13 March 2011 – Paddy Cronan
In 2007, HBO compiled a list of six of boxings top prospects. First on the list was Amir Khan, who is now considered one of the top light welterweights in the world. Juan Ma Lopez, who is already a two-weight world champion was also named. He is the likely successor of Miguel Cotto, as Puerto Ricos number one son.
Rey Bautista also got a mention, and was the first of the six to get a title shot. Bautista was stopped in the first round, and has dropped off the radar since. Andre Berto was named as one of the sport’s top prospects. He picked up the WBC Welterweight Championship, and has beaten every man put in front of him. Thus far, Berto hasn’t had a career defining fight.
Just before rounding out the list with Alexander Povetikin, who was the number one contender for Wladimir Klitschko’s IBF Heavyweight Championship from early to late 2008, Andy Lee was listed.
Larry Merchant described the Irish prospect as, Looking like ten million dollars.
After a set-back at the hands of Brian Vera in March 2008, via stoppage, Lee has travelled a long road back. On Saturday Lee showed why HBO believed in him. His impressive win has him right back in the spotlight he’s been out of for far too long. What boxing fans around the world witnessed last night was Lee changing from the kid who was stopped by Vera, into the first man to brutally knock out Scotlands Craig McEwan.
The fight started off slow in the first round, with the boxers feeling each other out. Both fighters committed more in the second. Lee was able to land his lead-right hand over McEwans guard before the Scot stepped up the pace for the last thirty seconds, no doubt trying to steal it.
In the third Lee planted his feet more, trying to land the right over the McEwan guard, and it paid dividends. However, that success with the right caused Lee to start searching for ‘the big shot.’
On my scorecard McEwan was able to take the next three rounds, as Lee was flat footed, and it seemed the fight was slipping away. The Limerick man was determined to take the fight by the scruff though, edging both the seventh and eight rounds on my card. Lee was back in the fight, however the performance was not something that would impress the HBO big wigs. Lee would need to close the show big. And close it he did! Lee dropped McEwan with a spectacular left hand in the ninth round that sent McEwan back into the ropes. Referee Steve Smoger issued a count. Fortunately for McEwan, it was too late in the round for Lee to finish off his brave rival.
Encouraged by his success at the end of the ninth round, Lee came out like a man possessed. He used his right hand to great effect, only this time he followed it up with a left hand that resulted in a spectacular knockout in the tenth and final round.
HBO no doubt loved the drama of this contest, and with the manner of his big KO win, they will no doubt want to see him back again. While Lee’s performance was a definite success, it also showed that he is not quite ready for a fight with World Middleweight Champion, Sergio Martinez. It would seem the most likely route is for Lee to avenge his one loss to Bryan Vera, then hopefully get a fight in Ireland in the fall before challenging the formidable champion.
Lee was highly critical of his performance, I was looking for one big shot all the time and it really worked against me. He picked up the pace and had a good rhythm, and I thought I might be losing the fight. I said, ‘What am I doing this is my night?’ It was a big opportunity for me, and I said if Im going to lose it, hes going to have to kill me. So I put my hands up and I walked forward every time he landed. I said, ‘Come on throw more.’ while my corner was telling me to, ‘Throw one-twos, throw combinations, stop loading up, switch it up and down.’ I started doing that. He started to wilt. I could see it in his eyes, he was feeling it. I caught up with him in the end and I got the knockout. I felt I was fortunate to get it, but its what I deserve because I worked hard and theres bigger things for me in the future, Lee concluded.
The future is definitely bright for Lee. He has given the American public something that they crave, a highlight reel knockout.
‘Boxing nerds’ will debate Lee’s performance for weeks. One side will affirm HBO got it right in 2007, while the other camp protests his credentials. One thing is for sure, Irish boxing fans are in for one exciting ride over the next 12 months as Andy Lee continues his climb up the middleweight world rankings.