By Tris Dixon
IBF super-bantamweight champion Lee Selby lost his mother, Frankie, just four days ago.
He promised that he would be “focused” and “professional” in the lead up, and he was exactly that, winning on the scorecards 119-108 and 117-110 (twice) to retain his crown at SSE Arena at Wembley in London.
Belfast hero Carl Frampton was in the crowd, and he could meet the Welshman down the line.
“To be honest it doesn’t seem real because I’ve been away from home,” said Selby of his mother’s passing. “If I’d told people what I’d been thinking I would have been put in a straight-jacket.”
He said he’d not spoken to his family, even his brother and fellow pro Andrew, as he had wanted to concentrate only on the job at hand. Subsequently, he felt he had been hit too often and was close to tears when he dedicated the victory to his mum.
The Barry boxer started smoothly as he finally got Argentina’s Jonathan Victor Barros in the ring with him.
This contest should have happened in Las Vegas in January, but Barros failed a fight week medical and Selby was dropped from the show.
The champion was looking to land strong left hooks early on but veteran Barros has seen it all before. He covered well but was forced back to the ropes towards the end of the opening round.
Barros was unable to get untracked in the second or third. Selby, tactically astute, was boxing and moving well, only eating a double jab of note. He shook his head in apparent disappointment at his own naivety.
Selby was boxing with a swagger and Barros found it difficult to close the gap.
The Argentine lost his mouthpiece in the fourth. Selby was looking lively and fresh. Barros plodded forwards and his legs were turned to lead when a right from distance harpooned him.
Selby’s right cheek was covered in blood halfway through the fifth and he was bruised beneath the optic. It looked like a headclash had caused the damage.
Barros was coming into it and in the sixth Selby was not as polished as he had been when banking the early rounds.
“You’re the boss. You’re the champion of the world,” Selby’s trainer, Tony Borg, reminded him.
Selby was on his toes again in the eighth. He was not putting a dent in Barros, but he did not need to in order to extend his lead. His jab was working well and he had minimised the threat from the opposite corner. He was well in front, but needed to stay switched on.
Selby turned the heat up in the 11th, boxing with a swagger to well win the session. He continued that into the 12th landing a cracking right hand and unfurling a left hook that dropped a forlorn Barros to the deck. The visitor survived a torrid finale to the round but managed to see out the session and the fight.
It was job done for Selby, only more than that due to the family heartache he had endured this week.
Selby joins Mikey Garcia, Yuriorkis Gamboa, Juan Carlos Salgado and Celestino Caballero as the only men to defeat Barros. Garcia remains the only man to stop him. That’s not bad company.
“Onwards and upwards,” said Selby.