It has been well documented in the Irish Voice what the rematch with Bryan Vera at the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City on October 1 means to Andy Lee. The idea of setting the record straight for the Limerick man (26-1, 19 KOs) permeates to his very core, and if he wins, he will exorcise the demon of a loss that has followed him for more than three years.
But this fight also means the world to Vera (19-5, 12 KOs). With that in mind, the Irish Voice caught up with the Texan and his manager, Dave Watson, to see how his camp is progressing.
“It is a career-making fight for both fighters,” Watson, who was a matchmaker for Vera-Lee I, told the Irish Voice on Saturday.
Both men know that a possible world title tilt awaits the victor of the rematch.
“Andy Lee and Bryan need each other and are in the same position. When Bryan beats Andy again there will be no question that it was a fluke, and he gets his shot,” Watson said, adding that if Lee were to win then there would be no doubt that he deserved his own chance to fight for a world title belt.
Vera is extremely happy at where he is at with his camp.
“It’s going great. I did 10 rounds (of sparring) on Saturday with Russell Jordan and a few other guys,” he told the Irish Voice.
The addition of trainer Mike Delware to team Vera has been a big part of the recent career renewal.
“Mike is a very technical trainer,” said Watson, who went on to add that the new man in the corner has revamped how Vera fights.
“I am not throwing those big looping punches any more,” Vera explained. “I am learning to box smart, but to box aggressive.”
With Vera enjoying the benefits of a long training camp, Watson can see a steely determination grow in his charge.
“He trains like he fights and he does what you ask him to do. He is going to do what he has to do to win,” Watson said.
Both Vera and Watson agree that the 29-year-old did not capitalize on his March 2008 victory over Lee due to what they describe as bad management.
After eight months of inactivity, Vera returned to the ring to fight James Kirkland on three weeks notice on November 22, 2008. He had to drop over 30 pounds in that time and was stopped in the eighth round of a lop-sided fight.
Further losses to Craig McEwan and Isaac Rodrigues stalled his career before Watson himself stepped in to both manage and train Vera for his important career-reviving win against Sebastian Demers in June 2010.
After receiving an offer he could not refuse, Vera went to the Ukraine and lost a decision to Max Bursak in September 2010.
Team Vera then sat down to reconsider its direction and decided that Mike Delware would be the right man to train the fighter.
They started to train for a fight with Kelly Pavlik, but after the former undisputed middleweight champion pulled out they quickly accepted the opportunity to fight former light middleweight champ Sergio Mora in February.
A more disciplined display from Vera resulted in an impressive win that set up the long touted rematch with Lee. A tune-up win in June over Eloy Suarez gave the Delware/Vera combination more time to gel.
Though Vera is making the trip from Austin to New Jersey for the fight, he is no stranger to the area.
“I trained with Bruce Blair when I fought Andy Lee for the first time so I spent a lot of time down there,” he said, adding that he trained at the Atlantic City PAL and in Philadelphia for that fight.
Vera is also engaging in a mini-war of words on Twitter with some Lee supporters who are, to put it mildly, adamant the American won't win, but he is taking it all in good spirits.
“Yeah, it is just having fun. You’ve got to say something back to these guys, right! But it’s all fun,” Vera said.
But Vera is deadly serious about his preparations and was categorical when it came to describing what kind of shape he is in.
“Right now I am just the strongest that I have ever been, both mentally and physically. I hope he is ready,” he said.
Vera’s brother Gilbert (11-3-2), a welterweight who Watson describes as “cut from the same cloth” as his brother when it comes to boxing style, will fight on the same undercard in an eight rounder. Tickets are available for “The Rematch...Revenge or Repeat" at Ticketmaster. Prices range from $50 -$300.
For fight fans in New York City this Wednesday, September 14, Lee, light middleweight Kevin Rooney Jr. (2-0), and light heavyweight Seanie Monaghan (8-0) will be at The Red Lion (151 Bleeker Street) for a press conference at 1 p.m.
Finally, Paul McCloskey (23-1, 12 KOs) scored a hugely impressive win on Saturday night at the Odyssey Arena in Belfast when he defeated Breidis Prescott (24-3, 19 KOs) by unanimous decision in a WBA light welterweight title eliminator.
The win puts the Tyrone native right back in the mix, and though a rematch with the only man to beat him, Amir Khan, looks unlikely, the 32-year-old can look forward to a big fight after a great victory.