Lee Selby: Welsh boxer talks about disappointment of title fight cancellation

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Lee Selby talks to BBC Wales Sport following his Las Vegas fight cancellation

Famished by fasting for his weigh-in, distraught to have seen his dream fight snatched from his grasp, Lee Selby is consumed by a profound emptiness.

His stare is vacant, his voice even quieter than his usual hushed tones. Rigid with disbelief, there is no consoling him.

Selby has just been told his IBF featherweight title defence against Jonathan Victor Barros in Las Vegas has been called off because the Argentine did not meet "fight requirements", as explained matter-of-factly by the Nevada Athletic Commission.

It emerges later that Barros' failure to meet those requirements is related to a problem with his medical tests but, for that moment, a hollow sense of confusion reigns.

The news is announced at the weigh-in, the time when a boxer feels most vulnerable; exhausted after days of excessive training and strict, draining dieting.

It is a little more than 24 hours before the bout, which would have been Selby's first in Las Vegas, and the 29-year-old is crestfallen on stage.

"I'm almost in tears," he says as he stands by the scales.


Lee Selby
Lee Selby won his IBF featherweight world title with victory over Evgeny Gradovich in 2015

Selby leaves the auditorium at the MGM Grand and spends a couple of hours contemplating and refuelling with some much-needed, carbohydrate-heavy food - just as he would if the fight was still going ahead.

Even in this enormous 5,000-room hotel with its sprawling casinos and myriad restaurants and bars, Selby remains focused, eschewing the limitless distractions of Las Vegas despite being relieved of his professional duties for the weekend.

His recuperation has the desired effect. He enters the room for this interview with renewed vitality.

Selby's eyes are alert again, his body language sprightly, but there is no hiding the despair of being denied a debut bout in Las Vegas.

"I'm devastated. All the hard work I've put in, the months of training, the months I've been away from my family, and to be let down 30 minutes before I'm meant to go on stage, it's very disappointing," he says.

"We arrived at the weigh-in, got put in a back room and then the promoter came in, and that's when he told us Barros hadn't met the requirements of the Nevada Athletic Commission.

"They didn't say anything more than that. I wish him [Barros] all the best, it's not his fault - I'm just heartbroken."

A dream 'taken away'

Lee Selby
Lee Selby is interviewed by ring announcer Ray Flores at what was supposed to be the weigh-in before facing Jonathan Victor Barros

Selby is more animated than he has been for days, fine-tuned for what should have been a significant fight on Saturday night.

Boxers are wired to peak at certain points. After depriving themselves before the weigh-in, they replenish their depleted stores, they prepare mentally and programme their bodies for the brutal high of the fight.

But Selby had to abort that process at the last moment, and the confusion, the lack of an explanation from organisers, must have exacerbated his sense of frustration.

"It did, yes, and also leaving it so late - literally 30 minutes before I was meant to weigh in," he says.

"I had the adrenaline, the buzz to go on stage in front of all my fans. It was my time to shine, this big stage in the mecca of boxing, and it got taken away from me."

Fighting Frampton

The Barros bout was meant to be on the undercard of Northern Irishman Carl Frampton's WBA featherweight title defence against Leo Santa Cruz.

The featherweight division is regarded as one of the most exciting and competitive in boxing at the moment, and Selby and Frampton are both eager to face each other in what would be a mouthwatering unification duel.

Selby wants it to be held in Cardiff, while Frampton would prefer it in Belfast, but could the Barros cancellation hinder Selby's hopes of securing this super fight?

"It might slow things down, unless we can get a quick fight under my belt now, a quick win, then we could continue as planned," he says.

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'I'll be the one calling the shots' - Frampton on Selby fight

Before planning his next move, Selby can at least afford himself a little treat. Adding milk and sugar to his morning coffee is first on the list, then a slice of cheesecake - his favourite post-fight indulgence.

Once he returns to Wales, he will be back in the ring, toiling at St Joseph's gym in Newport.

Then, in the not-too-distant future, he has his sights set on a return to Las Vegas - perhaps next time as the headline act.

"I've been away from my partner, my family, my children so I'll go back, spend time with them and get back to work," Selby says.

"It hasn't worked out as planned this time but I'm still returning home as I said, as IBF featherweight world champion.

"But trust me when I say I will be back, and I will make my stamp on the world of boxing."

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