Andy Lee’s bid to win the WBC world middleweight at the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas, on Saturday night ended in disappointment when he lost to Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr. by TKO in the seventh round.
"I have no excuses, my punches had no effect on him. My punches have hurt a lot of people, but he was able to take them," said Lee (28-2, 20 KOs).
Lee was ahead on all three of the judges’ scorecards at the time of the stoppage, but his decision to mix it up with the champion instead of sticking to his game plan of boxing from the outside contributed significantly to his downfall.
Lee entered the arena looking extremely calm and focused. Though the Irish fans among the 13,467 people in attendance were few and far between, they were making their voices heard.
In the first few rounds Lee took the home crowd right out of the fight by using his jab to great effect. The challenger also refused to be drawn into exchanges, countered-punched well, and moved out of danger when Chavez came looking for him.
In rounds three and four, the fighter in Lee took over, and he started to trade on the inside with Chavez. Though he was more than holding his own, Lee’s punches were having no effect on Chavez, while it was apparent that the punches of Chavez, especially his left hook to the body, were impacting the Irishman.
At the end of the fourth stanza the two stood toe-to-toe exchanging brutal shots, and Chavez hurt Lee just as the bell rang.
In the fifth Chavez sensed the shift in momentum, dropped his guard and taunted Lee to hit him. The 28-year-old Irishman duly obliged, but again his combinations didn’t make a dent in the champion’s armor.
As the fight wore on, Chavez was beginning to connect more frequently, and Lee’s insistence on staying in the pocket put him right in the line of fire. Lee fought well enough in the sixth round to win it on two of the three judges’ scorecards. However, he looked swollen and battered as he made his way back to the corner when the bell rang.
Though he was having a very hard time of it in the ring, judges Jesse Reyes, John Keane and Rey Danseco all had the Irishman 58-56 ahead on paper as the pair went into round seven.
Midway through the stanza, Chavez caught Lee in the neutral corner and landed another left hook to the body. Seeing the Limerick man was winded, he threw a barrage of punches and connected with a huge right and a right uppercut that had Lee bent over. As Chavez landed more blows to Lee’s head, referee Laurence Cole jumped between the fighters and called a halt to proceedings.
"Julio fought a smart fight. He is very strong. He passed the test," said Lee’s trainer Emanuel Steward in the ring after the fight. "We told Andy to box Chavez, but he tried to slug it with him. You saw what happened."
After the fight, Chavez (46-0-1, 32 KOs) revealed he had some issues with leg cramps that caused him problems during the fight and prevented him from getting an earlier knockout. The 26-year-old added he spent the early part of the fight studying his opponent, and when the opportunity came, he "dove in."
“Andy fought well when he fought from a distance, and I had him up 4-2 like all the judges did,” said Lee’s promoter Lou DiBella afterwards.
“But I’ve always said this, and I said this before the fight, sometimes Andy’s problem is that his heart overcomes his brain and he wants to stand there and trade, and he traded with a much bigger and stronger guy. Andy’s punches didn’t seem to be able to get his kid. He landed some flush punches that Chavez simply didn’t move back.
“Andy won the first half of the fight, and then he just got knocked out.”
DiBella went on to say that there were still plenty of good fights available for Lee in the 160 pound division, but that the 28-year-old needed to go and have a good break before any discussions of future assignments would take place.