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Lee vs. Gibbs On Saturday Night

Andy LeeBy Dan Ambrose: Middleweight prospect Andy Lee (15-1, 12 KOs) hopes to get back on the winning tract tomorrow night against Willie Gibbs (20-3, 16 KOs) in a 10-round bout at the University Arena, in Limerick, Ireland. After being dubbed as the best prospect in the world bar none by his trainer Emanuel Stewart, Lee went out and got taken apart by Brian Vera in a t-round TKO loss at the Mohegan Sun Casino, in Uncasville, Connecticut, in March. Although Lee came close to scoring a 1st round knockout himself, Vera escaped the round, and in the following rounds he would make it a grueling bout for Lee, hurting him often with right hands, and busting up his face something awful.

By the 7th round, Lee looked as bad as Stewart pupil Wladimir Klitschko did when he suddenly wore himself out against Lamon Brewster in Klitschko’s 5th round TKO loss in April 2004. Lee would later point out that he made a major mistake by trying to slug it out with the bigger, stronger Vera, whom he probably could have easily beaten if he had focused on boxing him rather than trying to stand in front of him and trade shot for shot.

In terms of power and speed, Lee was still way ahead of Vera, but the problem for Lee is that he didn’t have the same ability to take shots as Vera did, and hence he fell apart after absorbing a few big shots in every round. The thing of it was, Lee wasn’t really hit all that often by Vera, but the shots that he did get hit with sure did have a big effect on Lee, bruising his face, turning it red and taking the energy out of Lee.

At the time of the stoppage in the 7th round, Lee was still firing back with lethal force, though he was clearly in bad shape from the exhaustion of the pace. His legs were completely gone and we was firing punches standing perfectly straight up, but getting a lot of power on them despite his weakened condition. The referee perhaps would have let the fight go on longer if not for the fact that Lee was getting rocked every time that Vera would land a right hand, causing Lee to stagger slightly.

Even though Vera had been hit with an awful amount of powerful right hooks and left hands in the bout, he looked surprisingly fresh as if the fight were just starting. Indeed, he didn’t look tired in the slightest and appeared to be very motivated with what he was doing to Lee with his big shots. You have to remember, Vera was a tremendous underdog going into the fight, and very few people gave him a chance to beat Lee. In a way, Vera was like an 0-16 team going to Super Bowl and then defeating an undefeated team.

This was his onetime shot and he was going to make the best of it, even if there were never going to be another shot like it again. I think Lee lost tract of the fact that the lower level fighters that he’s going up against aren’t automatically going to fold every time, and some of them, like Vera, are going to fight much over their head and give the performance of their life against him. Going forward, Lee needs to stay focused on trying to selectively use his power, to use it when it’s safe to turn it on and only when there’s no threat of massive retaliation.

If Lee had a great chin and excellent stamina, I’d say it was save for him to trade more with his opponents, but he clearly doesn’t. In his fights before the Vera, most noticeably against Jason McKay in December 2007, Lee took a lot of shots and looked really tired by the time he finally stopped him in the 6th round. I knew then that Lee didn’t have the style, the endurance or the chin to with stand a grueling bout against a tough middleweight like Vera, Jermain Taylor or the least of which against Kelly Pavlik. Lee’s just too susceptible to getting tired and hurt, against the tougher middleweights.

Hopefully, Lee is smart enough not to try and slug it out with Gibbs on Saturday night, because he’s an even better fighter than Vera is, in particular in terms of power. I got a lot of respect for Lee to take on a fighter as dangerous as Gibbs after getting stopped in his last fight against Vera. That shows a lot of courage, and perhaps some needless risk taking on Lee’s part.

Obviously, it seems that he wants to win back some of the respect he lost and is hoping that by fighting a halfway decent opponent like Gibbs, the boxing fans will come back over to his side. It’s probably going to take a lot more than Gibbs to do that, however, but he’s a good start. If at all possible, Lee needs to try and get back in the ring with Vera to show that he’s learned from his past mistakes of the first fight and can easily dominate Vera by boxing him.

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