Selby recovers from Hunter knock down to retain world title

Selby recovers from Hunter knock down to retain world title


Barry Town’s ‘Sugar’ Lee Selby (23-1, 8KO) picked himself off the canvas to comprehensively out-point skillful Philadelphian Eric Hunter (21-4, 11KO) and retain his IBF world title.

A looping left hand floored the 29-year-old featherweight champion for the first time in his career, amateur or professional, in a dramatic second round. A shaken Selby would regain composure and collect a deserved unanimous decision with scorecards of 115-111, 116-110 and 116-110.

Selby was making the second defence of his belt, having unanimously out-pointed Mexico’s former three-weight world champion Fernando Montiel. That night in Arizona nearly six months ago was a tougher than expected American debut for Selby. Tonight’s showing will have caught the attention of more eyes from across the Atlantic and he’s likely to be targeted by the division’s chasing pack.

Hunter, twice guilty of disqualification losses, had been unhappy throughout the fight week build up. The visitor wasn’t invited to Monday’s public workout at York Hall and refused to make direct eye-contact with Selby for photographers at the press conference or weigh-in. Instead, he opted to wear dark glasses and then hide behind a flat-cap hat. The unwillingness to directly engage with Selby certainly didn’t transfer to the ring, though.

The pair completed their on-the-day weigh-in obligations at 8:30am. Under IBF rules, boxers must visit the scales for a second time on the morning of the fight and weigh no more than 10lbs over the division’s limit. Selby stood at 135lbs, one pound inside the allowance and Hunter was four pounds lighter than his opponent at 131lbs. There are few featherweights who will own a size advantage over Selby and Hunter appeared significantly smaller.

That natural size advantage encouraged Selby to press the action and he enjoyed a solid opening round, clipping Hunter when he posed for too long. The referee warned Hunter for an infringement in the second round and while he looked confused at his corner, Selby stepped in with a flush right hand. However, the eagerness almost proved costly as Selby was guilty of standing square on when he followed up with another attack. Hunter made him pay by uncorking a fizzling left hook and it sent the recipient down, for the first time in his 18 years of boxing.

After surviving until the bell and receiving calm instructions from Tony Borg and Chris Sanigar in the corner, round three was a recovery job for Selby. He cautiously pushed Hunter back while ensuring he didn’t make the mistake of over-committing again. The visitor came to Britain with a tainted reputation following two disqualification losses and there were signs of it in the fourth round, as he was warned for a low blow – the first of many.

At the halfway stage, Selby adopted a safer approach, feinting as he pressured in an attempt to trigger Hunter’s counters early. When Hunter was edged to the outskirts of the ring, Selby appeared in control. Hunter’s movement from the waist was still troubling in centre ring, where they shared some even exchanges.

A warning for another low blow was given to Hunter in the seventh round and considering his history, he had reason to feel as if he was on thin ice. The American’s enthusiasm for Selby’s lower regions was undeterred and he was eventually punished in the seventh, Marcus McDonnell deducting a point for the consistent fouls.

Heading in to the championship rounds, a settled down Selby had established a clear lead. Straight shots had nullified Hunter’s jack-in-the-box style, though dangers remained when Selby exited clashes with his head high in the air. What separated the pair was Selby’s extra output, landing with jabs at the start and end of exchanges and most notably, straight rights over the top of Hunter’s shoulder roll.

The action became scrappier as the second half of the fight unfolded, Selby slipped during a clinch and the pair took a tumble to the floor. The official became increasingly involved but it was a pattern that suited Selby, especially as Hunter’s body language declined. The champion banked the rounds routinely to cap off a learning experience, picking himself off the canvas, a completely new occurrence.

It was Selby’s fourth performance at the O2 Arena, formerly known as the Millennium Dome, and it has been a happy hunting ground for him. In October 2013, Selby won the Lord Lonsdale strap outright by out-pointing Ryan Walsh and he then stopped Australia’s previously unbeaten Joel Brunker in a final eliminator a year later.

In Selby’s most recent visit to Greenwich, he comprehensively dethroned the reigning champion, Russia’s Evgeny Gradovich with an eighth round technical decision. This visit was the most testing and maybe, the most beneficial lesson of his career.

Image by Matchroom Sport/Lawrence Lustig.