“The world isn’t very pretty from down there,” says shocked champion Lee Selby

“The world isn’t very pretty from down there,” says shocked champion Lee Selby

Even when winning, boxing can be a tough gig.

In the dressing room at London’s stellar O2 Arena, ‘Sugar’ Lee Selby (23-1, 8KO) reclined with his blister-ridden feet perched on a chair, getting his breath back after being given a run for his money. An ice pack placed on the 29-year-old’s forehead didn’t matter too much to him. Selby was a winner, that’s what he wanted most of all.

It had been a rough shift at the office for the featherweight, who retained the IBF world title for a second time by unanimously decisioning slippery switch-hitter Eric Hunter (21-4) on British boxing’s biggest stage, Sky Sports Box Office.

A lapse of concentration after five minutes of fighting could have cost Selby dearly. Hunter, owner of a less than pleasant personality, unleashed an equally less than pleasant left hook in the second of a scheduled 12 rounds. It sent Selby down for the first time in his career, two decades as an amateur and professional pugilist.

Fortunately, it was nothing he wasn’t prepared to come back from. It’s an examination no boxer wants to sit but one they should be desperate to pass and Selby was, springing to his feet barely three seconds after his back hit the canvas… unlike the heavyweight belt-holder co-headlining the pay-per-view show, who needed five times the time.

“The world isn’t very pretty from down there, let me tell you. It’s the first time I’ve been on the floor and hopefully the last,” reflected the recipient as his hands rested on his most prized possession, a shiny red and gold strap.

Elaborating on the incident, Selby said: “I’ll have to watch it back. To me, it wasn’t painful, I didn’t feel the punch but before you know it, I was looking up at the guys with the binoculars at the back in the crowd.”

Unwilling to pass responsibility to anyone else, Selby nobly attributed blame to himself. The overriding emotion in the immediate aftermath appeared to be embarrassment. It’s an understandable reaction for someone with such high standards, especially when manager Jamie Sanigar shows a seven second video clip on his phone that’s instantly circulating on social media – a mark of modern society’s thirst for immediacy.

He rationalised: “I think it was a bit of a flash knockdown. I got caught early, I didn’t see the shot coming. It was my own fault but it was a new experience, I proved I can get off the floor and win a fight.

“I wasn’t hurt, it was a balance thing. I just got caught with a shot, it’s boxing.”

After displaying resilient powers of recovery, Selby came back to re-establish control and out-hustle Hunter down the stretch. Wales’ 12th world champion credits the advice he received from his corner – which consisted of Tony Borg, Chris Sanigar and Billy Reynolds – in helping him to win another way, having usually done it without worry.

Selby said: “When I went back to the corner, they were telling me to take the sting out of it [Hunter’s punches] a bit more, get behind the jab and win the rounds. Round by round, he started to slow and in the end, you could see the shots coming a mile away.

“It was a little bit frustrating but a win is a win. He was awkward, a slick fighter and inside, it did get messy but I tried to nullify his attacks in close because he was quite quick and he could punch.”

Almost as uncomfortable as the knockdown were the repeated shots to the crotch, which saw the American visitor docked a point and skate thin ice for the final few rounds. Still sharp after 36 minutes of fierce combat, Selby made light out of the fouls, even referencing Hunter’s hometown in a quick-witted quip to conclude his post-fight obligations.

“It was like the city of brotherly glove in there, touching my nuts and everything. He hit me low a few times, they bloody hurt…”