Middleweight contender Andy Lee will be back in the ring on October 1, and while he just might be fighting for a chance to face the night's main event star, he's no doubt focused on the man in front of him.
That man is Brian Vera, the only man to defeat Lee as a professional to date. On ESPN Friday Night Fights in March 2008, Vera (19-5, 12 KO) upset Lee (26-1, 19 KO) in a knock-down, drag-out slugfest that saw Lee stopped in the seventh round. At the time, the Emanuel Steward-trained Lee was one of the hottest prospect names in the game, but the tough Texan brought him down a peg by being able to stand and trade with him.
Since then, Vera has gone just 3-4, but has faced pretty strong opposition overall, and in February of this year, he defeated Sergio Mora in another Friday Night Fights upset, which put him into position for the rematch with Lee. Lee, now 27, has rehabbed his career under the guidance of Steward, and they did it by breaking him down and building him back up. The quite comeback trail hasn't been seen by many who weren't in attendance for the fights, but Lee did make his HBO debut in May, stopping Craig McEwan in a hell of a good fight.
"It would mean a lot to me to avenge my only loss and beat Brian Vera and show the fans who really is the better fighter between us," Lee said. "I am relishing the opportunity to get my revenge and redemption October 1, which cannot come soon enough."
Lee feels as though his youth got the better of him the first time, and that he's now better-prepared for someone like Vera, who loves to bring pressure and is tough to back down.
"I was a 23 year old kid back in 2008, I have matured since then and I am a stronger fighter now, both physically and mentally. There is no room for complacency in this game, I have all the tools to take care of Brian Vera and I will be well prepared for the fight. I am confident of beating him and putting on a show for the fans."
Steward is also sure that the matured Lee will be victorious in the rematch, saying, "Andy is a tall rangy fighter with superior technical skills than Vera and he carries power in both hands, whereas Vera is a pressure fighter who likes to fight on the inside and slug it out with opponents.
"We have a strategy and game plan to win the fight and I am very confident Andy will take Brian Vera to school come fight night."
Both fighters are now promoted by DiBella Entertainment, as is the night's main eventer, middleweight world champion Sergio Martinez. A win for Lee could very well give him a shot at Martinez, as it will be the second straight HBO card where the two are featured together, but another recent DiBella signing, Matthew Macklin, could also figure into the picture against either fighter next. But both first have to win on October 1, and as we've seen before, Vera is no easy out.