Exclusive: Selby eyes Warrington before Santa Cruz, backs Smith over Pedraza but cool on rematch
While IBF featherweight world champion Lee Selby is eyeing up a huge unification bout with Mexico’s Leo Santa Cruz for later this year, he has no interest in moving up in weight to face Liverpool’s Stephen Smith.
Selby (22-1, 8KO) won his IBF belt last May by skilfully outpointing Russia’s then unbeaten Evgeny Gravodich, before making his first successful defence by overcoming former world champion Fernando Montiel – winning by a unanimous decision.
Although the 28-year old is currently in negotiations with Philadelphia’s Eric Hunter for his mandatory defence – likely to take place in March – Selby has a clear idea of the route he wants to take this year. His primary objective being a unification fight with WBC champion Santa Cruz.
One thing for sure is that Selby’s options are not limited and a domestic clash with Leeds favourite Josh Warrington (22-0, 4 KO) has also been earmarked.
“I want two big fights this year and one of those has to be a unification. In an ideal world I would fight Warrington in the summer in the UK and then fight Santa Cruz in America. If I’m going to fight Warrington, that fight has to happen after my mandatory defence, because I couldn’t go from fighting a unification bout and then drop back down.” Selby exclusively told World Boxing News.
“Out of the other champions, the Santa Cruz fight makes sense and would be perfect for me. I want to fight the best and he is a massive star in the USA with a huge Mexican following – so a win there would be huge for me.
“The fight can be made easily at any time. We are both advised by Al Haymon, so it is just a case of when we both want it and coming to a fair agreement,” he added.
There has also been rumours that Selby may move up in weight for a potential rematch against Liverpool’s Smith – who fights Jose Pedraza for the IBF 130lb strap in March – but the Welshman has quickly moved to deny those rumours. Selby inflicted the first and only loss of Smith’s career back in September of 2011.
“I can see Smith winning the world title in March if I’m honest. Pedraza has been made quite a big favourite, but for me Smith is better and may even knock him out,” Selby said.
“I wouldn’t move up specifically to fight Smith and I don’t plan to leave the featherweight division unless it is absolutely necessary – for instance if I outgrow it. I’m big at the weight and I could carry my size up with me, all the way up to lightweight. I don’t plan on moving up though and want to finish my career as a feather – but if a big opportunity arose, I could easily do it.”
Matt Horan is a lead writer for WBN. Follow on Twitter @mhoran123