Lee shakes off ring rust and targets Triple G title shot
Stablemate and former opponent Billy Joe Saunders could delay Andy Lee's hopes of booking a world-title clash against Gennady Golovkin.
Limerick middleweight Lee, the former WBO world champion, returned to action over the weekend as he claimed an eight-round unanimous points decision over Alabama's KeAndrae Leatherwood at Madison Square Garden's main arena on Saturday night.
The bout was Lee's first since the loss of his WBO title to England's Saunders in Manchester in December 2015. Saunders has subsequently linked up with trainer Adam Booth and trains alongside Lee at their coach's Surrey gym.
Featuring on the undercard of world middleweight champion Golovkin's points victory over Daniel Jacobs, Lee recorded a no-nonsense 80-72, 78-74 and 79-73 victory against the evasive 28-year-old Leatherwood (19-4-1).
The 32-year-old, whose record is now 35-3-1, admitted that is was a slightly underwhelming performance, but Lee was happy to shake off some ring rust as he looks to chase a title shot against the dangerous 'Triple G' Golovkin.
"In an ideal world, I'll win the world title again… so that's what I am out to do, but we'll see," said Lee on his ambitions for the final fights of his career. "I'd like to fight Triple G of course, he's the best, I want to fight him.
"I'll give it another year [or] 18 months. We'll see…. One more run at the title…. Three fights, four fights."
The possibility of Lee getting a shot at Golovkin, who put Jacobs down in the fourth round of a tightly contested main event, is complicated by the number of options the champion can pursue.
While Lee's performance against the cagey Leatherwood was far from sensational, he remains a realistic potential opponent for Golovkin.
The pair had previously agreed to fight prior to the death of the Kazakh's father that lead to a planned 2014 bout being cancelled. However, Saunders now appears to be the most likely candidate to get a shot at the true middleweight champion.
However, a fight against Mexican Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez also remains a distinct possibility for Golovkin.
"I'm ready for the fight if it ever came my way," said Lee. "I know you wouldn't believe it on that performance [against Leatherwood], but I know I'm ready and it's about levels and the competition you're in with… so we'll see.
"I think he has a million opportunities and options in terms of Canelo and Billy Joe Saunders but I'm there or thereabouts and ready to fight him whenever the call comes."
Trainer Booth appeared to suggest that a fight date between Saunders and Golovkin could soon be made. "There is no bigger mountain than Golovkin. If they sign that [a Golovkin-Saunders deal] for all the marbles, I'll just bury my head in it and look forward to enjoying it," said Booth.
But the trainer also insisted that Lee is willing and able for a fight against the 34-year-old Kazakh "He [Lee] will fight anyone and it's actually the more danger he has in front of him, the harder he seems to punch. We just have to wait and see what happens," said Booth.
The former world champion was clearly pleased to be back in the ring as time ticks away on his pro career.
"Yeah, this whole week's been brilliant. I've enjoyed every bit of it... this whole week kind of went perfect," added Lee following his fourth victory at the Garden.
For now, Lee will look forward to the birth of his first child this summer before a return to full-time training and a likely September fight date.
"It hasn't been a distraction at all," Lee said on the news that he is a father-to-be. "It's been a pleasant feeling in the back of my mind, but it is in the back of my mind and now that the fight is out of the way I'll look forward to that now."