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Andy Lee takes on KeAndrae Leatherwood on March 18

Andy Lee

By Jeff Aranow: After more than a year since his last fight, former WBO middleweight champion Andy Lee (34-3-1, 24 KOs) will be back inside the ring against KeAndrae Leatherwood (19-3-1, 12 KOs) on March 18 on HBO PPV from Madison Square Garden in New York. Lee lost his title in his last fight to Billy Joe Saunders in December 2015.

Lee would have won the fight if he wasn’t knocked down twice by Saunders early in the contest. The 32-year-old Lee has had plenty of time to rest and recover from the loss to Saunders. Having an entire year off from boxing might help restore Lee’s energy and help him find new success.

However, Lee’s problems in his losses to Saunders, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and Brian Vera were more tied to a combination of his chin, poor stamina and bad judgment. Lee could have won all of those fights if he’d focused on staying on the outside and boxing them rather than choosing to slug. His late trainer Emanuel Steward tried to convince Lee that he needed to stop punching with Chavez Jr. in his knockout loss in 2012, but he failed to listen to him. In Lee’s loss to Saunders, he made the same mistake by electing to slug with him early in the fight, which caused him to get knocked down twice in round 3.

There’s very little chance that Lee will tire out against Leatherwood on March 18, because their fight is only scheduled for eight rounds. In the past, Lee hasn’t started to fade in his fights until the 7th and 8th. If Lee fades against Leatherwood late in the fight, it probably won’t matter because he’ll have built up a large lead in the early rounds. Lee is on another level than Leatherwood in the talent, pedigree an experience department.

The Lee-Leatherwood fight is scheduled for the undercard of the Gennady Golovkin vs. Daniel Jacobs fight on HBO PPV. However, the Lee vs. Leatherwood fight won’t be on the televised portion of the Golovkin-Jacobs card on HBO. It’ll be on “freeview”, according to Dan Rafael.
For a lot of the boxing fans that show up to see the Golovkin-Jacobs card live at Madison Square Garden, they’ll be happy to see the 6’2” Lee fighting, even though he’s not facing a big named opponent in a competitive fight.

The fans will still be eager to see Lee, because it’s been a long time since he last fought. Lee last fought in the U.S two years ago in his 12 round draw against Peter Quillin in April 2015 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.

“I’m very pleased to be making my return on such a big event,” said Lee to “Thank you to K2 Promotions, [promoters] Lou DiBella and Adam Booth for this opportunity. After taking a year out, I’m back. I feel refreshed and hungrier than ever.”

Lee is hoping to get a title shot against the winner of the Golovkin vs. Jacobs. I’d say the chances of that happening are not too good, although you never know. It would be up to Golovkin’s promoter Tom Loeffler of K2 Promotions if he wants to match him against a fighter not ranked in the top 15 like Lee. With Lee’s inactivity for over a year, he lost his ranking with the sanctioning bodies. It probably wasn’t the smartest thing for Lee to stay inactive for over a year. Boxers have short careers in the sport, and the last thing you want to see them doing is giving up a year just because they want to rest after a loss. Lee didn’t take a lot of punishment in his defeat at the hands of Saunders. The only round where Lee was hit a lot was in the 3rd.

“My goal is to eventually challenge the winner of GGG and Jacobs,” said Lee. “March 18 will be the first step on that journey. I’m also very happy to be fighting in Madison Square Garden again, the scene of some of my greatest victories. I’m sure the Irish boxing fans will turn out and I look forward to putting on a world-class performance.”

Lee was able to come back to score knockouts in fights against Matt Korobov and John Jackson after trailing early in those fights. Lee also rallied to get a draw against Peter Quillin after being knocked down twice by him. It’s unclear what it is with Lee with him getting knocked down early in his fights. He seems to start slowly in his fights, and he ends up falling behind badly to where he needs to rally hard to get back into the fight.

Against Chavez Jr, Lee simply didn’t have the size to compete with him with the way he was fighting. Chavez Jr. had the weight advantage in their fight in 2012, and he was taking the fight to the inside. It was clear to a lot of boxing fans that Lee needed to box Chavez Jr., but he failed to do so. That was the problem.

Lee tried to slug with the bigger guy and ended up getting knocked out. Lee also fought with his back against the ropes, which is not a smart thing to do when you’re fighting someone with a big weight advantage the way Chavez Jr. had against him.

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