Sporting Advent Calendar #21: Andy Lee’s world title dream finally comes true
Johnny Watterson on the Vegas fight that saw the Limerick middleweight silence the doubters
Andy Lee (left) throws a left at Matvey Korobov during their WBO middleweight title fight at The Chelsea at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas in Las Vegas, Nevada. Photograph: David Becker/Getty Images
Andy Lee (right) throws a right at Matvey Korobov during their fight for a vacant WBO middleweight title at The Chelsea at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas on December 13, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Lee won by a TKO in the sixth round. Photograph: David Becker/Getty Images
Referee Kenny Bayless (centre) leads Matvey Korobov away as he stops the fight following a barrage of blows from Andy Lee (right). Photograph: David Becker/Getty Images
WBO champion Andy Lee poses for a photograph with his new WBO middleweight belt outside City Hall in Limerick City. Photograph: Cathal Noonan / Inpho
WBO champion Andy Lee greets supporters outside City Hall in Limerick. Photograph: Cathal Noonan / Inpho
It came by stealth in the middle of the night. One of those occasions that the country woke up to rather than witnessed, Andy Lee and his quest for a world title that had been going on for 10 years finally ended its journey in the Chelsea Arena of the Cosmopolitan Hotel in Las Vegas.
As soon as it came to an end another one instantly began. Thomond Park next year has been sketched in for the new WBO champion’s second act.
But in Vegas, few had given the Irish middleweight much of a chance against the twice amateur world champion Matvey Korobov. The Russian had accounted for most of his previous opponents with impatient ease, 14 of his 24 wins ending before the final bell.
Lee started the fight by keeping Korobov at a distance, using his jab and picking his shots. While there wasn’t much to split them, Korobov was edging the rounds and went ahead on the judge’s scorecards.
But in round six Lee stepped up and countered Korobov with a ferocious right hook which clearly stunned him. Whether it was lack of experience or the violence of the punch, the Russian tried to stay standing. He didn’t do any one of a number of things that might have slowed Lee’s momentum.
He didn’t go down on his knee and take a count. He didn’t wrap Lee up so he couldn’t hit him gain. He didn’t spit out his gum shield to buy a few precious seconds.
He continued to fight but the Irish southpaw’s shot had done the damage and, sensing that this was the sweetest opportunity to come his way in a decade, he moved in and swarmed all over his opponent.
He landed a barrage of heavy punches, 18 unanswered in total, to invite referee Kenny Bayless to stop the fight at 1.10 into the round.
When Steward passed away in 2012, Lee relocated to London and teamed up with another world-class trainer and manager in Adam Booth. Over the past two years, Booth has made fine adjustments both mentally and physically.
That paid off in the early hours of a Saturday morning in December, when the 30-year-old from Limerick added his name to the world middleweight championship list alongside Marvin Hagler and Sugar Ray Robinson.