Skelton’s 41st birthday is on 23 January and he is a 25-1 outsider to pull off the biggest shock in modern boxing.
Uzbekistan’s Chagaev tamed the 7ft 2in, 22-stone Russian Nikolay Valuev to win the crown that Skelton is contesting — and he is unbeaten as a professional.
Skelton, who only turned to boxing at 35 after travelling the Far East as a kickboxer, said: ’The age thing is always coming up but it’s not an issue for me like it seems to be with everyone else.
’It’s more about your lifestyle and how you’ve lived your life.’ Skelton’s promoter, Frank Warren, believes the Chagaev camp may have been lulled into a false sense of security by his plodding win over Reading’s Michael Sprott.
Chagaev had knocked out Sprott inside eight rounds and fancied an easy voluntary defence.
"I think Chagaev has made a big mistake because he saw Skelton’s fight with Sprott and decided to go for it," Warren mused yesterday.
"But Sprott didn’t come to fight against Matt, like he did against Chagaev. Instead, his head was somewhere else. When people don’t come to fight, it doesn’t make the opponent look attractive either. I think Chagaev’s people have been lulled into a false sense of security."
Chagaev has pedigree. He defeated Felix Savon, the Cuban Olympic legend, to be crowned the amateur world heavyweight champion in 1997, and took the WBA crown from Valuev with a clever performance and majority points decision last April.
In retrospect, Chagaev should have been awarded that contest by a wider margin. In the last year, Chagaev, also known as ’the white Mike Tyson’ has contracted hepatitis, from which he has fully recovered, Telegraph reported.
Skelton, whose one defeat came against the fellow British heavyweight Danny Williams, who counts Tyson among his victims, said yesterday: "Chagaev’s a clever fighter who doesn’t waste a lot. He models himself on Tyson and he tries to come forward, but personally I don’t think he’s like Tyson.
"He can be explosive and if given the room to work, he’ll dominate. But I won’t give him the room. He’ll come to fight and that suits me."
Skelton’s critics have consistently claimed that he lacks technical skill, yet he has stopped 18 of his 22 opponents.
However, Skelton, ranked No 9 by the WBA, said: "It was a dream to become a world heavyweight champion, but it’s no longer a dream. In my mind, it is now a reality. He’s strong, he’s got quick hands and he’s aggressive. But he’s beatable.
"This will be a hard fight and I’ll have to produce the performance of my life to win. British boxing is on a high and it would be lovely to win the title and defend it in front of the British fans."