The Return of the Native: Andy Lee and a European Title

By Dan Fitz-Simons – An interesting pattern has developed in the career path of up-and-coming middleweight, Andy Lee (19-1) 14 KOs. Although the Limerick Assassin trains at the Kronk Gym in Detroit, almost half of his twenty professional fights have been in Europe, including five in Ireland, and three in Germany. Andy’s November 14th bout against French middleweight Affif Belghecham (19-3-1) 4KOs, will be his ninth overseas contest, and the third time he has fought in his native Limerick. Lee has a definite psychological edge fighting on his home turf and personally knows many of the spectators..

Manny Stewart is also well aware that his Castleconnel lad can draw large gates in Germany as well as Ireland. It’s no coincidence that Lee had three fights in Germany and is now a known commodity there. Moreover, the middleweight division, with the exception of Pavlik, is dominated by European champions who fight out of Germany, including Felix Sturm and Sebastian Sylvester. Live gates in Europe have surpassed those in the States, and Lee can earn big Euros fighting over the pond. Belghecham is listed just above Lee in European ratings, and a victory over him would boost Andy’s chances for a shot at a European title.

Lee knows he has to take Belghecham seriously. In addition to being French middleweight champion, Affif holds the EBU-EU title, and has never been stopped. However, Belghecham’s record of three losses, one draw, and only four KOs is unimpressive; it’s unlikely he’ll present a challenge to Lee’s chin. In addition, the only rated opponent on Affif’s resume is Francois Bastient, who was also defeated by Sylvester. If Lee defeats Belghecham, his next target could be British middleweight champion, Mathew Macklin. Irish promoter Brian Peters is interested in a Macklin-Lee showdown that could result in a lucrative payday.

But it remains to be seen how Lee does against Belghecham. Andy rebounded from his only defeat against Brian Vera with four straight victories, two by TKO. With 14 KOs, and registered knockdowns in each of his last sixteen fights, it’s clear the Irish southpaw can bang. However, there’s still some concern over his lack of luster; Lee’s performance in his last four fights has been less than spectacular. Questions also remain regarding his stand-up European style, inability to mix it up on the inside, weak right jab, thin legs, and “a tendency to smile.”

Lee’s fans counter that he’s more relaxed now, since the pressure for a no-loss record is gone. Wins are wins, and Andy at 25 has plenty of time to improve. He also has one of the best trainers in boxing and is able to spar with his stable mate, Vladimir Klitchko. If the Shannonsider defeats Belghecham, he can continue fighting in Europe for a title shot. Although it’s still too early for Sturm, a big money earner against Macklin or Sylvester could be in the cards for next year. Keep winning (“and smiling”) Andy.

Article posted on 22.10.2009

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