Price is right for Skelton as Bedford Bear roars to title shot

Matt Skelton v Jakov Gospic. wk 42.
Matt Skelton v Jakov Gospic. wk 42.

Dreams of a Lonsdale Belt and maybe even another shot at a world title are alive-and-kicking for Matt Skelton as he won his third-straight bout at Liverpool’s Echo Arena on Saturday night, writes Mark Wood.

The Bedford Bear’s body-shots proved telling as he stopped Croatian Jakov Gospic, who formerly had an 11-4 record, in the second round after a clash of heads had left both boxers cut.

That victory has earnt him a proposed British, and maybe Commonwealth, heavyweight title fight on December 8 against the impressive David Price who, fighting in his home town, knocked out former Olympic goal medallist Audley Harrison in the first round.

Skelton, 45, now has a record of 28 wins and six losses from his 34 pro fights, and is amazed how things have turned around after scratching around for a rematch against Martin Rogan a year ago - a fight that never happened.

He said: “Three fights on and I’m looking at a British and Commonwealth title and I’ve got to keep going and keep my head down, you never know what’s round the corner.”

And he dreams victory against Price would not only earn him a Lonsdale Belt outright, but could lead to a world title fight.

He said: “I have got to stay on the ball and stay fit because they might offer you something else because someone else has pulled out of it.

“I think most people would grab it with both hands if that was the situation.

“But that might not come about before I decide enough’s enough.

“If I was to win this fight I get to keep the Lonsdale belt outright.

“It would be nice for me to do that. Hopefully after we will sit down and work out what we are going to do.

“I’m in it late and I’m in it at an age when people have hung up their gloves 10 years ago.

“I’m putting in the training and still doing it properly and maybe better than in the early days.

“The hunger’s still there, I still love the competitive nature of the sport.

“I’ve always said from day one I take each fight as it comes. I might get the result and feel I’ve had enough now.

“I never want to look too far ahead. At the minute I’m still enjoying it and hopefully it will be the case for a few years yet.

“I need to look how far I want to go, if I get past this hurdle.”

Skelton was pleased to claim victory on Saturday, but was unhappy with the way the fight played out.

“I was confident I would get the victory but was looking forward to a tougher fight,” he said.

“I’m obviously glad for the victory, but it’s a bit disappointing because it wasn’t how I expected the fight to go.

“We had a clash of heads. My style of fighting probably contributed to that but he was coming in low as well.

“After he got caught the referee had a look at the cut and he judged he was able to keep fighting and that didn’t really hinder him in any way.

“I got a little cut. It was nothing serious and by the time I got back to the dressing room it had started to close up.

“We thought he would bring the fight to me.

“I caught him in the first round with a body shot. He went away suggesting to the referee it was low.

“I think it was a body shot that did it in the end.

“I’m just a little bit disappointed I didn’t get to test my fitness.”

Sparring with cage fighters had helped Skelton to prepare for the fight as he tipped the scales at just 16st 8lb, and he’s hoping to use more seasoned boxers as he prepares for the Price fight.

He said: “I trained hard and came in at my lowest-ever weight.

“I’ve been staying in the gym since my last fight and staying active.

“I feel a lot healthier at this weight, a bit quicker and my energy levels are up.

“Cage fighters were trying to assist me by standing up and fighting with me.

“It wasn’t the same as being with someone who boxes ordinarily, so no sparring as such for the fight.”

Price was in impressive form on the night and the whole bill has helped to reinvigorate Skelton.

“I kind of felt big-time boxing was back and felt I want to be part of this and get more involved,” he said.

But he admitted that nothing is yet signed and sealed for the fight, what belts will be up for grabs confirmed or what the venue will be.

And having been left disappointed in the past he didn’t want to get ahead of himself.

He said: “It’s a bit up in the air at the moment. I’ve been promised the fight and I’m going on that basis at the moment.

“I’ve fought previously and just put one of my belts up, but it’s down to his team.

“Price is a big crowd-puller and has a big following coming from Liverpool.”

Price now has a record of 14 straight victories, 12 by knockout, since turning pro, and although impressed by what he’s seen, Skelton refuses to be daunted.

He said: “Let’s take nothing away from him. I would say before the Sam Sexton fight no-one really knew how he was progressing.

“The Sam Sexton fight showed his calibre and he can throw shots from different angles.

“Audley hasn’t proved himself but I don’t want to take anything away from David and you can’t do any better.

“David saw the opportunity and caught him clean with a right hand and didn’t let him off the hook.

“Went to the body a couple of times and then finished him with a right hook, but David made good work of it.

“I’m impressed. I don’t think I go into any fight where I underestimate any of my opponents.

“But David Price is something special and I’ve got to be on top of my game.

“I’m taking the fight feeling positive. I don’t have to take it.

“I feel on my game I could beat David Price and I’ve got to do that to get the result.

“He is a very good opponent and looking very impressive.

“I’m not put off in any measure from what I saw on Saturday night.”

Price, 29, though believes that Skelton is only a ‘small step up’ from his previous scalp, adding: “It’s a fight and means I’m defending my British title again.

“As far as I’m concerned it is a step up from Audley Harrison because Matt Skelton has been a better pro. He’s been a British, Commonwealth and European champion and lost a world title fight on points.

“I see this as a small step up and though there is a lot to look forward to next year, I will not be taking anyone lightly. Matt is certainly not someone I would want to fight on the street.”