Preview: Lee Selby vs Jonathan Victor Barros

Preview: Lee Selby vs Jonathan Victor Barros

Wales’ best pound-for-pound boxer, Barry Town’s Lee Selby (24-1, 9KO), is back in action tomorrow night as he makes the third defence of his IBF world featherweight title against Argentina’s Jonathan Victor Barros (41-4-1, 22KO).

Six months ago, Selby was set to dazzle in the Nevada desert, only for the opportunity to be shot down when the State Athletic Commission refused to license Barros. The news broke 15 minutes before the scheduled day before weigh-in at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas and Selby would be left watching from the sidelines.

The 30-year-old champion would be in action less than six weeks later after some hasty rearranging from his handlers, Jamie Sanigar and Al Haymon. He halted Spain’s gutsy Andoni Gago in nine rounds of a routine run out at London’s O2 Arena, barely venturing out of first gear or taking a serious punch in the process.

It served to keep Selby fresh and ensured that an 11-month training camp hadn’t gone to waste, though delayed his initial summer plans. He had intended to lock horns with Belfast’s Carl Frampton at an outdoor venue until Barros successfully lobbied the IBF to retain his status as Mandatory Challenger.

Now, the Irishman’s homecoming will take place in two weeks against unheralded Mexican Andres Gutierrez on a Cyclone Promotions’ show with Channel 5. It should be a certain win and although on the bank burner for now, it’s a mouthwatering option that could finally make sense by the close of 2017.

Selby’s appearance on Saturday, the 26th of his nine-year career, will be his first under the banner of Poxon Sports and ITV’s Box Office channel. Behind the scenes, Richard Poxon is said to enjoy a healthy working relationship with the aforementioned Haymon. For that reason, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Selby return to the platform in the future now he’s split with Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Sport.

The only downside of the new avenue is that it’s behind a pay wall, a third consecutive time that Selby will box to an exclusive audience. Chris Eubank defends his IBO super-middleweight belt against former two-weight world champion Arthur Abraham to headline. The card has a crop of evenly matched trade fights at varying levels, which will help to persuade punters to part with their £16.95. The televised broadcast starts at 6:30pm on Sky Channel 493.

The undoubted annoyance from January’s episode could reflect in the performance of most boxers. The use of pent up frustration would be understandable but thankfully, it’s not in Selby’s nature to be overly aggressive. The slickster doesn’t make many rash mistakes and will have learned from being dropped by Eric Hunter last year.

Instead, Selby’s corner, which will include the familiar figures of Tony Borg and Chris Sanigar, is likely to stress caution early on. He’ll probably warm in to proceedings behind his jab that, whether whipped from his waist or sent straight down the pipe, is enough to keep any featherweight at bay when Selby’s on form.

Despite being relatively inactive, Selby is rarely out of St Joseph’s Boxing Club in Newport. That’s why he’s not expected to carry any ring rust in to the ring at Wembley Arena and if he can hit the ground running, his rhythm can be very difficult to disrupt.

Still, Barros will continuously apply pressure and has often approached taller opponents in an awkwardly low crouch. He has ventured forward behind a stabbing jab to the stomach with success in the past, setting up opportunities to land unorthodox overhands.

It was used as an attempt to nullify the height advantage of former opponent Celestino Caballero, who is similar in height to Selby, in their pair of fights. Barros edged the first before dropping a decision and his WBA world title in the return six years ago.

That was Barros’ only defeat in his native Argentina, his other four losses coming in other parts of the world (Germany, Mexico, America), suggesting that the 33-year-old isn’t the greatest traveller – an encouraging indicator for Selby.

However, there’s no disgrace in any of Barros’ losses. They came against legitimate world class talents like Yuriorkis Gamboa, Mikey Garcia and Juan Carlos Salgado. Though Garcia stopped Barros in eight rounds, his guts are without question having risen from the canvas on multiple occasions.

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.

It’s not Selby or Barros’ first instincts to fight up close and on the inside, where it could be messy. Both are more likely to trade at a longer range and Selby’s sharper, quicker shooting should see him home to a competitive but clear points victory. That outcome is priced at 4/9 odds with most bookmakers.

Earlier today, they weighed in below the featherweight limit (9st/126lbs) at Wembley Arena in London. Hours later, the latest installment of the Floyd Mayweather-Connor McGregor mega-media circus is due in town at the same venue, attracting extra attention to the event.

It has been a tragic week for the Selby family who lost their mother, Frankie Cummings, on Tuesday. Lee’s mental strength is second to none and ‘P-nut’, as she affectionately nicknamed him, deserves all the respect of the boxing world for continuing with the third defence of his world title reign – a special status his mother was deservedly very proud of.

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