Features

Bradley Skeete: No More Mr Nice Guy

A former champion returning to his old promoter for one night only to take on a young hungry lion destined for big things. 

Has the 34-year-old seen better days?

Has the 22-year-old bitten off more than he can chew? 

Lights, cameras and then action between Bradley Skeete and Hamzah Sheeraz.

Frank Warren’s promotional house (Queensbury) sets up camp at Copper Box Arena on Saturday night for a card where the chief support to the main event (Lyndon Arthur v Anthony Yarde 2) has quite a storyline.

Bradley Skeete’s career for eight years was guided and manoeuvred by Warren into positions that took the then welterweight to Southern Area, English and British title success. However, a world title opportunity against Jeff Horn fell through while a European title challenge was over before it started against Kerman Lejarraga. Then at the tail end of 2018 Skeete had his last fight for Warren, a two-round defeat to Diego Ramirez. 

“I shouldn’t even have been in the ring. I was sick of boxing,” says Skeete (29-3, 14 KOs) looking back at that night with Boxing Social.

“By the time I got to the ring walk I was sick of boxing. I didn’t want to be round the people that I was around. I remember looking in Brentwood Centre (the venue) thinking this is shit. It was just terrible, and I weren’t switched on. I went out and got beat. Stopped in the second round. I schooled Ramirez in the first round with my jab and I switched off in the second round. Got put over, got up, I argued with the ref, and he called the fight off. The better man won but I shouldn’t have been in there. I was sick of boxing. Even going back home after I didn’t care. I lost and I didn’t care. That ain’t me. I’m a proud guy. I’m a fighting man.”

It was the second defeat in three fights for Skeete. Personal reasons were playing their part in his downfall but after Ramirez he walked away. Critically thought he did not retire. He took a break. Two and a half years to reset himself, rediscover his love for boxing and some personal training to make some money all played their part in landing him in Sheffield and a meeting with Dominic Ingle having parted ways with previous trainer Alan Smith. June 4, 2021, saw Skeete’s comeback with a third-round victory over Dale Arrowsmith. It was expected, it was a run-out and the before and after has convinced Ingle and Skeete that it is enough to take on the challenge of Hamzah Sheeraz on Saturday.

Skeete and Sheeraz sparred one another once upon a time ago. The former was the British welterweight champion, the latter was at amateur level trying to learn as much as he could. Years later they meet in the professional ranks with their careers at vastly different junctures.

“This fight, no disrespect to Hamzah, he’s a good kid I’ve got no bad blood there, but I’ve got a point to prove in this fight I feel,” says Skeete. 

“A few people have been discrediting me, thinking I’m past it and a few things have been said. I’ve got my back up now and I’m going in there to smash his face in. I seen a little interview he done saying I ain’t smashed no-one’s face in but if he wants to talk like that trust me, he’ll be getting his face smashed in.

Face. Smashed. In. It’s all very un-Skeete. A likeable chap, who makes time for many, always appears to have a smile on his face and conducts himself in a respectful manner. So, it’s unusual to see him and hear him like this. 

He has been where Sheeraz is right now in his career. A prospect yet to face a serious test but appears to have something about him which could be moulded into something on a much bigger stage. Sheeraz is tall, powerful and has improved with each year he has been a professional. This is his 14th fight, Skeete’s 14th fight was against Colin Lynes. Then a veteran Lynes was a previous British and European super-lightweight champion. Crafty and clever but Skeete says there are no comparisons between them.

“It was my first big step up and it was for the English title,” Skeete recalls.

“Colin Lynes had been there and done it. British, Commonwealth and European champion. He done it all, got the experience. I had a little scare early on, he had me over, but I got up and I won the fight. It was a good, hard, close fight. 

“There’s no comparison. I’m no Colin Lynes. I’ve probably never been so up for a fight in my whole career. I’ve never been up for it so much. It’s like a point to prove. It’s not hindering me; I’m thriving on it. I want to go in, smash him up, show everyone and be like, ‘What? You forgot what I’m about?’ I’ve said it before, the same people telling me I’m 34 and I should be retired will be the same people licking my arse after the fight telling me how good I am and how fresh I am and how I should have been up in the Ingle gym ages ago. That’s how it’s exactly gonna go.”

Their fight is at 154lbs, the current natural weight for Sheeraz and one that Skeete and Ingle quickly agreed on being the best way forward during their early sessions. On offer is the WBO European super-welterweight title which Sheeraz has held since 2019. He also holds a top 15 ranking with the governing body too, so the prize is worth keeping a hold of or ripping away. But there is more to it. Skeete would love to go and beat the prospect that Warren has high hopes for. A spot Skeete had alongside the promoter eight years ago. He also fought at the Copper Box five times will working with Warren, the sixth is without him and a victory would probably the sweetest.

“It’s just business,” Skeete says firstly.

“It’s an opportunity and there wasn’t anything around. It’s business like I say. They’re treating it like business on their behalf. I was with them for my whole career and after a couple of losses I took that break and that time off. Obviously, my contract run out, nothing really got said or spoke. I never really said I was retired. Now, I’ve got an opportunity to fight on a Frank Warren show so why not. He’s made it clear I’m the away fighter fighting one of his boys. It’ll be all the more satisfying to go in there and cause the upset so to speak.”

Working with Dominic Ingle in Sheffield has forced Skeete to leave The Big Smoke and move north. This isn’t a farewell tour in his eyes, this is version 2.0, and he is aiming to add some new greatest hits to his collection. The past can be talked about by others, he isn’t interested in waxing lyrical about it.

“People want to look back at me back then losing and think he’s had some time off, he’s been stopped, but they’re getting it all wrong,” he says. 

“They ain’t seen me up here in Sheffield. I’ve seen some stupid comments on the Internet that some people think this is my first fight back. They think I’ve just jumped back into this fight. They didn’t know I boxed in July. So, it was on a small hall show, I’ve been working my arse off. I’ve moved away from home. I live in Sheffield full-time. I’ve made a very big sacrifice. For someone who is 34, just doing it for the fun of it, that ain’t something I was going to do. If I was going to do it for the fun of it, I’d be living at home with all my comforts and going to the gym 10 minutes down the road. I’m with a world class team at a world class gym and with world class fighters. You think Dom’ is going to bother wasting his time with me if I weren’t gonna do anything? He’s got some serious fighters in the gym and I’m one of them serious fighters and that’s why he’s putting his time and effort in.”

So, will it be a form of redemption for Skeete or will the Sheeraz hype train roll on? The challenger believes the prospect will go on to big things like many predict but just not on his watch. And if you happen to be in the venue on Saturday night Skeete does want to hear the credit given to him, should he win. He doesn’t want to hear excuses about the fight coming too soon for Sheeraz. And after speaking to him at length a few times this year don’t be surprised if he starts yelling ‘I told you, I told you’.

“It’s a very, very big step up for him. He’s going to know he’s in a fight,” Skeete says.

“I’m putting the work in, and I know what I’m capable of and I’ve got that love back and that hunger back for boxing. I’m buzzing. I’m going to the gym with a smile on my face. This couldn’t have come at a better time for me. I’ve had good time off. I love boxing again and this is what I thrive on. I’m back fighting on TV, I’ll be on BT Sport, on a Frank show, a big crowd coming to support me. It’s in London. I’ve been there and done it. I know what it’s all about. He ain’t had this. It’s a lot of pressure for him. This is a very, very big step up for him and he knows he’s in a fight.

“Everyone thinks I’m Mr Nice Guy. Going back I’m thinking to the last time I had my back up and I wanted to smash someone’s face up and that was the Shayne Singleton fight (in 2017). A few things got said at the weigh-in and I went into the fight, and I meant business and look what happened to him. This thing of I can’t punch, and I went in and smashed his face in. I punched his head in. Punched him from pillar to post. My back’s up now and I’m proving a point. This is my time to shine. This ain’t his [Sheeraz] coming out fight and coming out party and thinking he can get a scalp off my name. I’ve got a very big future still ahead of me and I know what I can achieve and he ain’t getting in my way of doing that. I’m brushing him aside, taking his belt and getting back to where I need to be.”