14 November 2009 – By Cormac Campbell
Limerick middleweight Andy Lee remained on course for a crack at European champion Matthew Macklin with a mixed non-title performance over EU titlist Affif Belghecham on Saturday night.
Lee (now 20-1), who recently moved his training camp from Detroit to New York and from the tutelage of Emmanuel Steward to Joey Gamache, dominated eight of the bouts ten rounds but looked uncomfortable under pressure in the home straight.
Lee was hit repeatedly with heavy blows in the last two rounds, which if delivered by a bigger puncher or indeed earlier in the contest could have led to a very different result than the 99-92 conclusion reached on referee Emile Tiedts card. This will again raise questions about Lees defensive credentials, first identified by Brian Vera in a shock defeat in 2008.
The finale was at odds with Belghechams (19-4-1) negative, cagey approach which for eight rounds allowed Lee to dominate with a ramrod right jab, slick right hooks on the turn and punishing body shots. Perhaps this dominance left Lee somewhat complacent by the time Belghecham evolved into a different beast and finally elected to go for broke. After all, this was after eight rounds in which the Frenchman resembled more of a punchbag than a viable threat.
The main concern is that Lees defensive mode was holding his opponent off with jabs, when Belghecham broke through, plan B was to retreat. The few times he elected to tie up Belghecham he looked somewhat uncomfortable in doing so and saw him forced to take punishment that could have easily been avoided.
The lesson of the fight is that Lee must work on his defence. He must work on nullifying the advances of sparring partners who will bully him, tough men who will continue to walk forward and throw shots round after round. His lack of head movement is also something that requires addressing. Lee was too upright, meaning that when Belghecham landed he landed flush rather than glancing blows. Had this been Kelly Pavlik delivering the blows Lee would have been in serious difficulties.
Lee is a wonderful on-top boxer whose repertoire of punches are a joy to watch.
He is eloquent, engaging and popular 2,000 fans turned out at the UL Sports Arena despite the concurrent Ireland vs France World Cup qualifier at Croke Park. But he has a lot to work on.
Thankfully, aged just 25 he has time to do it.
Stay tuned to irish-boxing.com this week for interviews with Andy Lee, Matthew Macklin and Gerry Coyle.