IT wasn’t all that long ago Bradley Skeete was considered both a hot prospect on the way up and a contender with title ambitions. He played those two roles for years before, inevitably, becoming, in 2021 and at the age of 34, someone considered prey for the next hot prospect with title ambitions.
It’s a plot twist Skeete didn’t see coming and one he doesn’t much appreciate, either. His plan now is to make Hamzah Sheeraz, the super-welterweight prospect out to get him, understand this on December 4. “People are writing me off like I’m past it but I can count on one hand the number of hard fights I’ve had,” Skeete, 29-3 (13), said. “I think a lot of people are disregarding what I’ve actually achieved in my career. Yeah, I’m 34, but if they’re banking on me being old, they’ve got it so wrong. I’m very experienced, I’ve been around boxing for a long time, and I’m the best I’ve ever been right now. I’m so up for this fight. They’ve made a very big mistake taking this fight.”
The assumption that Skeete is ‘past it’ likely has more to do with his two-and-a-half years of inactivity than any recent form, though both no doubt play a part. Skeete, sadly, through no fault of his own, failed to box at all in 2019 or 2020 and, before that, was stopped inside two rounds by Diego Ramirez.
“There was a lot of talk of me being retired,” said the Tooting man. “People were writing me off and thinking I was done. But that was never the case. I never said I retired. I took a break and then obviously one thing led to another and it ended up being longer than I expected.
“I was quiet on my social media, and not really doing much, so it may have seemed like I’d retired, but that wasn’t true at all. I was PT’ing (personal training) just to earn some money and then getting an opportunity to go to Sheffield and train was one I couldn’t turn down. I knew right away that I needed to be here and I quickly fell in love with boxing again. I’ll be truthful, I was sick of boxing for a while.”
Skeete’s divorce from boxing, more a break really, had a lot to do with the events surrounding his 2018 fight against Ramirez. The shock of defeat was one thing, but there were additional elements that left a sour taste, too. “It was a shambles,” Skeete said. “The show was cancelled. It was on. It was off. The opponent kept changing. It was for a title. It wasn’t for a title. I was sick of it all. By the time I made my ring walk on the night, I’d had a week to prepare for Ramirez and didn’t know anything about him. I wasn’t switched on how I should be. I got caught, I went over, I got up, and I was stopped on my feet arguing with the ref. That’s when I knew I just had to take some time off.”
In the end, it wasn’t even a choice. Skeete, like everyone else, was forced to take time off due to a global pandemic and then, last October, wound up in Sheffield, eager to reignite a flame that had long ago been blown out. “I did think about retirement,” he conceded, “but I knew, deep down, I wasn’t finished. Coming up to Sheffield, and coming into the Ingle gym, then lit that flame in my belly again.
“Also, Dom Ingle wouldn’t waste his time with me if I was old and past my best. He’s got other fighters to train and other fights to prepare for. But he’s putting in the work with me, and I’m giving him the work back, because he knows there’s something there. He’s told me that himself.”
In his first fight working with Ingle, Skeete managed to stop Dale Arrowsmith inside three rounds back in June. More than just end his period of inactivity, the fight showed a new side of Skeete.
“Yeah, it was on a small hall show, but I felt unbelievable,” he said. “Dale Arrowsmith doesn’t get stopped often and I got him out of there. I’m not going to make a song and dance about that but I wasn’t even out of first gear when I produced that stoppage. The old Bradley would have gone six rounds with him, happy just to get the points win. But I’m a different fighter up here.”
Now based permanently in Sheffield, Skeete finds himself a two-minute walk from the Wincobank gym and calls life there “boring” in the best way possible. He also now knows, based on experience, he is exactly where he needs to be.
“I’m a 34-year-old man fighting a 22-year-old kid who has had 13 fights,” Skeete said. “I’ve got no bad words to say about Hamzah. He’s a good kid and he’s on his way up and has been managed right. But he hasn’t been in there with anyone. Yeah, he’s got back-to-back stoppages, but who is he stopping?
“Experience is key in this fight. He’s young and ambitious and is going to be game. He can obviously punch, too, because he’s getting stoppages, even if the opposition isn’t the best. He’ll come and have a go, I’m sure, but my boxing ability and man strength is going to play a big part in this fight.
“I’m rejuvenated, I’m fresh, and I feel like I’m going to make a big statement. They think they can build his name on my scalp but I’m not having that. People are going on about him being a future world champion, but he’s had 13 fights and can’t run before he can walk.
“All those people doubting me, and saying I’m finished, will be the same people telling me how good I looked when I beat Hamzah.”