Boxing: Lee targets home triumph to silence critics
ONE thing Andy Lee needs more than anything else is a win over a world middleweight title contender in the top 10 or even 20, to establish himself on the global stage.
A contract for such a fight would make an ideal birthday present for the classy Limerick southpaw, who turns 26 on June 11, as he watches his former amateur team-mate John Duddy move closer to a world title opportunity.
Even Lee himself admits that his career, which began with much fanfare in Detroit four years ago under one of America's top mentors, Emanuel Stewart, who is still his manager and main trainer, has stalled.
He has not pulled on the gloves in serious combat since he outpointed Affif Belghecham over 10 rounds in his home town last November. Lee won by a wide margin but he had big problems in the last two rounds when the resilient Frenchman's belated swings and hooks had Lee hanging on.
However, he is back in the ring on May 15, and again at the University Sports Arena, when he meets Senegalese puncher Mamadou Thiam, who boxes out of Paris, over 10 rounds. Thiam may be well outside the top 40 in the world rankings, but he's a solid hitter with 46 wins in 54 fights, 43 either of knockouts or stoppages.
In any event, Lee believes the Thiam fight will help silence critics like UK journalist John Dennen, who wrote in the influential 'Boxing News' early this month that since his loss to Brian Vera in 2008: "His career appears to have lost momentum."
"Ok, I've got to make myself a contender," Lee said at his New York base yesterday. "All I need is a good win over Thiam and a couple of good fights against guys in the top 10, even 20. I aim to box regularly. This fight in Limerick is the start and then I'll be busy from then on."
Promoter Brian Peters said last night that a good win in Limerick could put Andy in line for an early shot at Darren Barker for the European title. Billed as 'Dazzling Darren,' the Londoner, unbeaten in 22 fights, won the title vacated by Matthew Macklin by outpointing Lee's last opponent Belghecham two weeks ago.
In their amateur days, Lee beat Barker on a wide 18-8 scoreline on the way to a bronze medal in the European Senior Championships in Croatia six years ago. Lee feels confident he could do it again as a pro.
"I watched the (Belghecham) fight and I saw little to discourage me from seeking his European belt," he said. "I'm not in any way being disrespectful to Barker but I think the fight exposed his limitations. I'll take him on in Limerick or in the UK, wherever. First, though, I've got Thiam on my mind."
THE undercard of the May 15 show in Limerick includes Dubliner Ian Tims meeting Mayo's Michael Sweeney for the vacant cruiserweight title and Mayo contender John Waldron against Limerick's Jamie Power for the lightheavyweight belt, also vacant.
To reader Jonathan Mulrooney of Limerick: Mike McTigue from Clare held the world lightheavyweight title. He was never middleweight or heavyweight champion and is remembered as a tough, classy boxer.