By Mitch Abramson
Joey Gamache, the eternally youthful-looking, former lightweight champion, will be in Andy Lee’s corner on Saturday, assisting Emanuel Steward, when he faces Brian Vera in Atlantic City in their rematch on HBO. Gamache, who used to work full-time for Steward at his Kronk gym in Detroit before moving back to New York, believes Lee will avenge the only loss of his career against Vera and get a step closer to a title shot in the middleweight division.
“It’s déjà vu but the only thing is that it’s a different Andy Lee,” Gamache said from the Mendez Boxing Gym in Manhattan, where he’s currently based. “He knows Brian Vera better now and it’s a must-win, and I feel that he will win. He’s a smarter fighter. He just has to have the discipline and the character to stick to the game plan.”
The first time they fought, in March of 2008, Lee was lured into a slugfest with the rugged Vera, who punished Lee until the fight was stopped in the seventh round with Lee still throwing punches even in retreat. This time, 11 wins later, Gamache expects a different Lee on Saturday and a different outcome.
“He’s more mature,” Gamache continued. “He’s got the experience he didn’t have back then. We were on a big roll back then and maybe you can take things for granted a little bit and Brian Vera stood up to him.”
Gamache described the fight being a must-win for both fighters with the winner presumably getting a title fight.
“This is the moment of truth for both guys,” Gamache said.
Even though he’s admittedly biased, Gamache thinks that Lee is going to be too much and too smart for Vera the second time.
“I think Andy’s going to out-box him and I would say he’s going to win a decision,” Gamache said. “Brian Vera has a good chin; he’s a dangerous guy and you have to admire the fact that Andy is fighting him again even though he really doesn’t have to. For the people he feels he has to clear his name, but he could have jumped into a title fight [without facing Vera].”
Gamache doesn’t expect Lee to engage into a slugfest with Vera, who won a split decision against Sergio Mora in February. Gamache wants Lee to fight a smart, controlled, tactical fight.
“He has to get his respect,” Gamache said of Lee, “but he also has to pace himself. That’s how I see it, and not let Vera control the tempo of the fight.”
Another one of Gamache’s fighters, the undefeated Boyd Melson (5-0) will be fighting on the undercard on Saturday against Russ Niggemyer at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City in a junior middleweight bout.
“We’re excited about that,” Gamache said of Melson. “He’s a solid 154-pound fighter. He’s got a real good background, graduated from West Point, got his MBA, all types of credentials, but the bottom line is that he can fight. He’s physically strong and he’s improving every day.”
As for Gamache’s son, Steven, an undefeated junior middleweight based out of New York City, Joey expects his return to the ring to come in late October when he will try to up his record to 3-0.
Mitch Abramson covers boxing for the New York Daily News and BoxingScene.com.