Limerick Middleweight Andy Lee faces one of the biggest tests of his career on December 13 at the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas when he faces Matt Korobov for the vacant WBO title.
Lee, (33-2, 23 KOs) scored a knockout of the year contender against John Jackson back in June in a win that represented his fifth straight victory, three of which were knockouts.
Despite this run of victories since he last challenged for the Middleweight title back in 2012 against then-WBC middleweight belt-holder Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., there are quite a few who have Lee as the outsider with Paddy Power to claim the WBO strap come December 13th. But why do people doubt Lee?
Matt Korobov (24-0, 14 knockouts) is six years a pro and is ranked No. 1 by the WBO. The Russian is a former international amateur champion, winning gold medals at the 2005 and 2007 World Championships, the 2005 World Cup, and the 2006 European Championships. He is perhaps the most hyped Russian amateur to turn pro since Kostya Tszyu.
While Lee has undoubted knockout power, Korobov is no slouch in that department either with 14 of his 22 wins coming by the big KO. With two big punching southpaws coming face to face it would seem that a knockout win for either seems like the safe bet, but as the old adage goes – ‘styles make fights’ – and Lee’s style can make him a winner on the night.
Lee has both the height and reach advantage over Korobov and if he can box clever and not get lured into a war, he has the potential to frustrate and outpoint his Russian opponent. Recently touted as a potential opponent for Lee, Matthew Macklin agrees that Lee’s jab could be crucial if he is to emerge victorious in this fight.
“I definitely think Andy’s got a good chance because he’s a southpaw, he has the height, the reach. With Korobov he likes to come forward and make you lead and counters you but with Andy being a southpaw as well he won’t be as good at doing that and I think Andy will be able to get his jab off.”
Despite the hype around Korobov since he turned pro, the former amateur champion has yet to set the world alight and has yet to fully tested. There have been and still are questions about his stamina in the latter rounds and this may be to Lee’s advantage. The Limerick man is known to retain his power until the last – he stopped Craig McEwan late after a grueling battle back in 2011.
Korobov is not a pressure fighter and this will play into Lee’s hands. Lee’s world title loss against Julio Cesar Chavez Jr was largely due to the pressure he was put under from the off by the Mexican champion. Korobov will allow Lee the time to think and this will suit the Irishman’s game.
For Lee to emerge as world champion on December 13th he will need discipline and a rigid game plan. If he sticks to a plan he can beat Korobov on points. Failing that, Lee could always just land that killer punch and knock him out!