Lee Stops Gibbs, Fails To Impress
By Nate Anderson: Making his first appearance after a crushing defeat to Brian Vera four months earlier, middleweight Andy Lee (16-1, 13 KOs) took out Willie Gibbs (20-4, 16 KOs) in the 10th round at the University Arena, in Limerick, Ireland. Lee looked a lot improved since his last fight, keeping both his hands up most of the time to protect his chin, moving more often and mixing it up much less often than in his last fight with Vera. In the 10th round, with Gibbs attacking him fiercely and landing big right hands, Lee suddenly dropped Gibbs with a right-left combination to the head.
Gibbs got up, staggering visibly, and attempted to fight on. Almost immediately, Gibbs retreated along the ropes, or rather he slid along the ropes as if they were greased with oil. In reality, his legs were completely gone and he could barely stand up. Lee calmly went after him and drilled him with four consecutive straight left hands to the head, further staggering Gibbs, and causing his corner to throw in the towel, which landed around Gibbs’ head, obscuring his vision briefly while being attacked by Lee.
Lee must have been studying a lot of old films of Tommy Hearns recently, because he held used his lead right hand to measure Gibbs constantly during the bout, using it both as a measuring tool to set up straight left hands and also to keep Gibbs from getting in close to land his own shots. At that, Lee was only partially successful, because he still took some heavy shots when Gibbs would make a strong effort to land anything. Luckily for Lee, Gibbs only rarely attacked him with any kind of determination, which allowed Lee to do pretty much what he wanted with him for the entire fight.
Unlike many of his other fights, Lee seldom threw his jab, one of his best weapons in his arsenal, and mainly used it as a range finder during the bout. Occasionally, he would land it hard, especially while backing up under attack, but more often than not, he’d paw with it similar to the way that heavyweight Wladimir Klitschko sometimes does early in his bouts. When Lee would throw it, he’d use it more as a tool to keep Gibbs at a distance, just barely making contact with him as if to push him away, not letting him get close so he could land his big right hand.
Instead of being the one that comes forward, Lee was more than happy to let Gibbs do the attacking in the early rounds of the fight. Lee would back up, shoot jabs and straight lefts out as Gibbs would come forward, catching him perfectly most of the time before he could get in punching distance. As I mentioned already, Lee held out his right lead hand way out in front of him almost like a Russian fighter using the classic fighting stance, but in this case, Lee had it almost straight out in front of him in a straight line.
Gibbs, for some reason, didn’t seem to have the presence of mind to knock it down, and come underneath with a right hand. Perhaps Gibbs had never fought an opponent that held their lead arm out in front of them for the entire fight like Lee did, and didn’t know how to defeat this odd defensive tactic, but as Sugar Ray Leonard showed against Tommy Hearns, it’s easy to get around an opponent that uses this style of fighting.
Gibbs finally seemed to get his courage about him in the 3rd round, charging through Lee’s outstretched lead arm to land some big right hand shots. This seemed to fluster Lee, who appeared to lose his senses and start firing off shots in all directions as if his punch radar had gone bad. Gibbs continued to land big right hands in the round, one of which cut Lee badly over his right eye.
Near the end of the round, Lee finally got his wits about him and started fighting more under control again, using his jab to keep Gibbs at a distance. However, it was like watching a flashback to Lee’s fight with Vera, in that he Lee didn’t seem to handle well the slight amount of pressure that Gibbs had put on him during the round.
Lee did well in the fourth, only taking a few big right hands from Gibbs, while continually measuring him with his right hand and feeding him lefts. In the 5th round, Lee went all out landing a flurry of shots in what appeared to be an attempt to score a knockout. However, Lee’s form degraded while throwing many of these punches which prevented him from getting as much on them as he needed to succeed at knocking him out.
Later in the rounds, when Lee slowed down somewhat, he landed some excellent single left hand shots, one of which knocked Gibbs off balance and almost knocking him to the canvas. For his part, Gibbs hardly laid a glove on Lee, as he was more intent on trying to survive all the incoming shots that were bombarding him.
In rounds six, seven and eight, Lee went back to measuring Gibbs, pawing with his jab and firing off left hands. It was pretty one-sided during these rounds, as Gibbs really wasn’t putting forth much of an effort to get in punching range. He would try and times, take a few shots, then think better of it and go back to the outside where he had less to worry about.
By the 8th round, Lee’s right eye began to worsen, bleeding all over the place. Gibbs still wasn’t hitting much, but it matter, though, because Lee’s skin seemed to not be able to hold up no matter how seldom he was hit. Lee did get tagged with several big right hands near the end of the 8th round, but he took them well.
Lee dominated the 9th round, hitting Gibbs with left hands, jabs and hooks. Gibbs, though, landed a couple of big rights to the head of Lee near the end of the round.
In the 10th round, Lee moved around a lot, clinching often and trying to play it safe to run out the clock. Gibbs had other ideas, however, and immediately began clocking Lee with big right hands, one after another, and opening up a big cut on the forehead of Lee, which left him looking like a bloody mess. It looked to have been caused by a right hand from Gibbs, who was really teeing-off on Lee, despite the fact that Lee was running for his life. Later on, the two would clash heads when Gibbs ran into Lee while trying to catch up to him. For this, Gibbs received a warning from the referee.
Seconds later, Lee landed right-left combination as Gibbs was charging forward, hurting Gibbs and dropping him to the canvas. After he staggered to his feet, I expected the fight to be stopped, because he looked out of it. However, the referee wasn’t about to cheat the large Irish crowd, who wanted to see their hero Lee score a knockout, so the fight was allowed to continue. Lee then fired off a flurry of left hands, snapping Gibbs’ head back, staggering him and having him on the verge of going down again. At this point, Gibbs’ corner threw in the towel.
Lee, though getting the win, looked as if he had gone through a war, his face a bloody mess and looking more than a little tired. He didn’t look good in absorbing the small amount of big shots that he was hit with by Gibbs, and also looked uncomfortable to the extreme in the few times that he was pressured hard in the fight by Gibbs. In a way, Lee reminded me much of how Wladimir Klitschko, another tall, lean fighter, would sometimes wilt under heavy fire from his opponents.
I saw some improvement in Lee, specifically with him now holding his guard higher, refraining from slugging it out as often as he did in the past, but he didn’t improve on his ability to take shots or handle pressure. In that, he looked about the same as he did against Vera. This time, he was lucky that Gibbs wasn’t half the fighter that Vera was, because if he had pressured Lee as much as he had been in his last fight, Gibbs had the power to take him out.
I seriously doubt that Lee will ever be a middleweight champion, because he seems to be missing an ingredient needed to beat the top fighters in the division. I think he’ll do well against the journeyman types like Gibbs, but will be in for a world of hurt when he steps it. He needs to seriously consider moving up in weight to either the super middleweight or light heavyweight division. There’s much less softer opposition in both, especially in the light heavyweight division. I think he could be a champion in that weight class. He certainly looks as good, if not better than Antonio Tarver, the current IBF light heavyweight champion.
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