By Matt Richardson
Much has changed for middleweight Andy Lee in the last 24 months.
Just two years ago the Irish boxer was fighting on HBO, in the main event, for a middleweight title. In his corner: the incomparable Emmanuel Steward.
Flash forward to this June and the 28-year-old Lee is currently training in London for a non-title, junior middleweight fight without Steward.
It’s been a rocky road for Lee (32-2, 22 KO’s) since June 16, 2012. He lost that night in a competitive affair against Julio Cesar Chavez. Four months later, Steward, his long time friend, mentor and trainer passed away. Without his friend and trainer and with a fresh title loss on his record, Lee said he reconsidered where he was and where he wanted to be moving forward.
As such, he moved overseas, set himself up with a new trainer (former David Haye trainer Adam Booth) and slowly went back to reapplying himself to the sport.
“This will be my fourth fight with Adam,” Lee told Boxingscene ahead of his June 7 fight against John Jackson on the televised portion of the Sergio Martinez-Miguel Cotto under card. “It’s going very well. He’s a very, very good trainer and I’m very lucky and happy to be here with him and training with him and learning from him. We get along well outside the ring on a personal level as well as I always have. So I’m very much enjoying myself in and out of the ring with him.”
Since the loss in 2012, Lee has won four fights in a row and in addition to regaining some focus and self-esteem, has also begun transforming himself into a junior middleweight. It was something, Lee said, he was originally unsure about.
“Well over a year now, Adam was saying to me ‘You know Andy, I really think you should fight at 154.’ But because I had been at middleweight my whole career I never really considered it or took it seriously. But Adam is very involved; Adam’s very scientific with what he does. There’s always a reason behind everything. In the gym we measure body fat quite regularly. I was walking into the gym around 170, 169 and my body fat would be quite high. And that was the basis for why he was saying I could make 154,” Lee explained.
“About three or four months ago, he said ‘Look Andy, just try to follow clean eating, not a diet, just follow the guidelines eating wise. Clean up your eating and we’ll see if it remains the same and we’ll just see where your weight goes.’ After a while it started coming down, coming down and making 154 became a reality. So that’s where I’m at. My last fight was at 155. This fight will be at 154. I felt strong, I felt faster than I ever have. So it’s a good move. I’m tall for middleweight anyway, strong at middleweight so hopefully that will carry down with me and be a good move for me.”
The fight against Jackson, the son of the former champion, will provide a solid litmus test for where Lee currently stands in his career. As such, Lee said he is well prepared. “He’s a good fighter. He knows how to box and he knows how to fight,” Lee stated.
“He’s very hungry; he’s going to want to win obviously,” said Lee. “He’s got that one loss to Willie Nelson but it was a very close fight that could’ve went either way. If he wants to box, I can box better than him. When he wants to fight, I can fight better than him. But I expect a hard fight. I know he’s not going to go quietly. It’s going to be a hard fight and I just have to deal with whatever he brings. He’s a good fighter, there’s no doubt about it. And his dad was a great fighter. It’s obviously in his family, he’s grown up with it, so I know I’m in for a tough fight.”
With a win, Lee could put himself right back in the mix in two weight classes (he was originally scheduled to face WBA middleweight title-holder Gennady Golovkin in April before the fight was cancelled).
“I plan on staying at 154,” stated Lee, “but if the right fight came at middleweight, I’d go back up to middleweight. It’s only a six pounds difference so it’s not a big jump. I’m ranked number six in the WBC at junior middleweight. This fight is an eliminator so I’ll be in line for a title fight. So after this fight, if it’s not the next fight, then the fight after that, before the end of the year, I’d like to be fighting for the world title.”
While Lee came up short once before for a championship with Steward in his corner, he believes his former friend would approve of the move down in weight.
“I think he would think it’s a good move, actually,” he said. “All of his fighters were big and tough for the weight. Tommy Hearns was a welterweight and he was six foot two. I think Emmanuel would approve of me going down. Of course, I think about him all of the time. He was a major part of my life. About 10 years I stuck with him. We were very close personally and professionally and I miss him every day. But, you know, life goes on. I’m sure he would be happy with me now if he knew where I was and how I was training. I know he’s looking down on me.”
“I’m just looking forward to fighting in Madison Square Garden again,” Lee continued.
“Since the loss to Chavez, I’ve been away. It was deliberate to come here and train with Adam. I went on the road and won smaller fights purposely just to learn my trade and grasp what Adam’s been trying to teach me and to show me. And I believe I’ve done that now and now it’s time to get back on the big stage, back at Madison Square Garden. I’m going to put on a great show there for everybody and make myself relevant again in the world of boxing.”
Matt Richardson covers boxing in New York. He is the secretary for the Boxing Writers Association of America, a voter for the International Boxing Hall of Fame and a former writer for Fox News. Follow him on Twitter: @MRichardson713 or e-mail him at [email protected]