Andy Lee: Pursuing a European Title
By Dan Fitz-Simons: On May 15th Andy Lee 20-1 (14KOs) will take on Mamadou (“Dou-Dou”) Thiam in his fourth professional bout in Limerick, Ireland. Thiam was born in Senegal but fights out of France with a record of 46-8 (43 KOs). He has 54 professional fights under his belt and several credible opponents on his resume including: Felix Trinidad, Sebastien Demers, and Sergiy Dzinziruk. Even more troubling for Lee is the fact that Dou-Dou has a 79.63% knockout rate. Thiam can bang, and if Andy zigs when he should have zagged, Dou-Dou will be in his face making him pay, possibly with a knockout. Team Lee will have to draw up a carefully prepared strategy to defeat the seasoned Senegalese warrior.
A number of troubling issues also surfaced during Lee’s last bout against Affif Belghcham, including his stamina. Andy appeared to run out of gas and was wobbled in the last round. He later said he had trouble focusing, but the fact that his handlers hired Mark Stallman, a strength and conditioning expert, supports the view that there was indeed a stamina problem. It’s possible that both the stamina and focus issues were tied to the absence of Manny Steward in Lee’s corner. Rumors had it that Steward and Lee had a spat. Andy then left the Kronk Gym in Detroit to train in New York under Manny’s assistant, Joey Gamache. However, the word now is that Manny and Andy have patched up the rift.
Lee has an impressive KO record of his own, taking out two thirds of his opponents. The “Limerick Assassin” has a devastating overhand left when he chooses to use it. A southpaw, Lee could also present problems to the orthodox Thiam. While Dou-Dou has been KO’d seven times, Andy suffered only one TKO against Brian Vera. Thiam is also giving up thirteen years to the younger (25-year old) Lee. In addition, crowd support for the Shannonsider will be overwhelming in his native Limerick. Although statistics don’t tell the whole story, Lee is listed by the WBA at #12 and Boxrec at #20 in the 160-pound division. Thiam is ranked much lower at #149, around the level of Eric Mitchell and Dionisio Miranda.
Lee will probably turn up to fight in tip-top shape as a result of Stallman’s conditioning. The extra training regimen might also explain his unusual five and a half month lay-off. Defensively, Andy will have to keep Thiam from pressuring him on the inside, where he has had consistent problems. Expect Lee to fight on the outside, wearing down the older Dou-Dou with hooks to the body. Andy’s psychological confidence will also improve if Steward is in his corner. Thiam is made to order to refine Lee’s skills and teach him new techniques. The contest could serve as valuable tune-up for Andy before he steps up to fight for the European middleweight title.
Lee’s ultimate objective is to win the European belt, and if possible, fight for the championship in Limerick. Irish promoter Brian Peters would be only too happy to accommodate the Castleconnell man’s goal. Lee previously defeated the current European title holder, Darren Barker, 22-0 (14KOs) as an amateur. Andy also recalls that he had a broken hand when he beat “Dazzling Darren.” Lee and Barker both have recent wins over Belghcham, but the tough Algerian gave each of them a run for their money. For now however, Andy has to focus on Thiam, a dangerous veteran who can drop an opponent with either hand. Look for fireworks at the Limerick University Arena on May 15th.
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