ll go for it but it won’t be easy for me. It’s a big fight for him, too.”

Should Andrew become the British champion, it will be in his fifth fight and seven months after his debut – both the fewest fights a Welshman has taken to do it and the shortest duration of time. It’s would exceed Cefn Fforest’s Robbie Regan’s 15 year record of taking the title in his eighth fight and Cardiff’s Jack Peterson’s of collecting the light-heavyweight strap eight months after his debut in 1932.

Andrew, who expects to bring most of Barry to watch his history bid, said: “When I signed pro, my management were sort of saying to try and get the British very early because there’s not many people at my weight. If I can get it in seven months, it’ll be a very quick time.”

One problem that victory may bring is that Andrew won’t have the opportunity to defend the title three times and therefore own the iconic Lord Lonsdale strap outright, a feat few reach. Scotland’s Iain Butcher and Romford’s Charlie Edwards have already turned down opportunities and there aren’t many other viable challengers in the shallow domestic pool.

“If I think someone will want to fight me. If not, I’ll move on to better things,” Andrew observed. “If I had a chance to fight for a title, I’d take it straight away. It’s out of my hands. People want to pick their fights these days but me, and my brother, are willing to fight anyone. We’ll do it the old school way. If he want a belt, we’ll fight you for it, not dodge people.”

Many people are united in belief that Andrew is one of the world’s most naturally gifted fighters. The skills have taken him from Rhoose and Splott Amateur Boxing Clubs to Team GB and now St Joseph’s Boxing Club in Newport. However, interestingly, the Bruce Lee avid fan insists that despite all of that coaching, he was never taught his unique style.

Andrew said: “I saw an interview with him [Norman] saying the way to beat me is to box like me but I don’t even know how I box myself. I already know he’s going to try outbox me, he’s going to try move around and switch-hit. He can do what he likes, I’ll adjust.

“I’ve never been taught to switch or go southpaw or nothing. I just pick it up watching fights. I don’t try to copy no styles but being in the gym when I was younger, nobody told me what switching was. So, I just threw punches and didn’t know I was switching myself. I just fight, I don’t really care where my feet are, I just fight.

“I fight some people and I can see it coming, before they even know what they’re throwing sometimes. I just let my hands flow. I never plan what I’m going to throw. In the ring, if I see what mistakes he’s doing, I know what to come back with but I never have a punch-by-punch game plan.”

The fight with Norman will still spearhead the undercard of Cyclone Promotions’ show at the Ice Arena Wales in Cardiff Bay. The face of the outfit, International Hall of Fame entrant Barry McGuigan, has high expectations for Selby and all parties are excited at the likelihood of receiving exposure on Channel 5, which broadcasts to an audience of millions.

Andrew, a father of one, said: “First, I’m fighting to pay my bills. It’ll be nice to win a world title but when people say in 10 fights, I don’t believe it’ll happen that soon.

“Look, I mean, I fought all the best, all the champions. I’ve got all the experience, I spar my brother all of the time but it’s not easy to get a shot.

“My plan is to win titles at flyweight and move up, finish at super-bantamweight or something… I don’t know what will happen. My style is awkward, I make people miss and if I don’t take many shots, I’ll be able to go up through the weights and have a long career.”

If that career matches the heights of Andrew’s amateur days, Saturday’s start of the championship chapter, when he will make the eight stone limit and be scheduled for 12 rounds for the first time, could be the start of something special.