"Right now my concentration is on Craig McEwan!"
Middleweight Andy Lee is a fighter that makes people excited to talk about, with his punching power, fan friendly style, ever increasing improvement in each bout and easy going demeanor leaves no question on why that is.
So far Lee has done everything right, with the exception of a small stumble in 2008 when he admittedly overlooked Bryan Vera there has been little to make people doubt Lee can make it to the top of his craft.
When you look at those in the corner of Lee, especially Emanuel Steward, it adds to the certainty that when any future problems should arrive the experience is there to help make the adjustments needed before anything could happen to derail Andy’s progress.
Recently Lee was slated to face another popular Irish middleweight John Duddy; fans have talked about a showdown between the two fighters for years now as both men possess the all out offensive attacks that makes for an action packed bout. When Duddy suddenly announced his retirement without notice it not only ended the prospects of such a fan friendly bout but caught everyone, including Lee, by surprise.
Andy, not one to seemingly dwell on things career-wise, immediately did what was best for his progress and continued his plans to fight sooner then later, on March 12th Lee will face another upcoming middleweight the undefeated Craig McEwan at the Foxwoods resort and casino in Mashantucket, Connecticut. A win over McEwan will put Lee in line for one of the middleweight division’s title belts somewhere down the road.
SaddoBoxing was able to speak with Andy, who is currently training in Ireland and preparing to come to the United States to finish his camp. We discussed his progress thus far, the loss to Vera in 2008, his feelings on the Duddy bout not materializing, his maturing as a fighter and of course the upcoming bout with McEwan. Read it here exclusively on SaddoBoxing.
SaddoBoxing: I know you are back Home in Ireland right now and your schedule is busy, but how are things? Are you in preparation for your upcoming March bout with Craig McEwan?
Andy Lee: Yes I have been training, doing cardio, working hard on stamina, I will be going to Florida soon to work on my boxing, getting my sparring in but I am training hard to get ready for the bout.
SB: You are currently ranked 5th by the WBA and 14th by the WBC according to the last ratings released. Over all you are considered a top 20 middleweight worldwide; so far, are you pleased with the way things have been progressing for you?
AL: Yes, it has been a bit slow at times, had a few ups and downs but mostly ups. I had that loss a few years ago that took some time to recover from, not so much as a boxer but in the public eye and ranking wise. When you have 15 fights then suffer a loss like that it raises questions about you.
Since though I have had 9 fights, I have fought in Ireland, the United States and Germany gaining experience, now I am going to face Craig McEwan next, an undefeated fighter, if I am successful it will be a good win and help solidify me, hopefully get me closer to a title shot.
SB: Your lone loss to Bryan Vera in 2008, a fighter you certainly were more skilled than, seemed to change you as a fighter. Prior to that bout you seemed more offensive minded in the ring. In the nine bouts since you have shown improvement and your ability to be a more rounded fighter over all, prior to your bout with Vera you stopped all but two of your opponents.
Were you becoming a bit over confident in your power, causing you to be a bit lax in that bout? A mistake many young fighters with knockout ability have made over the years.
AL: I wasn’t over confident in my power I was more over confident in myself. Up until that fight I had been blasting guys away or winning decisions without being tested. I had a few opponents with experience like Carl Daniels and Jason McKay but overall I was winning easily. I went into the Vera fight thinking I could just unload on him and get him out of there but he was tough and stuck in there.
I made the mistake of punching myself out. Since then though I have worked on those mistakes, working on my stamina, using my ring craft to slow guys down properly because you are not going to get everyone out of there and need to prepare for the distance. I still regret going about that fight the way I did but it might have been the best thing to happen to me experience wise.
SB: You had an extensive amateur career, even representing Ireland in the 2004 Olympic Games. During your time in the Olympics you defeated light middleweight contender Alfredo Angulo but lost to a fellow middleweight Hassan N’Dam N’Jikam, who now holds the WBA interim world middleweight title. Do you ever think about possibly facing him again as a professional?
AL: Funny how that worked out, about 9 or so guys from that division in the 2004 Olympic Games turned professional and have done well for themselves so far. Alfredo Angulo, Jean Pascal, Andre Dirrell are a few names that competed in that weight class so it tells you how much talent was at middleweight for those Olympics.
I always wondered what happened to Hassan then one day I see he is fighting at middleweight doing well for himself, now that he has a title I would like to fight him again, it would be a nice fight. I have no ill feelings toward him about the loss, I am glad he has done so well.
SB: Of course I have to ask about the John Duddy fight not materializing, fans and media alike had been speaking about the match up for a few years now. You are both action fighters and it would have been the first bout between two internationally known Irish middleweights in years. The bout had more fan appeal then many of the world title bouts being made these days. How disappointed were you the bout did not happen?
AL: I was more surprised then anything at his announcing to retire out of the blue like that. It is a fight that would have been good for the fans, there was a bit of excitement here in Ireland about the bout, guys deciding who would come out the winner, some saying Lee will win others choosing Duddy so in that sense it would have been good for our supporters to have the bout happen.
In truth though for me it was just another fight, I respect John and what he said about boxing not being his passion anymore. He said that even training has become a chore so if it is not in his heart then maybe it is good he retired. This is not a sport you can go into halfway, you need to give it your all and be prepared to the fullest. I wish John the best of luck in the future.
SB: As a tall lean fighter with a solid punch and fan friendly style it seems almost befitting that you work with Emanuel Steward, a trainer that over the years has helped fighters with your physical make up excel greatly, such as Thomas Hearns and Milton McCrory both former world champions who are legends of the sport. How much has working with Emanuel helped your career?
AL: I have learned so much really, I live with Manny when I am there training. Every day so many old time fighters are in the gym, I get advice from guys like Milton and Tommy when they stop by, the gym is full of guys with experience for me to learn from. I think it is amazing that I have the opportunity to learn from such people.
SB: After your bout with Craig McEwan in March do you have any other prospective bouts in line or are you just planning things one bout at a time?
AL: Right now I am just concentrating on McEwan. I learned my lesson by looking past an opponent, after the McEwan fight if I win who knows what will open up hopefully it will put me in line for a shot at one of the titles.
SB: A lot of mixed feelings have been given around the sport about the Super Six tournament, some guys liked the idea others just felt because of all the complications it was more trouble than it was worth.
Though Showtime did manage to put on another tournament for the bantamweight division with four fighters rather then six that seems to be working out much better, the middleweight division is spread out with no real dominant champion other then Sergio Martinez and there are plenty of up coming contenders with potential. Would you like to see a tournament with maybe the division’s contenders or maybe just the champions to unify and clear up the division’s confusion?
AL: I thought the Super Six was a great concept, putting the best of the division against the other, the tournament had its problems but we did have some positive results, Andre Ward developed into a superstar overnight, we had some classic bouts like Mikkel Kessler vs. Carl Froch and even Jermain Taylor vs. Arthur Abraham until the ending.
I think it could have been structured better, maybe set up the bouts so they all took place around the same time, a week or so from one another so everyone had the same amount of recovery time. There were too many guys that pulled out for one reason or another that hurt the tournaments credibility but I do think it was a positive thing. Right now like you mentioned other then Sergio Martinez there is no dominate middleweight and a tournament like that would do the division well, maybe the winner fights Martinez? Especially if Martinez moves back down to light middleweight the weight class should have a tournament.
SB: Andy before you go is there anything you would like to say to the supporters out there?
AL: Thanks for the support, I visit the websites and see that people still believe in me and I appreciate that. 2011 is going to be a good year for me, those who have been continuing to support keep doing so and I will prove it was worth it
SB: Andy, thanks for taking the time, it has been a pleasure speaking to you and good luck in March against McEwan.
AL: Thank you.