Andy Lee back in action in Limerick as European title hunt intensifies

World rated Middleweight Andy Lee believes that Limerick could have European Champions in both boxing and rugby to celebrate in 2010. The Limerick southpaw will have his next professional outing in his native city on Saturday, May 15th on the Yanjing Fight Night when he headlines a star studded night of championship boxing at the University Sports Arena in the city. Lee believes that a good win next month should put him in line for a shot at newly crowned European Middleweight Champion Darren Barker and with the Munster rugby team storming in to the Semi Finals of the European Cup at the weekend the 25 year old thinks Limerick could soon be celebrating a European double..

“Hopefully the Munster boys can win the European Cup again next month,” said Lee. “It would be a great lift for the city and I know that if I can get get Darren Barker in the ring with me then the European Middleweight title will be coming back to Limerick as well.”

Lee's opponent for next months fight will be confirmed in the coming days but former amateur rival Barker is another man very much in his sights. The undefeated Barker was crowned European Champion in London at the weekend following a too close for comfort points win over Affif Belghecham, the French man who Lee comfortably outpointed in his last outing in Limerick last November.

Lee watched last weekend's fight from his training base in the U.S. but he saw little to discourage him from seeking out a European title showdown with Barker who picked up the title vacated by Matthew Macklin.

“I'm not going to be disrespectful to Barker, he's a decent guy and he's the new European Champion so full credit to him but I think his fight at the weekend exposed his limitations,” said Lee. “Belghecham is a handful, he's durable and keeps rumbling forward and he had Barker on the run for most of the second half of the fight. I don't think there was much in it after the 12 rounds and I know quite a few people thought Belghecham deserved to win it and the TV commentators only had Barker winning by a single round.”

Lee has every reason to be confident about a fight with Barker, in 2004 the then 19 year old defeated the Londoner on a scoreline of 18 points to 8 at the European Championships in Croatia en route to winning a Bronze medal at that event and securing his place at the Athens Olympics in the process.

“I went in to that fight with a broken right hand,” recalled Lee. “Obviously that didn't help but I still beat him quite comfortably. He's a decent boxer but he didn't really pose any problems for me on that occasion. Obviously the amateurs and the pro's are two different codes but if we were to meet again I've no doubt the result would be the same.”

Although Lee won't be looking beyond May 15th he is hopeful of securing a shot at Barker's title as soon as possible.“Given the fact that I beat Belghecham a lot more comfortably than Barker did I feel I'm deserving of a straight shot at him. I'm sure Brian Peters could bring that fight to Limerick and it would be a huge fight for the city, it could even be staged in Thomond Park but I'd fight Darren in his back garden for that title if needs be. Where ever or when ever we fight I'm confident I'd beat him again.”

For now though Lee is concentrating on next months fight in Limerick and he's looking forward to his fourth professional outing in his native city. “It's always an incredible experience walking to the ring in your hometown,” said Lee. “You recognise so many people in the crowd and it really brings it home to you that you are representing Limerick as much as you are yourself. The support is always incredible and the buzz in the city on the week of a fight when I head home is always great.”

Promoter Brian Peters expects to confirm Lee's opponent in the coming days. “We've been in contact with some good, established names and they have expressed an interest in coming to Limerick for the fight and I know that Andy and his manager Emanuel Steward have been looking at the various options so we should be in a position to lock someone in over the next few days.

The undercard for the Yanjing Fight Night promises fireworks with Irish titles up for grabs for the first time ever in the Treaty City. “We've put together a great undercard for this show,” revealed Peters. “Limerick's own Jamie Power will be taking on Mayo's John Waldron for the Irish Light Heavyweight title and the Cruiserweight title will also be on the line between another Mayo man, Michael Sweeney and the unbeaten Dubliner, Ian Tims.”

They are two great 50 - 50 fights and with so much pride and the Irish titles on the line I've no doubt they will be thrillers.”

Undefeated Cavan star Andy Murray also features in Limerick fresh from his impressive win over Oisin Fagan in the main event on RTÉ's last Pro Box Live show. The 27-year-old lightweight has 18 straight wins to his name in the pro ranks and like Lee is right on the verge of a European title fight.

Recently crowned Irish Heavyweight Champ Coleman Barrett will also be in action. The Galway native has won all but one of his 12 pro fights to date with his only defeat coming to Olympic Gold medallist and new European Champ Audley Harrison in last year's Prizefighter final.

Limerick fight fans will also be excited by the return of Cuban heavyweight phenomenon Mike “The Rebel” Perez to Shannonside. The Cork based southpaw is unbeaten in 8 pro contests and in his last Limerick appearance the former World Junior amateur Champion needed just 41 seconds to chalk up another KO victory.

Perez's compatriot Luis Garcia will also be out to impress. Despite having had just 5 professional fights the 22-year-old Super Middleweight is already ranked in the world's top 50 and has been described by many boxing insiders as a special talent and a future World Champion.

Another intriguing contest on the bill will see Mullingar's Paddy McDonagh taking a major step up in class as he tackles former Irish Champion and Andy Lee opponent Ciaran Healy in just his second pro fight while the Limerick based Galwegian Alan Donnellon make his professional debut in a Light Middleweight contest.

Tickets for the Yanjing Fight Night priced €30, €40, €50, €60, €75 and €100 are available from Ticketmaster (phone 0818 719 300 or visit and all usual outlets.

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Article posted on 12.04.2010

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