Boxing: Vera victory is vital for Lee to move on
The Palm Restaurant on New York Coity's West 50th Street was the place to be on Wednesday, when promoter Lou DiBella ramped up the hype on Saturday's WBC Diamond middleweight title showdown in Atlantic City between Sergio Martinez (47-2-2) and, fighting for the first time in the United States of America, Darren Barker (23-0).
Eddie Hearn and Barker talked up their prospects. "I'll make him pay for taking me lightly," vowed Barker. "I'm 29 and he's 36."
While an intriguing scrap is in store, it's Andy Lee's prospects that interest me more.
Why is Lee fighting Brian Vera? It's a payday of sorts. But what of the risk factor? Vera supplied the only blemish on Lee's 26-1 record. But he's a journeyman. Since he stopped Lee in March '08 he's had seven bouts, four of which he lost. But he has won his last two which included a 10-round split decision win over Sergio Mora in February, so he carries a threat.
If you listen to DiBella, Andy has more to lose. "Behind Sergio Martinez, and maybe Matthew Maklin, Andy Lee is the best middle-weight in the world," he says.
"He's on the verge of becoming a star. This is going to be an exciting fight. Andy wants to prove that the first fight was a mistake and Brian wants to prove it wasn't."
Brimming with confidence, Lee is already considering a world title shot. "I'm not looking past Brian Vera, but after I beat him I'm going to take my ringside seat. I'm ready and I want to fight the winner."
Rees 'needs to be fitter
Light-middleweight Andy Murray must rue the only blemish on his 25-fight professional career, a 12-round defeat in Cardiff in June, when he hears that if his opponent then, Gavin Rees (35-1), can claim a successful title defence on Saturday against 'Dirty' Derry Mathews (29-5), he could move to just a step away from a world title bout.
The belief that Murray let a major opportunity slip is given some credence by Rees' observation.
"I got a bit tired towards the end (against Murray) but that's been rectified." he said.
"I'm in perfect shape now."
His trainer, Gary Lockett, agrees. "Gavin had to go 12 rounds because he killed himself so badly to make the weight.
"People keep going on that he (Rees) died after six rounds and that he needs to be fitter," said Lockett.
Busy few days in Baku
There's a busy few days ahead for Ireland's boxers in the World Championships in Baku.
Darren O'Neill and David Oliver Joyce box tomorrow. Michael Conlon goes again on Sunday. Joe Ward and Con Sheehan are also boxing that day. On Monday it's Paddy Barnes, John Joe Nevin and Ken Egan.
You can catch the action live online at www.AIBAboxingTV.com and on YouTube at www.youtube.com/aibaboxingtv.