Selby creates history by becoming Wales’ 12th world champion

Selby creates history by becoming Wales’ 12th world champion

‘Sugar’ Lee Selby (21-1, 8KO) has created history by beating Russia’s previously undefeated Evgeny Gradovich (19-1-1, 9KO) to become Wales’ 12th world champion. Following seven rounds of thorough Selby domination, an accidental head clash in the eighth session caused a deep cut to Gradovich’s right eye and the doctor deemed the wound sufficient enough to end the contest. The result depended on the judge’s scorecards and every judge had Selby winning, courtesy of 80-72, 79-73 and 79-73 tallies. From the first bell, Selby predictably opted to circle Gradovich, settling behind a jab to the stomach and right hands over Gradovich’s low approach. Typically tenacious, Gradovich marched forward and it required a remarkably high output from Selby to stay a step ahead. The challenger was capitalising on the champion’s mistakes with the standout punch being a left hook to Gradovich’s temple half way through the opener. Despite being the ‘away’ boxer, Gradovich was unfazed by the crowd in London’s O2 Arena, who enthusiastically booed the visitor. ‘The Mexican Russian’ has a wealth of experience boxing abroad having fought 18 times in America and twice in China. Just as many observers expected, Gradovich’s relentless pressure saw him walk on to counters and they instantly began to redden his face as soon as the second round. Whether it was single shots or combinations, Selby had no trouble landing on the aggressor, whose only positive had been that he was yet to be buzzed. The Welshman was rarely off his toes and the first disruption to his initial dominance was when a shoelace unravelled in round three. Selby started to plant his feet at the start of the fourth round, enabling to unlock pot shots, most notably right crosses and left hooks. In the fifth round, Gradovich’s pressure finally enjoyed it’s first sustained period of success. Under the instruction of former world champion Robert Garcia, Gradovich’s blatant approach, which lacked any sign of a jab, drew mistakes from Selby that left him open to looping back hands over the top. However, Gradovich’s spell was soon over and his eagerness was almost his undoing in the sixth as he was badly wobbled by a Selby counter. Few clean punches landed in Selby’s follow up attack but it was a significant moment in the fight, the first time Selby had put Gradovich on the back foot and more importantly, kept him there. Having made a visible dent in Gradovich, it was time for Selby to make his mark and he did in the subsequent round, cutting Gradovich’s right eyebrow with an accidental head clash. That may have proved to be the best accident of the Barry boy’s life. After an inspection from the ringside doctor, the contest was stopped and the conclusion went to the scorecards, which all had Selby winning. It was the first time a Welsh boxer challenged for a world title on British soil since Newbridge’s Gavin Rees captured the WBA light-welterweight title in 2007 with an upset points victory over Souleymane M’baye at the Cardiff International Arena. Selby continued Wales’ rich tradition in the 126lbs category; following in the footsteps of Cardiff’s WBO champion Steve Robinson and Merthyr Tydfil’s WBC champion Howard Winstone. The 28-year-old’s next mission will be to unify world titles and build towards a lasting legacy, like that of Cardiff featherweight Jim Driscoll who has been immortalised in the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Image by Lawrence Lustig / Matchroom Sport.

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