Champion Andy Lee aiming to reach next level of boxing stardom
Limerick man puts his world title on the line against Peter Quillin in New York
Andy Lee in action against Matt Korobov. “That fight, to be completely honest, was a make-or-break fight for me,” says Lee. Photograph: David Becker/Ggetty
It took the best right hook of his career in the sixth round to stop Korobov but the punch changed everything for the Irish middleweight. Tomorrow Lee meets Peter Quillin on NBC in his first defence of the belt it took him a decade to win.
It has been a long road for Lee from Limerick to London to the 2004 Olympic Games, where he was Ireland’s only representative in boxing. The Irish Sports Council offered him their best package to keep him amateur but Lee’s heart was set on the pro game.
Those years seemed like ancient history when he left for the Kronk gym, Detroit and Manny Steward. Big ideas. Big places. Now at 30-years-old a new career has begun.
“My career started off with great promise and then after two losses I was thinking retirement,” he says. “It was difficult. That fight (Korobov), to be completely honest, was a make-or-break fight for me. I probably wouldn’t have gone on if it hadn’t gone my way.”
Steward had always championed Lee and made loud promises that he would one day be a world title holder. But after losing to Julio Chavez junior for the world title in 2012, those ambitions seemed crushed.
Within months of the defeat Steward had died and Lee’s life was forced into taking another transition and that’s when he hired British trainer Adam Booth. Booth had a different outlook. But the pairing worked and the KO’s arrived. The first was over John Jackson last June and then Korobov in December.
“I think changing location, changing my style, changing to Adam Booth and working with him is good for me,” says Lee. “Eventually I got my chance and I took it. I just persevered and kept working.”
“With Manny it was an experience, an education in boxing and in life and without him I would never be the fighter I am now . . . Adam has definitely fine tuned things. It took a long time in the gym because it’s a different technique.
“You can see it in the training I’ve been doing. I’ve become more athletic and I have a lot more tools to deal with things. Boxing is all that I wanted to do and boxing was all that I saw myself doing.”
Lee is the classic upright Kronk -style boxer, technically strong and sound from distance. But Booth has him more squat and put strength into his legs. With the coach Lee has developed his power and for a tall middleweight can deal better now with working on the inside.
Korobov, a two-time amateur world champion in 2007 and 2005, where he defeated the late Darren Sutherland in a third round bout, was unbeaten in 24 professional fights before Lee’s stunning right.
“When you look at the calibre of Korobov and the situation I think I showed some character of how I can box,” he says. “I handled the situation and the opponent very well. I definitely see it as a challenge to go from an amateur style to win a world title. Also what we were working on and how I boxed to the game plan against him . . .I’d definitely say it was my best.”
On Saturday Peter Quillin, a New York resident and the former WBO champion, hopes to win back his belt. Last September Quillin, due to boxing politics, vacated his 160 pound title instead of facing Korobov, who was the mandatory challenger.
His record of 31 fights, no defeats and 22 knockouts is similar to that of Lee, who has lost twice in a 34-2 career, 24 of those wins by KO.
“He’s the best possible opponent I could have got, who was available,” says Lee. “It’s a serious fight and in reality it’s a 50-50 fight but beating him is going to take me to the next level of boxing stardom. It makes me a household name and it makes me one of the elite fighters in the world so…
“It’s calculated. But I believe I have the beating of him. If I can implement the plan and box to my ability I will beat him. This will be my fourth fight whereas he hasn’t fought for 12 months previously. The activity will be a key factor.
“That’s three fights that I’ve had, three training camps that I’ve had and all the preparation. I think that’s an advantage for me. Other than that we’re evenly matched. Our records are not too dissimilar. I’ve two losses but I’ve had a lot more fights.”
The faith is restored. Many more than Lee now believe in him. This weekend New York holds a new future.
Lee v Quillin is live on BoxNation (Sky 437/490HD, Virgin 546 & TalkTalk
Peter Quillin (born June 22, 1983 (age 31) in Chicago, Illinois)
Nickname: Kid Chocolate
Height: 6 ft 1 in (185 cm)
Reach: 73 in (185 cm)
Nationality: Cuban, American
Total fights: 31
Wins by KO: 22
Andy Lee (Born: 11 June 1984 (age 30) Bow, London, England, UK)
Height: 6 ft 2 in (1.88 m)
Reach: 75 in (191 cm)
Total fights: 36
Wins by KO: 24