Light middleweight Andy Lee (32-2, 22 KOs) will fight John Jackson (18-1, 15 KOs) for the vacant NABF light middleweight title at Madison Square Garden this Saturday night. The fight is scheduled for 10 rounds and will feature on the HBO PPV televised undercard of the middleweight fight between Miguel Cotto and Sergio Martinez.
The Irish Voice caught up with Lee, who now works out of the Boxing Booth Gym in London under the tutelage of Adam Booth. The fighter is relishing the chance to fight on such a big stage, and this will be the second time he will fight in the main arena of the Garden, his first coming back in November 2006 when he defeated Dennis Sharpe on the undercard of the heavyweight clash between Wladimir Klitschko and Calvin Brock.
"This is the biggest stage against a very good opponent, and I think after all the fights I've had, I need this type of occasion to bring the best out of me. It makes me have to raise my game,” Lee said.
“I'm feeling very positive going into the fight. All the work is done, now it's time to put it to use."
This is Lee’s biggest assignment since his unsuccessful world title tilt against then WBC middleweight champion Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. in June 2012. After that loss and the death of death of his longtime trainer and mentor, Emanuel Steward, Lee relocated to London to work with Booth.
Since moving to the other side of the pond, Lee has said that he has worked a lot more on head movement and getting comfortable with boxing at close range and against the rope.
"Training has gone really well. I just finished 12 rounds of pads, my last hard session before the fight. I'm looking forward to getting into New York and enjoying the fight week build up," added Lee, who arrived in the city on Tuesday.
"It's been a hard eight-week camp, I've sparred plenty of rounds with three different good fighters: Chris Keane, Miles Shinkwin and a young pro from Kazakhstan called Arthur Hermann."
This weekend's fight is the Limerick native’s second as a light middleweight. Lee was last in action on April 12 when he won a majority decision over Frank Haroche Horta (34-12-5, 13 KOs) in Esbjerg, Denmark.
For such a tall fighter moving down a weight division seemed an ambitious move, given the effort and strain it takes to make weight for a fight, but Lee is happy with the transition and contends he is as powerful as he was when he was in the middleweight division.
"I took a week off after my fight with Horta, so my fitness has carried through to this camp. I'm feeling good at the weight. I'm making it with the same effort that I used to make 160 pounds. The only difference is my diet is completely clean,” said Lee, who turns 30 on June 11.
Lee will need to be on top form for this assignment, as his opponent will be extremely motivated for this fight. Jackson, 25, hails from Saint Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. His father, Julian, is a former three-time world champion who had heavy hands.
Jackson Jr., with 15 knockouts in his 18 wins, seems to have inherited that power. He is on a five-fight winning streak, and his only loss came in September 2012 when he dropped a unanimous decision to Willie Nelson. Tickets for the fight are available at ticketmaster.com.
In other news, Dublin lightweight Jamie Kavanagh (16-1-1, 7 KOs) will fight Michael Clark (44-10-1, 18 KOs) at the House of Blues in Boston on Thursday in a contest scheduled for eight rounds. The 24-year-old’s fight will be televised on Fox Sports 1, with coverage starting at 8 p.m. EST.
Kavanagh told the Irish Voice on Monday that his camp went well with trainer Joel Diaz in Indio, CA and the pair worked on defense and closing the distance between the opponent.
“He (Clark) has a lot of experience. I’ve been sparring all different people: Jose Roman, Fernando Carcamo and a bunch of other people,” Kavanagh said.
Kavanagh was last in action at the same venue on St. Patrick’s night when he defeated Andres Navarro (9-5-1, 6 KOs) by unanimous decision. This fight has a weight limit of 136 pounds.
Cork middleweight Gary "Spike" O'Sullivan. (16-1, 10 KOs) will fight Jose Medina (18-14-1) in a six-round fight on the same card.