Is Andy Lee Ready for Sergio Martinez?

By John G. Thompson: This past weekend Andy Lee (27-1, 19 KO's) and Ring Magazine Middleweight Champion Sergio Gabriel Martinez (48-2-2, 27 KO's) fought on the same night at the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Lee earned a lopsided decision in his rematch with Brian Vera, the only man to beat him, derailing Lee’s title ambitions back in 2008. Lee had been looking for a title shot before the upset loss, and has now won twelve straight (seven by knockout) since then and earned his spot as a top ten middleweight. Martinez knocked out his opponent, Darren Barker, in the eleventh round. Though he did not have one of his best performances, Martinez stopped a talented undefeated fighter (his second in a row) and positioned himself as the premier middleweight in the sport.

Lee’s evolution from brawler to boxer under the tutelage of famed trainer Emanuel Steward was on full display Saturday night. Lee showed patience and restraint, working behind the jab and a tight defensive guard. He made a mistake in his previous bout with Vera, electing to trade with a slugger, and wound up paying the price via seventh round stoppage. Vera connected to the head numerous times with a loaded right hand the southpaw Lee had no answer for. In the rematch Lee held his left hand high throughout the evening, guarding against that particular punch. Furthermore, Lee showed a new level of maturity in not looking for the knockout against Vera.

Unfortunately for Lee, Martinez presents a style and skill set that might exploit some of Lee’s weaknesses. Martinez is an extraordinary counter puncher, and if someone on Vera’s level could counter punch Lee into a stoppage, someone with Martinez’s speed and accuracy could make short work of him. In his rematch with Paul Williams, a Martinez counter punch knocked Williams unconscious before he hit the canvas.

Against previously undefeated Serhiy Dzinziruk, Martinez connected numerous times with punches Dzinziruk never saw coming, sending him to the canvas five times before the stoppage. Martinez himself was only stopped once, eleven years ago, by Antonio Margarito, and the referee had stepped in while Martinez was still on his feet. And while Martinez struggled a bit with Barker, it was due to Barker’s excellent defensive skills and economical punch output; basically Barker did not throw enough punches to give Martinez openings.

Personally, I’d first like to see how Lee fairs against some of the other top ten middleweights, like Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. or Marco Antonio Rubio before he takes on someone like Martinez. A win over the rugged Rubio, who is on a nine fight winning streak (eight by stoppage), would add legitimacy to Lee’s top challenger status. A win over Chavez would give him both a belt and give the Irishman some “street cred” with the Mexican fan base. A bout with the once-beaten Australian IBF Champ Daniel Geale would be another option.

As for Martinez, he should be going after either Dmitry Pirog, the undefeated WBO middleweight champ from Russia, or find a way to lure the WBA champ Felix Sturm into a match. I say “lure,” because though Sturm could be considered the linear middleweight champ due to his long title reign (with only a couple short gaps, he’s held one title or another for about eight years), except that he will not leave his native Germany to fight the other champions in his division. In fairness to Sturm, the one and only time he did fight in America he was robbed of a decision against Oscar De La Hoya. Evidently, the matchmakers did not want to see their big money fight between De La Hoya and Bernard Hopkins go up in smoke, and found a way to get De La Hoya a close but unanimous decision, even though Sturm’s jab popped De La Hoya’s head back all night. It seems doubtful Sturm will leave his homeland at this stage of his career, and it would be unwise for
Martinez to fight Sturm in Germany (Germany may be the one place with a worse reputation for bad decisions than America), so this fight may never happen.

Of course Martinez would like nothing more than a mega fight with either of the two biggest names in the sport – Manny Pacquiao or Floyd Mayweather, Jr., but they both probably view him as too high a risk for the reward. Matthew Macklin, a fighter from the UK who recently lost a controversial decision to Sturm in Germany, may also be a possibility for Martinez or Lee. Macklin and Martinez share a promoter in Lou DiBella and there is some chatter about Macklin either fighting for the title against Martinez or facing “Irish” Andy Lee in a title eliminator on St. Patrick’s Day.

Has Andy Lee earned himself a shot at a title? Yes. Is Andy Lee ready for Sergio Martinez? Probably not yet. Should Lee and Martinez eventually face one another, the edge would have to go to the
legitimate middleweight champion Sergio Martinez. His speed, power, accuracy and counter punching prowess would probably earn him a unanimous decision if not a knockout. Agree or disagree? Let’s hear it.

Article posted on 05.10.2011

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