21 March 2009 – By Mark Doyle
Andy Lee made a winning return to the ring on Saturday night, the Limerick middleweight outpointing Alex Sipos in a gruelling ten-rounder in Dublin.
Lee had not fought since last years thrilling stoppage win over Willie Gibbs last July after being forced to undergo surgery on scar tissue around his eyes, and he certainly looked ring rusty.
The referee gave him every round bar one [99-91] but that was generous in the extreme because he had been less than convincing.
However, there were undoubtedly mitigating circumstances. Firstly, Sipos knows Lee well, the pair having sparred together in Austria last year during Wladmir Klitschkos training camp for his bout with Tony Thompson..
Secondly, Lee suffered a cut over his right eye less than two rounds into the fight, which was pretty much a nightmare scenario for the Detroit-based Limerick man given his recent lay-off.
In spite of this, he did impress at times against an awkward, defensively sound opponent.
Indeed, he came close to dropping his German foe in the second with a terrific right hand but Sipos took it superbly well.
The 34-year-old Munich native began to impose himself on the fight thereafter, though. His wild, swinging right hands and roughhouse tactics knocked Lee out of his stride and by the start of the sixth there was a palpable sense of unease around the arena. The usually slick and evasive Lee was getting tagged with far too many shots.
However, by the end of the round the fears of the partisan crowd had been eased somewhat by the sight of Sipos being dropped to the canvas by a splendidly-timed right hand from their man.
Unsurprisingly, Lee, now boxing well behind his jab, lorded it in the seventh, as a clearly shaken Sipos did his best to regroup. It was difficult not to feel, though, that Lee should have pressed more at this point because Sipos looked a tired and weary fighter.
But the former amateur star seemed to content to bide his time. That was a tactic which nearly proved his undoing because by the ninth he looked to have little left himself. He was merely pawing at Sipos as his now resurgent opponent raised himself for one last push.
Sipos did not have the talent or the power to summon up a knockout and Lee saw out the fight quite comfortably but the reserved applause which greeted the final bell spoke volumes for the rather underwhelming nature of Lee’s performance.
It was a useful ten rounds for the Irish southpaw after such a lengthy absence from the ring but it was a performance which raised more questions than answers about his status as one of the most promising talents in the middleweight division.