By Kevin Byrne(follow Kevin on Twitter @kevoobyrne)
Andy Lee, afraid of the big bad wolf? Don’t bank on it.
This is a fighter who feels strong at his physical peak and willing to take on the most feared champ in the game.
The Limerick middleweight is close to agreeing a fight with WBA kingpin Gennady Golovkin for April 26 at Madison Square Garden, New York City.
‘GGG’ has the highest KO rate of any middleweight champ in history, stopping just under 90 per cent of his opponents to boast a perfect record of 29-0, 26 inside the distance.
Lee’s rival Matthew Macklin has experienced the power, felled in three rounds last summer by a body shot that made observers around the world wince – and left Mack The Knife with cracked ribs.
And Lee himself has shared a ring with the Kazakh, going down 29-9 as an amateur in the last 16 of the 2003 World Championships in Bangkok.
Yet the Castleconnell southpaw, now based in London, would be happy to go back for another try 11 years later.
And supremely confident he can shock the boxing world and win.
“There’s any number of possibilities,” Lee admitted. “I could be fighting Golovkin in April.
“Obviously it’s a massive fight, a world title fight and a chance to fight the best middleweight in the world.
“So I’m hoping for that. Right now it’s just being negotiated so if we agree terms then the fight will be on.
“If that doesn’t happen, I’ve been training solidly since the start of the year, I’m in great shape and sparring a lot. If the Golovkin fight doesn’t happen I’ll look to get out some time in April.”
The online reaction from fans, however, seems to be that Lee has stopped taking his crazy pills.
That is no disrespect to a world-class operator, who has twice been stopped on his feet, and more of a nod to Golovkin’s effectiveness.
Getting in the ring with ‘GGG’ is seen as suicide. To most.
“I don’t see it like that,” Lee responded. “He’s a good fighter, but it would be an honour to fight him.
“He’s one of the best, a great fighter but I’d love to be in a great fight with him.
“I think I’d offer him a lot of resistance. It’s hard to say you’re going to go in there and knock him out but that’s what I’ll have to do, know what I mean?
“I’ll have to go in there and stand up to him and fight, to meet fire with fire and give some of it back.
“I have no fear of any man, so he’s just the same as anybody else. I don’t fear him.”
Golovkin, 31, is two years older than Lee is now.
So the Irishman was just 18 when they met, something he reckons was a factor in the nature of his defeat.
He recalled: “I remember I was very young at the time and he fought with a style I’d never seen before. He was an aggressive counter puncher.
“He was waiting for me to lead and then he was countering me. It was a very awkward style for me to fight.
“He’s improved a lot and so have I. we’re both men now. He’s a few years older than me so I think he had the advantage of maturity then, but now we’re both men so we’ll see.
“I’m at my physical peak now. I’m training better than I ever have and I’m boxing better than I ever have.
“Some of my last few spars have been phenomenal and I feel like I’m at my peak. I don’t think I’m ever going to be better than I am now.
“Golovkin is obviously one of the best out there and from what he’s done recently, it’s hard to look past him or make big bold statements. But I believe in myself. I know how good I am. And I will offer him something that he hasn’t seen.
“I’m tall, I’m southpaw and I’m a full middleweight, I’m not a light-middleweight like some of the guys he’s fought.
“He’ll be my best I’ve fought but I’ll also be the best opponent he’s faced. Certainly. It’d be like, in the old days to be the champ you have to beat the champion, and that’s what it’s about.
“I could play safe and fight for another two or three years, against unrated opponents, but that’s not what I’m in the game for. I’m here to fight the best.”
It looks as if the potential derby scrap with Macklin has now fallen by the wayside.
The pair were linked with a clash in and around St Patrick’s Day, but Macklin has chosen to focus on gaining another world title shot – against any champ other than Golovkin – and has not had much luck so far.
Of course, if Adam Booth-trained Lee is successful in April he will be in a position to defend his title against the Birmingham-born boxer.
And he believes it will be ‘a shame’ if they never get the opportunity settle their claims of superiority in the ring.
Lee said: “I don’t know if it’ll ever happen now. The fight was there to be made.
“I said it on Twitter, I tagged him and said ‘let’s get the fight on’. He never replied to me, and that said it all to me.
“He never came back with a reply so I don’t know whether he wants the fight or not.
“But it’s strange, since it’s looked like I’m facing Golovkin, everybody who’s mentioned ‘Lee v Macklin’, he’s retweeted it.
“When the time was to make the fight there was no reply. But maybe it will happen at the end of the year, who knows?
“Everyone who met me at the National Stadium on Saturday night (for the Nowhere to Hyde professional boxing bill) said ‘when are you fighting Macklin?’ so it’s a fight people wanna see. It’d be a shame to let the fight go.
“It would be a great fight and he’s definitely a great fighter. It’d be a real shame if it doesn’t happen.”