After crossing the pond for his first fight on these shores, Lee Selby proceeded to submarine his opponent in waters as deep as the Atlantic.
Making his American debut in Glendale, Arizona, on Wednesday, Selby earned a 12-round unanimous decision to successfully defend his 126-title against Fernando Montiel, who unsuccessfully attempted to become the fourth Mexican fighter to win a world championship in four different weight classes.
Working behind a rifling jab, the longer Selby (22-1, 8 KOs) used his superior length to his advantage early, circling Montiel (54-5-2, 39 KOs) in the center of the ring and controlling the distance.
Beginning in Round 3, Lee Selby started to let his hands go more frequently after bludgeoning his Mexican foe with the aforementioned jab, landing some hard rights and buckling Montiel’s knees with a left hand as crisp as a bag of Lays.
Montiel did his best to get inside and fire some shots off, cornering Selby toward the end of Round 4 and peppering him with combos. The 36-year-old former champ continued building on this momentum for a time, culminating in Round 6, when he repeatedly hammered Selby with left hands until the Welshman’s right eye became red and swollen—it would require stitches afterward.
Selby, who did very little body work in the first half of the fight, began to target Montiel’s ribs in Rounds 7 and 8, grinding away down low and then going back up top.
“Early on, he was a bit dangerous, so I didn’t really throw to the body,” Selby said. “I could see the openings with the right hook to the body, but then he’d try to come at me with a left hook. And with the straight right hands, I couldn’t land them early on because he was countering me to the body with a left hook.
“So I had to stay sharp, because he showed that he had a good left himself. But in the middle rounds, I could see that his counters were slowing down a bit.”
Montiel continued to come forward gamely, pressing the action throughout the night and having his moments, one of which came in Round 10 when he cracked Selby with a snapping right, followed by multiple uppercuts that scored.
But the champ consistently landed the harder shots with both hands, ultimately cruising to a unanimous-decision victory in his first title defense (119-109, 118-110, 116-112).
The pro-Montiel crowd lustily booed the decision, and afterward, Selby wasn’t much kinder in his assessment of himself.
“I wasn’t really happy with my performance. I know I can box a lot better,” he said while sitting ringside. “I don’t know if it was me or it if was due to Montiel’s experience—he might have made me look bad. I struggled to find my range. I was allowing him to come at me at times, which usually I don’t do.”
Nonetheless, Selby got the victory, and now bigger fights loom, even though the 28-year-old insists he’s not targeting anyone specifically at this moment.
“There’s no one on the top of the list,” he said. “I’m not going to be one of those champions who picks and chooses easy opponents. I want to fight the best. I want to be in big fights, win, lose or draw.”
OK, enough of the shoptalk. So, Lee, how do you plan to celebrate your victory?
“I’m going to go have a little bit of cheesecake,” he said by way of goodbye, heading off in search of his just desserts.
For complete coverage of Selby vs Montiel, make sure to visit our fight page.