By Keith Idec
NEW YORK — Emanuel Steward wants Andy Lee to challenge Sergio Martinez in the fight after Lee’s rematch against Brian Vera on Saturday night in Atlantic City.
The Irish middleweight contender obviously has to overcome Vera before he could earn consideration as Martinez’s next opponent. But Steward is just as sure that’ll happen as he is certain Lee (26-1, 19 KOs) is a legitimate threat to Martinez (47-2-2, 26 KOs), who’ll encounter England’s Darren Barker (23-0, 14 KOs) after the Lee-Vera fight Saturday night.
“He’s got close to 30 fights, so he’s a veteran fighter now,” said Steward, who has trained Lee throughout his five-year pro career. “He’s not going to get much better, so we definitely want to fight Martinez. I think Sergio is a phenomenal fighter, and I enjoy fighting the best. I don’t get a challenge out of fighting second-class fighters. He’s the best, so we would like to fight him.”
The 27-year-old Lee is 11-0, including seven knockouts, since Vera stopped him in the seventh round of a March 2008 fight Lee was winning on all three scorecards. Steward acknowledged that Lee must beat Vera convincingly to generate interest in a bout between Lee and Martinez, but Steward is proud of Lee’s improvement in the 3½ years since he suffered his lone professional defeat.
“I think that [Lee has] got a good chance with anyone, because no one is going to out-box him,” Steward said of the 6-foot-2 southpaw. “I’ve seen him with enough boxers. Maybe he’d have problems with a physical brawler, but that’s not Sergio. But Sergio is, by far, the best out there, a phenomenal fighter. I love to watch him fight.”
Keith Idec covers boxing for The Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, NJ., and BoxingScene.com.