Billy Lyell: Nobody’s “Opponent” – Part II

Sam Rossi

(The following is the second in a two-part piece on Middleweight Title Contender Billy Lyell. Lyell was interviewed just a week before his scheduled fight with IBF Champ Sebastian Sylvester in Neubrandenburg, Germany)

Like virtually every fighter to have entered the professional ring, Billy Lyell has long dreamt of the moment he would challenge for a world title. Though he was only given eight days notice, the fighter seems keen on putting forth a championship effort this Saturday night.

“I got a good idea of how to go at it with Sylvester,” said the IBF contender. “I really think I’m a better fighter than him. My speed’s better and I know I’ll show better generalship when we’re in there.”

If there’s one real advantage Lyell holds over Sylvester and other middleweights, it rests in his ability to fight at either 154 lbs. or 160 lbs. on any given night. It’s at 160 lbs. that his speed best compensates for a lack of middleweight power. Lacking the strength of a Sylvester, or Kirkland, or even a Pavlik, Lyell’s punch output at such a weight enables him to build a quiet lead on the scorecards even when a knockout appears out of the question.

If Lyell holds another stealth-like advantage going into this weekend’s fight, it comes in the form of the perceived “short-notice.” The bare truth is that both camps have been in talks for quite sometime now, with nothing ever coming to fruition before last week.

“We were in talks before. I’d been watching films, and I’ve been in shape for a while. Let’s go,” says Lyell just a week before the biggest fight in his career. In fact, he spent much of November and December sparring with Pavlik before his most recent defense, and the fighter feels that any benefit was mutually shared. “I got in some good work with Kelly, and he did the same with me. That’s how it goes.”

No matter what the cards may hold for the young Billy Lyell, his demeanor remains true to his Mahoning Valley upbringing. His mind permits no room for self-promotion and braggadocio. Just days before the shot of a lifetime, he remains the same person he has always been.

“Listen. I haven’t had the flashiest career, I know that. But I always gave my all. Always.”

Then, the contender pauses. Surely looking back on the road that has brought him within a championship’s grasp.

“If this fight shows anything, it’s that if you keep at it and you keep hanging . . . your time will come.”

Indeed, Lyell’s time has come.

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