Emanuel Steward is confident that middleweight Andy Lee (17-1, 13kos) will be back in action in New York City this June. The 24-year-old is currently in Limerick but is due to return to Detroit next week to begin preparation for a summer fight in the city.
The 2004 Olympian has had problems for over a year with a cut to his right eye, and the lesion opened up again in the first round of his last fight against Alex Sipos in Dublin on March 21.
However, Steward, who is both trainer and manager to Lee, believes that the eye will heal properly this time out.
“The doctor thinks it is healing for the first time. When it was cut over a year ago (in the Feb 2008 fight against Alejandro Falliga in Limerick) the doctor that stitched it up didn’t really clean the coagulants out of it,” said the Hall of Fame trainer.
“After the last fight here, I myself cleaned it before the doctor stitched it up, and the doctor thinks that it is healing for the first time. We’ll take another look at it when he gets back next week.”
Steward is confident that a six-week healing period should suffice, and is eager that Lee has his next fight in the Big Apple.
“We are looking for a June fight. One place we are dying to fight more than anyplace else is New York. We are very upset with how the last situation came down,” continued Steward.
“We passed up three very big fights because of the situation in New York. We want to develop his base in New York as most of his fanbase is in New York.”
The “situation” Steward is referring to is the Erin go Brawl II card that was cancelled by Irish Ropes Promotions because of poor ticket sales.
Steward did not mince his words when it came to addressing the cancellation of Erin Go Brawl II on March 16.
“I feel very strongly about it. I don’t think that mentally or financially they were able to deal with the promotion because they were so engulfed with the lawsuit or pending litigation they have with John Duddy.
“And then also the bad press, whether it was true or not. These are very proud people and it was really affecting their relationship with the Irish community and causing a lot of embarrassment, concern and emotion.
“And that is why we would not fight the guy that they tried to have us fight first (Walid Smichet) because it was a way to embarrass John Duddy. And because we are very close with John and we are very close to the McLoughlins and we didn’t want to get involved in their war, whatever it was.”
Steward went on to say that they agreed to the fight, came to New York for a press conference, did everything that was asked of them and were waiting for the call to come to New York when he received a call from Chicago telling him the promotion was cancelled.
Steward called Jim Borzell for confirmation but the Irish Ropes matchmaker could not talk at the time, and it was Eddie Mcloughlin who called back later to confirm the cancellation.
“They are good people and I have no hostilities towards them,” said Steward, who also expressed concern over the lack of mainstream advertising for the event. “I was very hurt by the way they did it, without even telling us, we found out on our own.”
After the cancellation of Erin go Brawl II, Lee was added to the undercard of the Bernard Dunne world title fight on March 21 and defeated Alex Sipos on points over ten hard rounds, a tough fight exacerbated by the opening of the cut on the right eye midway through the first.
Steward revealed that while Lee was doing some boxing early in preparation for the fight the troublesome cut on the right eye opened slightly, and that changed the whole game plan.
“It was a very painful fight for us because he was so concerned about the cut that he didn’t even spar. I have never had a fighter who took a ten round fight not having done any sparring. Then in the very first round the cut was wide open so he had to go through nine rounds with it.”
However Steward is convinced that coming through the fight against such an awkward high-handed walk-you-down style fighter will stand to Lee.
The Kronk gym supremo is hoping that he and Lou Dibella can put something together for Lee in the summer.
“We are trying to work with Lou DiBella to put on a show in New York. Lou has always had a fondness for Andy Lee since he first came to Detroit and was boxing with Jermain Taylor,” said Steward. “He has always been supportive of Andy and we are looking at him becoming our New York-based promoter.”
Steward believes that outside of Kelly Pavlik and despite his loss, Andy Lee is a big name in the middleweight division. Paul Williams, who impressed Steward in his win over Winky Wright at middleweight over the weekend, has not decided where his future lies yet and the likes of Joe Greene, Jermain Taylor and even John Duddy have either moved or are about to move to weight divisions above or below the 160 lb limit.
Steward and Lee have a plan for 2009, so all fights will be against capable adversaries. “If you look at it you’ll notice Andy has never fought too many bums. He wants to fight for the title at the end of the year so he needs two or three fights against quality opponents.”
In other news,WBA super bantamweight champion Bernard Dunne was named boxer of the month for March by the World Boxing Association.
James Moore (16-2, 10kos) will make his return to the ring on May 8 against Joseph De Los Santos (4-3-3) on a Bob Duffy promoted card at Plattduetsche Park Restaurant, Franklin Square Long Island. The Wicklow native has been keeping in shape since his defeat to Yuri Foreman in December and will fight the Dominican in an eight-round contest. For more information, visit www.ringpromotions.com
Finally, Galway-born John O’Donnell (21-1) won the Commonwealth welterweight title at the weekend when he defeated Craig Watson (13-2) by split decision.