Andy Lee's (19-1) preparations for his fight against France's Affif Belghecham (19-3-1) on November 14 at the University Arena in Limerick are going to plan in New York.
Lee, who normally prepares for fights in Detroit, is readying himself in the Big Apple this time out as trainer/manager Emanuel Steward will be working the Manny Pacquiao/Miguel Cotto fight ringside for HBO in Las Vegas on November 14.
Consequently, the Limerick native is training with Kronk assistant trainer Joey Gamache and Jevon Hill in the city, and they will accompany him to Ireland for this fight and man his corner in the University Sports Arena on the night. IrishCentral caught up with Lee on Tuesday to see how preparations were unfolding.
“I’ve been training for this fight in Fight House on 27th Street, and I’ve been to the Bronx for sparring but mostly been working out of there,” said Lee.
“I have done pretty much the same things I have been doing if I was in Detroit. People were asking if there would be a lot of distractions in New York, but it depends on the person, and I have been disciplined and not hanging out in places. It has worked out well. It is nice to be here in New York, I am close to home and there are a few people here that I know.”
Lee has been working with local fighters and had two sparring days left as of Tuesday. Since he is fighting a leftie, all sparring has been with southpaws and Lee is happy with how the ring work has gone thus far.
Lee has worked with Jose Rodriguez and Victor Paz, among others, to prep for next week’s assignment. Though Steward is in Detroit, the two are in constant communication.
“I have been speaking on the phone to him and keeping him updated and everything. When we are in Detroit, Jevon and Jay would handle most of the training anyway. Emanuel would come into the gym and watch the sparring and that, but we are keeping him updated and training is going well.”
Lee will leave for Shannon on Friday night and be in his hometown for the weekend. In previous fights in Limerick, Lee stayed in Adare and trained out of Rathkeale Boxing Club, but this time out, with the extra promotional duties, he will stay in the city and work out of St. Francis boxing club, where he honed his skills growing up.
Lee will need to be well prepared as his opponent, Affif Belghecham, is no soft touch. “I am expecting a hard fight; it is a risky enough fight. I had better be on my best to beat him,” says Lee.
Lee will enjoy a height advantage in the ring, and it is something he hopes to take advantage of.
“I will try to make it as easy as possible by using my reach and using my strengths. He likes to come forward with his hands tight and press you down, so I hope to keep him at bay with a good stiff jab and look to counterpunch and slide around to the angles when he comes in,” said Lee.
The 25-year-old will fight in his hometown against the French and European Union champion in a battle of the southpaws, and it is a chance for Lee, should he win, to continue his move up the world rankings.
“Two of the world champions are from Europe, so it is good to be ranked in Europe. This guy is highly ranked so if I can beat him it will be a good step forward. It’s good to remind people what you can do. This guy is ranked above me so if I can beat him it will be a small statement. It is a significant enough fight, it will be a real test.”
The fight, which is being aired live on RTE, will give Lee a chance to step back into the limelight at home as he tries to end the year on a high after three solids wins.
“If I can go out and impress and look good it will be a nice way to finish up the year and set me up nicely for next year,” he says.
Soccer fans will also be catered for in Limerick on November 14 as the first leg of the World Cup playoff will be screened live in the University Sport Arena.
"Hopefully it will be just like that Saturday back in March when Ireland won the Grand Slam and Bernard won the world title. I don’t think anyone who was at the O2 will ever forget that night, so hopefully Andy and the Irish team can make it another night to remember on the 14th,” said promoter Brian Peters.
In other news, Paul McCloskey (19-0, 9 KOs) has had a late change of opponent for his European light welterweight title at the Meadowbank Sports Arena in Magherafelt in Derry this Friday night.
Souleymane M’Baye (38-3-1, 21 KOs) had to pull out due to injury and Daniel Rasilla (15-2) will take his place. The Spanish champion has been to Ireland to fight before when he lost to Andy Murray for the same title in Dublin on March 21.
Barry McGuigan protégé, super bantamweight Carl Frampton (2-0), will also be in action in Magherafelt.
Heavyweights Martin Rogan (12-1) and Sam Sexton (12-1) will settle their differences on Friday night in Belfast in a rematch of their May fight, which Sexton won in a controversial manner.
Meanwhile, Irish American light heavyweight Joe Smith opened his career as a professional with a TKO round one victory over David Brown at Mohegan Sun in Connecticut on Saturday night.
Finally, European middleweight champion Matthew Macklin is due to hold a press conference in Croke Park Wednesday to announce his next fight in Dublin in December.