Boxing: Lee hoping history won't repeat itself
Andy Lee has been here before. Almost three years ago to the day, he climbed inside the ropes of a temporary ring in the middle of a Connecticut casino as the star of a fight card on a major US television network.
Seven rounds later, he sat speechless on his stool, steered back to his corner by a referee who had decided he had seen enough. His undefeated record was lost to a Texan of limited ability called Brian Vera, and the entire boxing world had seen it happen. Nine fights and nine victories later, Lee has fought his way back into contention in the middleweight division. Late tonight at the Foxwoods Resort and Casino in Connecticut, the Limerick man will again star on live US television against the undefeated Freddie Roach-trained Scotsman Craig McEwan (19-0, 10 KOs).
A replacement for the retired John Duddy, McEwan was not solely chosen to tenuously justify the title of the St Patrick's week fight (named for the US audience as 'The Celtic War').
In fact, the somewhat panicked negotiations to secure an appropriate opponent for HBO following Duddy's withdrawal may have thrown up something seldom seen in modern boxing -- a fair match-up between two talented contenders.
A southpaw with a style not dissimilar to Lee, McEwan and his camp have been busily informing anyone who will listen that they already have the scalp of Lee's sole conqueror, Vera.
What they have kept to themselves is the Limerick man's victory over McEwan in the amateurs. Lee (24-1, 18 KOs) also possesses considerably more knock-out power -- with four stoppages in his last four fights, albeit against opponents with very little to offer in return.
However, his recent performances have shown a renewed composure in defence and a ruthlessness that has impressed many, including one of the world's foremost promoters, Lou DiBella. Lee signed a deal with DiBella Entertainment last month, a significant move as DiBella promotes the middleweight world champion, Sergio Martinez. Martinez will headline tonight's card against Sergiy Dzinziruk for the WBC championship, and an impressive victory for Lee could make for some easy and lucrative matchmaking for his promoter.
A lot of doubters in the US remain and if history repeats itself in Connecticut tonight, this could be the end of the road for Lee. Don't expect him to make the same mistakes as three years ago.
Andy Lee v Craig McEwan,
Tomorrow, Setanta Ireland, 2.30am