Preview: Lee Selby must shine under the Las Vegas lights to secure unification showdown

Preview: Lee Selby must shine under the Las Vegas lights to secure unification showdown

This coming Saturday, Barry Town’s Lee Selby (23-1, 8KO) is back on the scene and has a challenge to get noticed amongst the stars.

‘Lightening’ and his peers will be sharing the spotlight of one of the sport’s most high profile stages, the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. It’s arguably America’s most recognisable venue, thanks to a deep history of hosting boxing’s biggest nights, including the last 12 fights of Floyd Mayweather’s historic career.

Selby, who has often distanced himself from the ‘Welsh Mayweather’ tag labeled on him by the press, must channel his inner showman to standout. It won’t be easy, especially as US broadcaster Showtime has a storming schedule to start 2017, including a conveyer belt of stellar world-class clashes.

The 29-year-old Welshman will face a consecutive mandatory challenger in Jonathan Victor Barros (41-4-1, 22KO), who has almost as many knockouts as Selby has wins.

It will be broadcast by Sky Sports 1 in the United Kingdom, whose coverage kicks off at 1:00am. Selby and Barros will take to the ring at 1:15am.

It’ll be the second fight in a row that Barros has entered as an underdog after travelling to Japan to out-point Satoshi Hosono in October. Having been sat at ringside, Selby has an idea of what awaits and can expect Barros’ best because it’s likely to be his final shot at major honours.

The 32-year-old Argentinian suffered his first defeat in 2010, hearing the final bell against a prime version of Cuba’s Yuriorkis Gamboa. However, Barros regrouped and collected the vacant WBA strap seven months later.

The reign lasted three fights and 10 months before a rematch loss to lengthy Panamanian Celestino Caballero. It kick started a poor run of form that saw back-to-back losses to world champions Juan Carlos Salgado and Mikey Garcia – who coincidentally appears on this weekend’s show in a WBC lightweight title fight.

Barros’ style hasn’t altered much throughout his career. He remains measured and consistent in his approach, most comfortable at mid-range distances. Barros can make matters messy up close and Selby will be well advised to start behind straight shots, which should allow him to turn to screw as the rounds go on.

The main deficit for the challenger will be the speed with the champion’s shots delivered far faster. For that reason, coupled with a size advantage, are picking Selby to force a very late stoppage or retirement.

Selby, who prepares at St Joseph’s Boxing Club in Newport, hasn’t fought since defending his beloved belt against Eric Hunter in April. The Tony Borg trained talent was forced to get off the floor for the first time to see off the Philadelphian with a wide points victory.

We’re now nine months later and not much has happened in the interim. Leeds’ ticket-selling star Josh Warrington vocalised his desire for a domestic showdown before deciding to waste the second half of Selby’s 2016.

Meanwhile, promoters Matchroom Sport have felt no obligation to present other options with one fight left on a contract that’s unlikely to be renewed. Eddie Hearn, head of the Essex based outfit, has stated his disappointment after he effectively lost influence with Selby when he signed to Al Haymon – the mysterious ‘advisor’ who blurs the lines between management and promoting.

The linkup with Haymon has eventually led to something, helping to secure a slot on the undercard of this weekend’s Carl Frampton vs Leo Santa Cruz rematch. It has helped that Selby’s handlers, Sanigar Events, have a healthy working relationship with Frampton’s people, Cyclone Promotions.

Selby will feature on the Showtime Extreme programme, which preludes the main broadcast, before taking a seat at ringside to see Frampton make the first defence of his new WBA belt. He’ll hope Frampton does the double because a Santa Cruz win is likely to result in a deciding trilogy, postponing Selby’s hopes of a unification.

That unification is likely to be in Belfast’s Windsor Park, an outdoor stadium, towards the end of the summer and Frampton’s fan base will justify home advantage. ‘The Jackal’ is thought to have taken 5,000 countrymen to Las Vegas and 10,000 to Manchester when he unified super-bantamweight titles against Scott Quigg last year.

Speaking of Quigg, the aforementioned Hearn has hinted (when speaking to iFL TV) he will offer that fight to Selby on Saturday 29 April at Wembley Stadium. Quigg has recently moved to the 126lbs division and it would happen on the undercard of Anthony Joshua’s humongous IBF/WBA world title fight against the heavyweight division’s former ruler, Wladimir Klitschko.

The event is expected to sell out and surpass British attendance records. That sort of exposure is not to be sniffed at and Selby, whose manager Chris Sanigar will join him in Las Vegas later today, will surely give it some thought. The challenge will be whether it fits in the timeline of a Frampton unification and if it does, it’ll give him an opportunity to trump the Northern Irishman’s win over Quigg.

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