Andy Lee: The Road to Redemption

By David Matthew on October 3, 2011
Andy Lee: The Road to Redemption
Emanuel Steward has been as high on Lee as he has been on any fighter under his wing

“The importance of this win was immeasurable,” Lee said. “It had been years coming. If not for tonight, I would’ve been haunted forever…”

“Let your f#ckin’ hands go Andy for Christ’s sake! There’s no tomorrow!”

These words were exclaimed emphatically from the crowd at Foxwoods in Mashantucket, Connecticut earlier this year as a faithful band of supporters were urging on “Irish” Andy Lee (27-1 19 KOs) who was in the fight of his life against Scotsman Craig McEwan. Lee was trailing throughout the fight and there was a sense in the early and mid-rounds that we were witnessing the sharp decline of a career that once had glimmering hopes of excellence and championship-caliber ambition. Then, in the blink of an eye, Lee landed a straight left hand in the ninth round that sent McEwan to the canvas—and suddenly there was an optimistic burst of energy in the ring and arena. As the 10th and final round began, Andy Lee had a stalking posture as he pressured McEwan, blasting him with right hooks and straight left hands. With less than two minutes left in the fight, Lee landed a vicious left hand, ending the fight and saving his career in as dramatic of a fashion as one could imagine. 

Lee—who hails from Limerick, Ireland—was once a must-watch blue chip prospect clad in the classic colorful garb of the legendary Kronk gym in Detroit, Michigan. In fact, after a 2004 Olympic run which saw Lee top hard-punching Alfredo Angulo, trainer Emanuel Steward put up $200,000 to buy Lee out of his managerial contract at the time. Lee emigrated to Detroit under Steward’s tutelage and has lived and trained with Steward for the past seven years. Steward has been as high on Lee as he has been on any fighter under his wing—an impressive appraisal when you consider that Steward has trained the likes of Tommy Hearns, Lennox Lewis, and Wladimir Klitschko.

Enter Brian Vera.

After reeling off scores of impressive victories, including successive knockouts that had opponents literally out cold on their feet from Lee’s offensive arsenal, Lee was prime and poised as he made his debut on ESPN against hard-punching Texan Brian Vera in 2008.  While Lee got off to a quick start by knocking down Vera early in the fight, Vera was rallying and Lee appeared to have punched himself out by the middle rounds.  As the seventh round commenced, Lee and Vera engaged in a slugfest that saw both fighters wobbly and unsteady on their feet. After a vicious exchange in which both men landed big bombs, referee Tony Chiarantano called a halt to the action, crediting Vera with a TKO stoppage victory. The stoppage was controversial as Lee was literally throwing a punch back at Vera at the exact moment Chiarantano stepped in. Lee was certainly reeling from the punishment he had absorbed from brawling Brian Vera—but Vera was equally unsteady on his feet at the time of stoppage. Nonetheless, this haunting 2008 loss was very damaging to Lee’s career.

While a loss of this sort can create irrevocable effects on a top prospect, Lee was determined to avenge this sole blemish on his boxing dossier. When I ran into Lee on the elevator at Foxwoods just prior to his fight against McEwan this past March, I wished him luck, explaining that “we (the boxing world) would love to see a rematch with Vera. You deserve it after the controversial stoppage.” Lee nodded, winked, and said, “We’re working on it.” It’s not often that top fighters will grant a rematch to a lesser opponent who got the better of them. Amir Khan still hasn’t granted a rematch to Breidis Prescott, the Columbian gunslinger who knocked Khan out in the first round in 2008 in a dramatic upset—and doesn’t appear interested in ever doing so. While some fighters do not feel the need to avenge losses, Lee felt it was inescapable. Publicly admitting that the loss has haunted him for years, Lee took the rematch with Vera despite his promoter Lou DiBella advising against it. 

As the crowd packed into Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City this past Saturday night, Andy Lee appeared more focused than ever. In an impressive display of technical boxing, Lee corrected all the errors in his first fight with Vera, outclassing him with a supreme mastery of distance, superior footwork, and a relentless application of competent combinations that tattooed Vera’s face throughout the fight. Working behind his wiry 6’2” frame, Lee attacked from long-distance, peppering Vera with timely jabs and check hooks throughout the fight. At many points in the fight, Lee seemed as if he couldn’t miss with his patented right-left combinations. One saw Vera crash to the canvas after a knockdown in round two, and another counter right hook saw Vera stumble as his glove touched the canvas, although the usually reliable referee Steve Smoger missed it. After earning a decisive points victory, Lee explained the significance of this fight: “The importance of this win was immeasurable,” he said. “It had been years coming. If not for tonight, I would’ve been haunted forever.”

Now fully matured, tested and redeemed, Lee is as good as he’s ever been. With the victory over Vera he has positioned himself as a championship contender set to challenge the top of the middleweight division. “I’ll fight anyone,” Lee said. “But no middleweight wants to fight me.” 

Andy Lee is a boxing lifer who has dedicated his life to the sport since childhood, has risked it all to move to Detroit and be the best he can be under Manny Steward, and has risen to the top of the middleweight division the hard way: first by blasting his way to blue-chip status, then falling unexpectedly to an underdog rival, before finally building his way back up to top-contender status along the tumultuous road to redemption. Lee has mentioned that he wants to fight Sergio “Maravilla” Martinez next—and after Martinez knocked out Darren Barker in Atlantic City.  While many experts would undoubtedly predict the supremely gifted and elusive Martinez to dominate Lee, Lee’s length, size, and emerging technical prowess may certainly present a viable challenge to the middleweight king. One thing is for sure:  win, lose, or draw, Andy Lee will give his all-out best effort, and will, as always, give the fans their money’s worth.

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Andy Lee | Alfredo Angulo (a) 1/2

Andy Lee | Alfredo Angulo (a) 2/2

Andy Lee V Brian Vera - Part 1

Andy Lee V Brian Vera - Part 2

Andy Lee V Brian Vera - Part 3

Andy Lee V Brian Vera - Part 4

Boxer Andy Lee training with Joey Gamache

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  1. ERNESTO 05:03am, 06/24/2012

    Lee for sure is not a first class boxer

  2. Helen Seubert 03:45pm, 10/04/2011

    Hi cousin—well, your mama’s cousin.  I want to send this to my sisters and bros but I would like to know how you got into the fight reporting buiness?  I’d love to hear from you.  Thanks, dear.
    Cuz Helen

  3. David Matthew 02:34pm, 10/03/2011

    Thanks Thresher.

  4. The Thresher 12:58pm, 10/03/2011

    Great stuff!!!

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