Date and venue almost set for Selby to defend world title

Date and venue almost set for Selby to defend world title

The venue for ‘Sugar’ Lee Selby’s (22-1, 8KO) next world title defence is very likely to be in Britain.

The IBF have instructed Selby to face his mandatory challenger, America’s hot-headed number one contender Eric Hunter (21-3, 11KO) and the featherweights’ teams are in deep discussions to face each other on Saturday 9 April.

Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Sport, who have promoted eight of Selby’s last nine appearances, have already announced a show for London’s O2 Arena on that date. Headlining that night, 2012 Olympic gold medallist Anthony Joshua will challenge Charles Martin for the IBF world heavyweight title in just his 16th outing.

It won’t be the first time ‘AJ’ and Selby have shared the spotlight, featuring on the same show for the fourth time, most recently in May when Selby was crowned Wales’ 12th world champion and Joshua halted durable American Kevin Johnson in two rounds.

On Monday 11 January, Selby and Hunter’s respective teams were given 30-day negotiation deadline set by the IBF and that passed on Thursday 11 February. Initially, the IBF said that Selby must defend his belt by 1 March – which is also St David’s Day when people across Wales pay tribute to the country’s patron saint – but an extension appears to have been granted.

Hunter, who has suffered two disqualification defeats due to low blows and hitting after a referee called break, was scheduled to face Johnathan Victor Barros in a final eliminator at the start of January. However, Barros withdrew to pursue another avenue and in reward for a four fight winning streak, Hunter was nominated as mandatory challenger.

It will be Selby’s first fight since a trickier-than-expected meeting with Mexico’s former three weight world champion Fernando Montiel in October. It was the American debut for Selby, who turned 29-years-old yesterday, and his first outing since signing with influential American advisor Al Haymon. Selby had been hopeful of a unification clash with WBC featherweight title-holder Leo Santa Cruz, who also fights under the banner of Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) organisation.

Instead, Santa Cruz will face Spain’s former European and world champion Kiko Martinez, who has been knocked out by British and Irish stars Carl Frampton and Scott Quigg twice in the last 17 months, four pounds lighter in the super-bantamweight division. It’s unclear whether many other opportunities are available for Selby in America as the PBC appear to have scaled down their operation.

Haymon, who spent millions of dollars on buying time on several television networks, hasn’t hosted a show on ESPN since Selby’s meeting with Montiel. Many of the PBC’s movements have been financed by investment firm Waddell and Reed Financial Inc’s $400m fundraising budget but they reportedly filed accounts that showed significant losses in December.

Elsewhere in the weight category, rising American-Mexican star Oscar Valdez (18-0, 16KO), who Selby has often sparred in California, is set to face Evgeny Gradovich (21-1-1, 9KO), the Russian whose unbeaten record and IBF title were taken by the aforementioned Welshman.

Image by Premier Boxing Champions (PBC).

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