Lee Selby ready to put on a show in 126-pound title defense against Eric Hunter

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At the final news conference in advance of his showdown Saturday against 126-pound world champ Lee Selby at London’s O2 Arena, Eric Hunter was asked for his thoughts. “I’ve come to fight,” the challenger said.

Lee Selby and Eric Hunter

Despite the reserved demeanor of Eric Hunter, left, leading up to Saturday's 126-pound title bout in London, champion Lee Selby is confident that his experience gives him the edge. (Matchroom Sport)

Cue the expectant silence around the room as the crowd waited for Hunter to elaborate. Eventually, the host again asked for Hunter’s take on the bout.

“I’ve come to fight,” he repeated, with a nod of the head.

“And I thought I was a man of few words,” said Selby, quick as a flash. The champion smiled and could barely contain his laughter.

Later, the Welshman was phlegmatic as he reflected on Hunter’s attempt at stone-faced intimidation. “If Hunter thinks that is going to worry me one bit he has got another thing coming,” said Selby, who tipped the scales Friday at 125 pounds, while Hunter came in at 125.25. “I really don’t care two hoots what he thinks or what he does. His record doesn’t stand up to mind, and results are all that matter in the ring when the business really starts.”

Lee Selby (22-1, 8 KOs) is right to be confident heading into his second title defense, as he’s mixed in far superior company than fellow 29-year-old Eric Hunter (21-3, 11 KOs).

Selby has a résumé that includes wins over such world-class operators as onetime 126-pound titleholder Evgeny Gradovich, former three-division champion Fernando Montiel and then-unbeaten Joel Brunker. Hunter’s ledger features far less reputable opposition.

Of course, that doesn’t mean Selby will win in a walkover—after all, anything can and often does happen in boxing. But it does indicate he has found his feet at the highest level at 126 pounds, something Hunter can’t honestly claim.

In addition to his clear experience edge, Selby can take heart in a home-turf advantage as he returns to O2 Arena, site of his title-winning victory over Gradovich in May. It’s a venue that will be packed to the rafters with 20,000 mostly British fans—a factor of great concern to Hunter, who is worried not so much about fighting in hostile territory as much as he’s leery of the bout going to the judges.

“If I get robbed, I’ll never come here ever again,” Hunter said. “I’m serious. I’m going to walk away, and I won’t be coming back.”

A native of boxing hotbed Philadelphia, Hunter is not an unduly powerful puncher, although it could be argued that with only eight stoppages on his record, neither is Selby. But while Hunter is largely one-paced, Selby has shown a remarkable capacity for moving up the gears when the need arises in a fight.

Take Selby’s last contest against Montiel, a come-forward Mexican who was undoubtedly crisp, cagey and tough throughout the October 14 bout. At no time did Selby take Montiel apart, but occasionally there was a blurred explosion of his threshing-machine hand speed, and the judges duly took note, giving the champ a landslide points decision after 12 rounds.

So while Hunter can box beautifully, is tidy in his work, fast and fluent, all indications are that Selby resides at a higher level. Selby’s stamina is never remotely in doubt, he has no obvious weaknesses, is as brave as they come, and past opponents have all spoken of the champ’s fast, heavy hands. Which means for Hunter to pull the upset, he will have to engage in the ring a lot more than he did at the news conference.

One thing that could possibly work in Hunter’s favor is that many view him as a steppingstone for Selby, who is in line for potentially lucrative clashes against undefeated Brits Carl Frampton and Josh Warrington, not to mention current 126-pound champs Leo Santa Cruz and Gary Russell Jr., plus former titleholder Abner Mares.

So if Selby is looking past Hunter, perhaps that might open the door for a stunning upset. Just one small problem with that scenario: Selby has no record of taking opponents lightly. And that isn’t about to change.

“This is a massive fight for me, and there will be no mistakes,” Selby said. “I’ve seen what Hunter can do, and nothing—absolutely nothing—leaves me worried one bit. I’ll take him apart, round by round, until he can’t take anymore. Guaranteed.”

For complete coverage of Selby vs Hunter, visit our fight page.

Editor’s Note: While the Selby-Hunter fight won’t be televised in its entirety in the United States, Showtime is scheduled to air extensive highlights during its broadcast of the Charles Martin-Anthony Joshua heavyweight title clash beginning at 5 p.m. ET/2 p.m. PT.

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