Andy Lee Makes a Statement

By Dan Fitz-Simons: Last Saturday night, Andy Lee now 27-1 (19KOs), avenged the only loss of his career by defeating Brian Vera. Lee's strategy of outboxing the shorter Vera and avoiding a toe-toe slugfest paid off. But the Limerick Assassin's most impressive development was his improved defense.

Lee was able to pick off his opponent's punches and tie him up on the inside. Instead of backing straight out with no head movement, Lee repeatedly grabbed Vera, and turned him off balance. The maneuver constantly blocked the Texan's momentum and set him up for counter-punches. Lee's ring generalship and foot work were also excellent, and he checked his own tendency to back into the ropes whenever Vera charged in.

Lee was also the faster, more accurate puncher all night. His power, which was never an issue, enabled him to drop Brian twice. As Larry Merchant said, what the fans saw was a systematic break down of Vera over ten rounds. By fighting tall on the outside, Lee could throw long range shots without being vulnerable. He was content to box, allowing Brian to advance within range and then pepper him with a variety of punches. In the middle rounds, Manny Steward told Andy to start throwing body shots. The Irishman's diverse arsenal also included right jabs, hooks, overhand lefts, and upper cuts thrown from the outside. Lee put on an impressive show of technical skills, which he and Steward developed after Andy's only loss to Vera in 2008.

During the past year Lee fought two seasoned warriors, Craig McEwan and Alex Bunema, which kept him sharp while honing his skills. Regular sparring sessions with his heavyweight stablemateVlad Klitchko at Kronk, also contributed to the Shannonsider's defense and stamina. With Steward physically present in his corner, Andy stayed focused and fought consistently, as opposed to fighting only in spots. In addition, Lee's victory over the only opponent to defeat him will give him psychological confidence, and put to rest concerns about a weak chin, poor stamina, and his ability to mix it up on the inside. Although Lee did tire in the 9th round, most fighters would also be exhausted after battling that long against a tough journeyman like Vera.

So far, Lee's stand-up European style hasn't proven as flawed as many fight aficianados have argued, and Steward hasn't bothered to change it. Even more importantly, Lee finally “looked good” on national TV. Unfortunately he began to resemble Marco Huck, who fights often and wins, but looks terrible in the process. However, after the Vera match, that image has markedly changed. Lee has shown he's an exciting contender, as well as a valuable HBO commodity. Nevertheless, he still needs two or three more fights before a world title bout.

Manny Steward's best strategy might be to keep Andy busy fighting tune-ups against some decent opponents like: Anthony Fitzgerald in Ireland (the homeboy factor), Ronald Hearns (a recognizable U.S. name on HBO), or Julio Caesar Chavez Jr. (for an alphabet title). Come what may, Andy Lee at 27 has plenty of time to prepare for a world title shot in 2012.

Article posted on 05.10.2011

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