PUNTERS probably have about as much empathy with promoters as they do politicians but we do bleed, you know - though unlike the boxers our pain is more likely to be stress or felt in the pocket.

Sometimes putting on big fights can be pure aggravation. I have just endured one of the most frustrating weeks of my 30-year promotional career sorting out a viable opponent for British lightweight champion Derry Mathews, who tops the bill in his home town of Liverpool this weekend.

Derry Mathews on the scales

It began early in March when he was due to challenge the US-based Cuban Richar Abril for the WBA lightweight title. Then the news came that Abril, who now lives near the marshy Everglades in Florida, had pulled out because a bout of dengue fever caused by a mosquito bite. I'd never seen that one on a fighter's sick note before.

So we postponed the fight to give Abril a chance to recover and resume training. It was re-scheduled for this Saturday, but late last week he suddenly pulled out again, citing a recurrence of the same illness.

Obviously we weren't happy about this, and the WBA stripped him of the title, nominating Mathews to fight for their interim belt against the unbeaten Venezuelan Ismael Barroso, a fearsome puncher with 16 KOs in his 17 victories.

All set again? No, Barroso encountered visa problems and on Wednesday we were informed one couldn't be granted in time for him to fight on Saturday.

So we worked through the night to come up with yet another opponent. In comes Canadian Tony Luis, the WBC Continental Americas champion who is ranked ninth by the WBA. Luis, who brings a 19-2 record and was already training for a defence of his title in Minnesota this weekend, readily accepted the better option of a crack at the WBA interim world title.

Mathews v Luis

If so much chopping and changing caused us grief, spare a thought for Mathews. Originally he trained for a long time to fight a slick counter-puncher with an orthodox stance in Abril. In comes a totally different type of opponent in Barroso, then a more defensive, orthodox stylist in Luis.

Fortunately at 31, Mathews has the nous and maturity to adapt. He has been in the game for over a decade and has knocked out more opponents than Luis has had fights.

Basically he has to go out in front of his loudly supportive home fans and box this fellow's ears off on this Box Nation-televised bill. He is more than capable of becoming a world champion-in-waiting. After all this aggro, he deserves it.

 

Choc-shocker Lee sets up Traveller fight with Saunders

Well done Andy Lee in holding the hitherto unbeaten Peter "Kid Chocolate" Quillin to a draw in Brooklyn last week. Personally I thought the Irishman had edged it by a round with making such a strong second-half comeback after twice being knocked down early on.

Lee v Quillin

Lee's world title wasn't at stake as the American failed to make the 160lb welterweight limit and had to pay $125,000 of the champion's $500,000 purse. As someone remarked, Quillin should now be known as "Kid Too-Much-Chocolate".

The result neatly sets up a showdown with fellow Traveller Billy Joe Saunders, who stepped aside as No 1 contender in order to allow Lee to make this lucrative voluntary defence.

Saunders, who was named this week by the European Boxing Union as their fighter of the year, wants to go straight for the WBO world title shot. But as Lee will be out until late July or September, he could take a blockbuster return with Chris Eubank Jr at a London football stadium instead, which could be a bigger earner.

First, both are due to fight different opponents at Wembley on 9 May. Eubank is up for the Saunders fight, of course, but young Chris needs to remember that he lost against Saunders in their first fight and he's not in the driving seat.