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Is Andy Lee Championship Material?

Andy LeeBy Sean McDaniel: After watching middleweight Andy Lee (17-1, 13 KOs)n struggle last Saturday night in winning a 10-round decision over German Alexander Sipos (19-6-2, 9 KOs) at The O2 Arena, in Dublin, Ireland, I’m now seriously questioning whether Lee, 24, has what it takes to become a world champion at middleweight. Lee, who’s trained by legendary trainer Emanuel Steward, was s hurt twice in the fight against the journeyman Sipos, and faded badly in the last two rounds of the 10-round bout.

Lee dominated most of the fight, standing tall in his usual ramrod straight up European style and peppering a seemingly overmatched Sipos with jabs, right hooks and straight left hands. However, a minute into the fight, Sipos began to land tremendous right hand shots to the head of Andy Lee, one of them opened up a cut on the right side of Lee’s eye.

This was the exact place where Lee had been cut in his last fight against Willie Gibbs eight months ago in July 2008. Lee ended up winning the fight by a 10th round TKO, but the cut made it necessary for Lee to stay in active for all these months until last week. Sipos would later land several other nice shots before the 1st round ended.

Lee would go on and dominate the next seven rounds fairly easy, using his jab and right hook to do most of the damage. For his part, Sipos, 34, tired out almost immediately after the 2nd round and was looking spent going into the 9th, pushing his punches and missing a lot.

Except for a few big right hand shots in the 5th, Sipos did little until the last two rounds of the fight. In the meantime, Lee knocked Sipos down with a hard right hand near the end of the 6th. The knockdown occurred when a tired looking Sipos clumsily charged Lee while Andy was positioned in the corner.

Lee ducked a wild right hand from Sipos and then nailed him with perhaps the hardest punch of the fight, a short right hand that crashed into the side of Sipos’ face, making a loud noise and knocking him to the canvas. Sipos got up, looking okay, and the round ended immediately.

Everything was going good for Lee until the 9th, when he began to look tired, his legs looking as if they were rubbery and barely able to carry him. Indeed, he seemed unable to bend them at all and stood straight up like a tall stork, trying to throw power shots without the ability to get his legs and body into the shots.

Sipos, however, was now fresh and went in for the kill, hurting Lee a minute into the fight with a right-left combination that snapped Lee’s head back as the shots landed. Lee would try to fight back, but he looked too tired and weak to compete with the fresher, more powerful Sipos, who pelted him with shots until the end of the round.

In the 10th, Lee tried to come out fast and make up for the previous round. However, Sipos again rocked him with a big right hand, a beautiful uppercut that almost knocked Lee’s head from shoulders. Again, Lee tried to fight back and did land some nice shots.

But, Sipos savagely attacked him with huge shots for the remainder of the round, landing to the head with most of them and snapping Lee’s head back over and over again on his slender neck. It was quite sad, really, because Lee was getting battered by a journeyman fighter, and not a champion. There could be no excuses this time.

Like his fight with Vera, a contestant from the reality television show called The Contender, who was more of a club tough B-level fighter in my estimation than a top tier fighter. Yet, he was able to overpower Lee much in the same way that Sipos was doing in the last two rounds of the fight.

Unfortunately for Sipos, he started too late in his surge for the win, because if he had started perhaps a round earlier, say the 8th, he would have likely taken Lee out.

If this was a one-time occasion, perhaps it would be excusable for Lee. However, he was hurt by big right hands from Brian Vera in the 7th round and ended up being stopped in the same round a year ago on March 21st, 2008.

After that loss, Lee made the excuse that he fought the wrong type of fight against Vera, that he didn’t give him enough respect for his power. That sounded logical and I figured that Lee would fix his mistakes and work his way into a title shot soon after.

After all, Steward was predicting back then that Lee would be a champion within a year and that Lee could beat Kelly Pavlik, the WBC/WBO middleweight champion. Looking back at that now, it makes one wonder what was Steward thinking of when he said that.

Sure, Lee had been impressive in winning his first 15 fights under Steward’s tutelage, but, come on, Lee hadn’t fought anyone good enough to get a good measure of how talented he really was. Until he fought Vera, basically none of the names on Lee’s record were recognizable to most hardcore boxing fans, much less casual fans of the sport.

I think Steward needs to think hard about whether Lee has what it takes to become a world champion, because I frankly don’t it happening. Maybe if Lee had come along a few years ago, he might have been able to win a world title in the middleweight division during a weak point in the division.

However, based on his last three fights, I can’t see Lee ever beating the likes of Kelly Pavlik, Felix Sturm, or Arthur Abraham. At 24, perhaps Lee can wait them out, hang around for another eight years until Sturm and Abraham are out of the sport or have moved into a higher weight class.

Abraham is already talking about that, but I still can’t see Lee beating most of the other top 10 middleweights in the division, either. Lee doesn’t have the build to move up to the super middleweight division, because he doesn’t look like he has the right physique for that weight class.


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