Borg believes Selby is set to become St Joe’s first world champion

Borg believes Selby is set to become St Joe’s first world champion

Tony Borg admits to being heart broken the last time he trained a world title contender but he sees nothing stopping ‘Sugar’ Lee Selby (20-1, 8KO) on 30 May. The 50-year-old was in the infancy of his coaching career when light-middleweight Paul Samuels challenged Richard Williams for the IBO trinket in 2002. The Newport native had the champion badly hurt in round three before the referee incorrectly ruled that a severe cut was caused by an accidental head clash and not a punch, resulting in a frustrating Technical Draw. Borg said: “Samuels got ripped off really badly, really bad. They called it a clash of heads but it wasn’t. Samuels had him out on his feet and they stopped the fight. Paul would’ve won comfortably and that broke my heart, really. “We went back to the gym, back to the drawing board. I’ve been pushing and pushing the boys ever since and it took a while but we’ve had some breakthroughs. “The gym had a big breakthrough with a couple of Welsh champions, European and Commonwealth Games gold [medals] in the amateurs, Fred Evans was the first Welshman in an Olympic final, too. We’ve had some successes, especially when Gary Buckland and Lee Selby won British titles in the space of a week. Slowly but surely, we’ve pushed on and it’s the big one next up.” 13 years later, another St Joseph’s Boxing Club representative will bid to become world champion. Selby will take on defending IBF featherweight champion Evgeny Gradovich (19-0-1, 9KO) at London’s O2 Arena and Borg has full belief in his boxer’s chances. He said: “When he [Selby] goes in the ring, he takes on a different persona. If two little young kids come in to watch training, he’ll be going through the motions but see them and raise his game. If he would’ve fought Gradovich in Russia, he’d challenge all the booing to suit him and raise him game, too. Selby thrives off it. “You’ve got to rise to every occasion and he has done at the moment. He won the Welsh Area title, Celtic title, British and Commonwealth titles, the European title, the WBC International and eliminators, too. I can’t think of a champion [from Britain] who has gone through levels like that.” The fight was originally scheduled to happen last month but it was then postponed for five weeks when Matchroom Sport lost purse bids for James DeGale’s own IBF title shot in the super-middleweight division. Amidst the extension, Borg has lost count of the number sparring rounds that Selby will have completed by the time fight night comes around but insists that the Welshman won’t have over trained. Borg said: “As soon as the fight was postponed, he went away and had a couple of days off. It was three or four days and then we re-organised to focus on the new date. It’s a mental thing, more than anything else. “We’ve stuck to the same plan, though. He’s just been able to get better and better at what he does. We’re doing the same things but doing it better. Selby will conclude his sparring this week, spending a session with ex-British champion Gary Buckland tonight and a lighter spar with two-time Commonwealth Games medalist Sean McGoldrick on Thursday. Speaking of the sparring, Borg said: “It’s difficult to say [how many rounds Selby has sparred] because he had to stop and start but y’know, it’s been quite a lot. At the moment, we’re targeting special stuff in six round sessions and he’s had a couple 12 rounders, too. Everything is in the bank and it’s gone fine, we’re going great.” Gradovich, nicknamed ‘The Mexican Russian’, trains out of the Robert Garcia Boxing Academy in Oxnard, California. When the mandatory challenge was ordered by the sanctioning body and at the negotiation stage, ex-world champion Garcia gave an interview and didn’t know Selby’s name when questioned. On the other hand, Borg knows plenty about the champion, who will be making his fifth defence, and he’s fully appreciative of Gradovich’s abilities. He said: “I’ve had a good look at him. He’s very strong, determined and his record speaks for himself. He’s won everything and he’s undefeated for a reason. He’s making his fifth defence now, so you can’t underestimate anyone like that. “I just believe Lee Selby has the tools to give him a boxing lesson for four or five rounds, then start upping the pressure and possibly getting him out of there after nine [rounds]. If not, it’ll be a comfortable points win. “Too many people are looking at Lee as a skinny Welsh kid but he’s very powerful. He went in to a number of fights with a hand injury, he hasn’t had that injury for nearly nine months. His hands are great, all healed and he won’t be going in there with any injuries. Everything is on track and preparation really has gone perfect.” Image by Huw Fairclough. Sky Sports Box Office will show ‘Rule Britannia’ exclusively live this Saturday. Buy now at www.skysports.com/brookgavin

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