BBC Home
Explore the BBC
watch listen BBC Sport BBC Sport
Low graphics|Help
Last Updated: Thursday, 17 May 2007, 18:19 GMT 19:19 UK
Skelton eyes world stage
By Mark Barden

Whatever the shortcomings of the current British heavyweight scene, it's certainly not lacking in 'must-win' bouts at the business end of division.

Matt Skelton
I want to get Sprott out of the way then I want to fight for a world title

Matt Skelton

Danny Williams kept his career alive by relieving Scott Gammer of the British title in March, while Audley Harrison saw his virtually ended by Michael Sprott last December.

And what of Commonwealth champion Matt Skelton? Harsh though it may seem on a man with a 20-1 (18 KOs) record, but his rematch with Sprott in London on 26 May, is really a make-or-break bout.

"I've got to beat Sprott," admitted the Bedford boxer who, according to most sources, turned 40 in January (though his own website makes him 39).

"I understand it's a cut-throat game, but this is the opportunity of a lifetime. Whoever wins is that much closer to a world title shot."

More on that possibility later, but right now Skelton is determined to make up for lost time against Sprott (30-10) at the ExCel Arena.

They first met in April 2004, when Skelton stopped his rival in 12 rounds, winning the British and Commonwealth belts just 19 months after switching from K-1 martial arts.

They are fighting again because Sprott, 32, stepped in to fight Harrison when a fractured hand forced Skelton to withdraw from their planned clash.

Thoughtful, articulate and not given to the trash-talking so typical of many fighters, Skelton would rather, in some ways, not be seeking a repeat victory.

"It's not so much a question of 'Why fight Michael again?', it's a case of having to," he told BBC Sport.

Michael Sprott stunned Audley Harrison in round three
Sprott earned his re-match by nailing Harrison in three rounds
"The talk last year was of me fighting Audley and the winner going on to fight for a world title, but I was injured and Michael took his chance.

"(Promoter) Frank Warren then stated that the winner would face me, and whoever won that fight would get a world title opportunity.

"I've never ducked anyone in my career. I've fought everyone who's been put in front of me and I've never looked for the easy option.

"Now I want to get Sprott out of the way - and I believe I can beat him again - then I want to fight for a world title."

Skelton has not fought since last July, when he out-boxed Williams in Cardiff to avenge his split-decision loss to the Brixton enigma six months earlier.


"It's been frustrating because I'm a fighter who likes to stay active," he said, dismissing any notion that the sands of time are running out on his late-starting career.

"My age has never been an issue for me - it's more of one for other people. I feel fresh, and I'm comfortable with my life as a boxer.

"I don't live that life one minute, then live another one away from the ring. This is me. My weight doesn't balloon up between fights, and I find it quite easy to stay fit and healthy."

But does Skelton, currently 10th in the WBO rankings, really believe another domestic victory will give him a shot at glory on the world stage?

Matt Skelton in action against Suren Kalachyan
Born: 23.1.67
Hometown: Bedford
Pro debut: Sept 2002
Record: W20 L1 D0 KO18
Trainer: Kevin Sanders
Honours: C'wealth champion
Ex-British & English title-holder
Former WBU champion

"I do, but not because people are looking at me and thinking 'Man, that is the fight that needs to be made', far from it.

"I'm not a name on the world stage, I'm well aware of that, but I'm ranked high enough for people to think 'who is this fella? Let's pull him out of the bag for a voluntary defence'. If that happens, I can go in there and upset the applecart.

"If that's the way I get a world title shot, that will do me. Let's face it, most of the time, the top fighters in any division will stay away from each other for as long as possible - it makes perfect sense, it's good management."

Given his chance, Skelton fervently believes he is equipped to take it.

"For once, the heavyweight division is really open. Some people don't like that because they'd prefer to have a dominant force like a Tyson or a Lewis.

"But I think it makes things more interesting because nothing is a foregone conclusion or a dead cert. Fans and viewers will want to watch a title fight if they can't call it."

And how does Skelton call his second encounter with Sprott?

"I've trained for a hard, 12-round fight. I won't be careless, but if the opportunity comes to stop it earlier, I will take it. But regardless of whether it goes 12, 10, six or two rounds I will be the winner."

Skelton urges Haye to bide time
17 May 07 |  Boxing
Millennium Stadium fight photos
10 Jul 06 |  Photo Galleries

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Daily and weekly e-mails | Mobiles | Desktop Tools | News Feeds | Interactive Television | Downloads
Sport Homepage | Football | Cricket | Rugby Union | Rugby League | Tennis | Golf | Motorsport | Boxing | Athletics | Snooker | Horse Racing | Cycling | Disability sport | Olympics 2012 | Sport Relief | Other sport...

Help | Privacy & Cookies Policy | News sources | About the BBC | Contact us