By Jason Pribila, Ringside in Atlantic City: The HBO cameras and DiBella Entertainment returned to Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City on Saturday night in anticipation of the return of Middleweight Champion, Sergio Martinez.
The televised opening featured a rematch of middleweights Andy Lee (27-1, 19 KO) and the man responsible for the only blemish on his record, Brian Vera (19-6, 12 KO).
In most cases the result of a rematch is a repeat for the original winner, only in quicker and more decisive fashion. In the case of Lee-Vera, one could throw the statistics out the window for a number of reasons. The first being that Lee was winning their first encounter before getting caught and stopped in Round 7. The second reason is three years and eleven fights later, Lee is the fighter who sought out the rematch. And finally, in Lee’s corner is Hall of Fame trainer, Emanuel Steward, who has a history of avenging defeats.
As in their first fight, Lee jumped to an early lead on the score cards. He was the matador effectively piercing Vera as he came forward. The taller Lee had Vera timed from the beginning and continually countered over the top of Vera’s left hand.
Lee earned an extra point in the second when he dropped Vera to the canvas courtesy of a straight left as the round expired. In round three, Lee began to land uppercuts from the outside. Vera grinned despite absorbing those blows with his grille.
Bad went to worse in round four when Vera sustained a cut over his left eye. Despite being out-classed the determined Vera seemed more confident than discouraged.
Lee seemed to be on cruise control until he reached the round where he was stopped in their first fight. Midway through round 7, Lee’s lateral movement had stalled, and Vera took advantage by ripping body shots. Lee seemed gassed for a moment and seemed to breathe a sigh of relief when the round came to an end.
Following the fight Lee said he was simply following the game plan. “Hit him and pull out so I wasn’t exposed.”
In an effort to remain out of danger, Lee mixed in straight right hands to the raging Vera’s body. The tough Texan’s legs were beginning to let him down, but his heart never wavered.
With the fight in hand, Lee seemed to be playing a bit of the “4 corners defense” in round 9. Vera had his moments, but not enough of them to win the round or change the momentum.
Doubt showed up on Vera’s face for the first time in the final round. Lee, sensing he was out of danger Lee once again began sitting down on his punches.
A smile and wink to HBO crew came across Lee’s face when he landed a final uppercut as the final round was coming to an end.
“I was trying to knock him out, but it it’s hard with him,” Lee said following the fight.
The reading of the official score cards (98-91, 99-90, and 99-90) may have seemed like a formality if not for the weight they lifted off of Lee’s shoulders.
“The importance of this win was immeasurable. It was years coming,” Lee said. “If not for tonight, I would have been haunted for the rest of my life”
Lee’s win was a positive step, but critics may say he simply did what he was supposed to do. It was not the type of performance that would leave fans clamoring for him to step up and face the winner of the evening’s main event winner.
Now that the Vera ghost has been exorcized, Lee now feels he is ready for a major fight.
“I’ll fight anyone. No middleweight wants to fight me.”
In the untelevised undercard, Isaac Chilemba (18-1-1, 9 KO) took a round to feel out and measure Brooklyn, New York’s Jameson Bostic (23-5, 13 KO).
Chilemba seemed to take the chorus of boos that echoed around the empty arena to heart, and he began round two with a sense of urgency. Once he pinned Bostic against the ropes in the corner it became target practice. Chilemba showed precision and patience while breaking down and stopping Bostic at 1:48 of the second round.
Jason Pribila is a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America, he could be reached for questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org
October 1, 2011