Lee vs. Martinez at the Garden on March 12th?

By Dan Fitz-Simons: Last weekend, while fans were bemoaning the cancellation of the Klitchko-Chisora bout, Manny Steward was quietly negotiating with Lou DiBella, the manager of Sergio Martinez. Their phone conversation concerned the prospect of a world title fight at Madison Square Garden in 2011 for Andy Lee, whose bout against Daniel Urbanski had also been cancelled. Steward, Andy’s manager-trainer, was considering a title shot for Lee 24-1-0 (18KOs) as early as March 12th..

Lee, who has accumulated 9 wins since his only defeat to Bryan Vera in 2008, was slated to fight a revenge match against Vera, who handed the Castleconnell man his only loss in 25 professional fights. However, the match against Vera, planned for early February, should still not be ruled out, particularly if the Martinez bout falls through. It’s also possible the Limerick Assassin could opt to fight Vera as a tune-up for a championship bout against Martinez a month later.

Lee is currently ranked # 4 by the EBU, # 8 by the WBA, and # 15 by the WBC. He has a reputation as a solid boxer-puncher, which he earned by stopping 18 opponents with both hands. He is also a stronger and faster fighter since his loss to Vera. Lately, the Shannonsider has been perfecting his right hook to the body, which he throws with deadly accuracy. Steward favors tall fighters, and at 6′ 2”, Andy is no exception. He has a stand-up European style, and Manny trains him to fight tall.

Nevertheless Andy, like any contender, has his faults. For one thing, his body and head movments are lacking, which as a southpaw, could make him suseptable to overhand rights. Like other Kronk fighters, Lee hasn’t been adaquately trained to hold an opponent in a clinch after being stunned. Moreover, he is not comfortable against aggressive opponents. Andy’s ability to fight on the inside still has to be tested, especially after his lackluster performance against Belghecham.

So the question remains, is he is ready to take on Martinez? Andy enjoys fighting and has had 4 bouts in the past year, so he’ll be sharp. However, his last 3 opponents were less than B-level journeymen. No wonder then, that some can’t help wondering if a title shot against Martinez, one of boxing’s most skilled technicians, is wise. Still, this is boxing, and Lee stands a puncher’s chance. Moreover, Sergio at 36 would be giving away 10 years, although he looked anything but slow against Paul Williams.

A more prudent course for Lee, before stepping up to Martinez, would be to first fight ranked, big draw opponents including: Vera, Duddy, Chavez Jr., or Macklin. With the additional experience, he could then target Sturm or Sylvester for an alphabet title. But after 25 fights, Andy may not want to be prudent. This is his big, and maybe only chance for a world title, and he might want to take it, win or lose. Whatever happens, 2011 will be Andy Lee’s decisive year.

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