Middleweight Andy Lee (27-1, 19 KOs) is being strongly linked to fight WBC champion Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr. (45-0-1, 31 KOs). The Limerick native, who plans to fight in Detroit on March 10, was previously associated to a fight with Felix Sturm in April, but Sebastian Zbik got that assignment.
“There were talks and it was down to me and Zbik,” Lee told the Irish Voice on Sunday.
“I always felt that he (Sturm) wanted to fight Zbik as he is not a big puncher and he is German-based, so it was an easier fight to make.”
However, it seems as that door closes a new one may open. Lee’s trainer, Emanuel Steward called the Chavez Jr./Marco Antonio Rubio fight for HBO on Saturday night. Chavez, Jr. won the fight by unanimous decision and now his promoter, Top Rank, is touting Lee as their fighter’s next foe.
“Emanuel spoke to Bob Arum (CEO of Top Rank) after the fight and said that they are very interested,” confirmed Lee.
The 27-year-old went on to say that the same fight has been pitched to HBO before, but Top Rank declined at the time and Rubio got the shot.
It would seem that Top Rank now feels that Chavez Jr. is ready to take on the Irishman and HBO are reportedly interested in this match-up.
"Arum has already been in touch with @HBOboxing to say he'd like to next make Chavez-@AndyLeeBoxing. HBO loves it. Helluva fight," tweeted ESPN's Dan Rafael after the Rubio fight on Saturday night.
Lee has always said he wants to challenge for a world title in 2012 and would relish an opportunity to fight Chavez, Jr.
“I think he is improving all the time, he is showing a lot of things,” he said. “I believe I am a better quality fighter, with my height and reach I could hold him off and I could box him.”
Lee knew that he would have had to travel to Germany had the Sturm fight materialized, and though he would love to have a Chavez, Jr. fight in New York, he accepts that he may have to travel to a fight location that would capitalize on Chavez, Jr.’s massive Mexican following.
“Sometimes you are going to have to take a chance,” he said.
Lee was very frustrated to pull out of the undercard on March 17 at Madison Square Garden, but he did so because he felt he was ready for a big fight.
“I have been in line for one world title fight and now I am in line for another one,” he said. “If I get this fight with Chavez then I will look back and say it was the right decision.”
While Lee’s team will further explore this fight in the coming days, the fighter is likely to lace up again on March 10 in Detroit.
Lee told the Irish Voice that he has been training hard since his return to the U.S. after his Christmas break. He will headline a card and fight a 10-rounder at the CoBo center against a yet-to-be confirmed opponent.
Lee has been sparring with Ronald Hearns and Adonis Stevenson in preparation for this stay-busy fight. If a deal can be reached with Chavez and his people, it could be a tune-up for a title tilt.
In other news, junior middleweight Kevin Rooney, Jr. (3-1,) beat Stanley Harvey (1-2) by unanimous decision at the Times Union Center in Albany on Saturday night. The judges gave the 27-year-old a shut out win in the four-round contest, with all three scoring the bout 40-36.
“The fight went well. The kid was very, very tough. I was surprised at some of the punches he took. He was bloodied and battered, but he hung on tough," Rooney told the Irish Voice on Monday.
"It was a good performance, my father (trainer Kevin Rooney, Sr.) was very happy. The fans loved it, and I got the needed rounds. I was able to work on things in there, and I really stuck to the game plan."
Rooney emerged unscathed and will now prepare to fight on the undercard of the Macklin/Martinez fight on St. Patrick's Day in Madison Square Garden.
"I will be back in the gym on Wednesday to start preparing for the 17th. I am really looking forward to getting right back in there, and having the opportunity to fight in what is going to be such a great event."