It wasn’t as easy or pretty as he had hoped. And his backside hit the canvas for the first time in his professional career. But in the end, “Lightning” Lee Selby proved why he’s one of the top boxers in the loaded 126-pound division.
Fighting in front of a partisan, sold-out crowd in London’s 02 Arena, Lee Selby (23-1, 8 KOs) rose from a second-round knockdown—the first of his career—and overcame several low blows Saturday to dominate Eric Hunter, winning a wide 12-round points decision to retain his 126-pound title.
The judges scored it 115-111 and 116-110 twice, a decision that clearly irked Hunter (21-4, 11 KOs), who stormed out of the ring after the result was announced.
“I’ve got a lot of respect for Eric Hunter, but I think the judges got it about right, as I was in control most of the fight,” Selby said after his second successful defense of the title he won 11 months ago. “I hit him with some big shots, especially with my right, and I was surprised he took them, although I could see he was hurt.”
Actually, it was Selby who was on the receiving end of the first big shot of the fight.
With a minute to go in Round 2, Hunter countered a Selby miss with a brilliant left hook that landed flush on the champion’s jaw and immediately sent him sprawling to the canvas, much to the shock of the crowd. Although he was knocked down for the first time as a pro, Selby didn’t stay down long; the Welshman immediately bounced to his feet and reengaged Hunter as soon as the fight resumed.
“It was a flash knockdown, and I wasn’t hurt—more shocked really,” Selby said. “I was going backward, so the momentum of the punch was what really sent me down. I got back up straight away and never felt hurt or in danger.
“Mind you, he was a good puncher and a good fighter, and was rightly the No. 1 challenger.”
Having regained his composure, Selby started to claw his way back into the contest with a solid third round, catching Hunter with a succession of right hands, although they seemed to have little effect on the tough 29-year-old Philadelphia native.
The fourth round was a far cagier affair as both boxers clearly had earned each other’s respect, but Selby really took control in the fifth as he detonated three clean right hands on Hunter’s jaw. Again, though, Hunter took the shots and came back for more, a scenario that would repeat itself several times down the stretch.
Thanks to his blurring hand speed, Hunter remained dangerous throughout the fight—he was particularly strong in the 10th and 12th rounds—but Selby proved the more active and accurate fighter, often beating Hunter to the punch with his lacerating jab and thunderous right hands.
When Hunter wasn’t struggling with Selby, he was battling referee Marcus McDonnell, who warned the challenger multiple times for low blows. McDonnell eventually deducted a point from Hunter in the eighth, then put him on disqualification notice after another low shot in the ninth.
Hunter, whose previous two losses were by disqualification, behaved himself from there and made it to the finish line, only to hear scores that didn’t please him.
After the fight, Selby turned his attention to a possible match against 122-pound champion Carl Frampton, a Northern Irishman who is expected to make the jump to 126 pounds.
“I have a few top fighters wanting me in the ring opposite them, and Carl Frampton would be one I would definitely enjoy,” Selby said. “I would fight anyone, but I would take Frampton in a heartbeat. He’s a really top fighter. That would be a cracking fight.”
Said Selby’s manager, Chris Sanigar: “We have to take stock of this and then sit down and look at who is next. I think Frampton is a natural fight for both boxers. We would love to get that on, and I hope Frampton does, too.”
For complete coverage of Selby vs Hunter, check out our fight page.