Andy Lee faces biggest fight of career in bid to retain belt
World champion faces unbeaten American Peter Quillin in his first title defence
Andy Lee in action against Matt Korobov during their fight for a vacant WBO middleweight title belt in Las Vegas last December. Photograph: David Becker/Getty Images
Andy Lee hopes to take a step closer towards his stated aim of staging a world title fight in Thomond Park when he takes on unbeaten former champion Peter Quillin in New York on Saturday night.
It’s a realistic proposition as there has never been dispute about Lee’s technical ability. More recently his trainer Andy Booth has worked hard to add to the long-range, counter-punching abilities Lee honed under the educated eye of his previous coach, Emanuel Steward.
Lee brought in Booth after Steward died in 2012, and while Lee will always remain deeply grateful to his former mentor, the Limerick southpaw has benefited from Booth’s new pair of eyes as he faces into the first defence of the WBO title he won last year.
Lee can land hard with both hands and has brought a bit of the dog into his repertoire. At over six feet, he’s a tall boxer for the middleweight division and his reach and height has always been an asset.
Booth has given him more power and Lee has become comfortable fighting at close range with his long levers. Four of his last five bouts have been knockouts or TKOs.
But Lee is also a smart fighter and has only lost twice in his career. His last defeat was in June 2012 to Julio Chavez junior, who was big for the division and has since moved up to super middleweight.
Lee lost to a TKO in the seventh round, and it was in the same round that the Irishman succumbed to Brian Vera in 2008, a TKO in the seventh after Lee had Vera on the canvas in the first round.
He knows himself that Quillin is a well-matched opponent. As a New York resident, although one who took off to live in California to work under the influential eye of multiple world title-winning trainer Freddie Roach, he will, just like Lee, have support in the Barclay’s Centre in Brooklyn.
Quillin has various been described at 6’1’’ and 5’11’’, with the reputable BoxRec going with the lower figure. But Lee has taken some delight in pointing out that Quillin’s last fight against Lukas Konecny was in April 2014.
Quillin was then ranked 4th best middleweight in the world by Ring Magazine, while it was the unranked Konecny’s first fight outside of Europe. Quillin won it by unanimous decision.
The 30-year-old Lee can thank rap artist and squeeze of Beyonce, Jay-Z, for Quillin vacating the title last September. His management company didn’t want to get into bed with Jay-Z’s RocNation, which won the purse bid for the fight against Matt Korobov.
Quillin stepped out and Lee stepped in. Now Lee, not Quillin or Korobov, is defending the belt, with Quillin a touch short on ring action as a consequence. “I’m an animal and confident in myself,” said Quillin. “All I have to do is do what I have for 31 fights, be the explosive boxer I am.”
Lee is primed for both a cagey contest as well as one that will occasionally or frequently explode into life. It’s in those exchanges where it will be won or lost. Korobov found that out to his cost.