Middleweight Andy Lee (20-1, 14 KOs) returns to the ring for the first time in six months when he takes on Mamadou Thiam (46-8, 43 KOs) at the University Arena in Limerick this Saturday.
IrishCentral caught up with Lee before he flew home for fight week, and the 25-year-old was happy with his training camp in Tampa, Florida.
“It went well. It was a very good camp, and there was very good sparring with loads of different guys. I got a lot of rounds, so I can’t complain,” said Lee.
The Limerick native has been training in the gym since January and is itching to put all the hard hours of work to the test against Thiam, who promised to knock him out while hyping the fight last week.
“Everything is on course, so fingers crossed that it will keep going after I get home,” Lee said.
“It has been a long time coming. I have been training for a long time. I am glad to be getting back in the ring and getting back to it.”
Lee based his training camp in Tampa as Emanuel Steward was already down there working with Miguel Cotto for his June 5 fight against Yuri Foreman at Yankee Stadium.
Lee confirmed that Steward would be in his corner on fight night, as would assistant trainer Joey Gamache and brother Roger.
“It was good to get back and get familiar on things with him (Steward). It was nice to get away and get focused on boxing,” Lee said.
While down there, Lee did some solid contact work to ready himself for the battle against Thiam.
“There were a couple of local lads I worked with, and Dominique Dalton from the Kronk Gym was also there,” he said.
“I mixed it up, but I was lucky in that there were a few guys similar in height and stature (to Thiam), light middleweights who are small, strong, come-forward guys, so there were a couple of guys who were well suited.”
Training hard in the sweltering Tampa temperatures should help Lee in the stamina stakes come Saturday night.
“If you can do nine or 10 rounds in the heat, then there will be no problems in Limerick!” joked the 2004 Olympian, whose contest for Thiam is scheduled for 10 rounds.
So what does Lee see as the key factors to winning this fight?
“I am a lot faster than him. He is not the fastest guy but he is a big puncher, so I will have to use my speed and my height and reach and all of my advantages to keep him at bay and take the opportunity it if comes. I will have to box and box smart, and if I get a chance to stop him then I have to go for it,” he said.
It is a busy weekend for Irish fighters as Dean Byrne and Jamie Kavanagh will also be in action.
Light welterweight Byrne (11-0, 4 KOs) fights Justo Sanchez (17-24-1) at the Chumash Casino in Santa Ynez, California. The 25-year-old’s fight is scheduled for six rounds.
While his trainer Freddie Roach will be busy in New York with compatriot Jamie Kavanagh and Amir Khan, Jose Benavidez Senior will be in his corner come fight night.
The other Irish fighter in action stateside is the recently turned pro Kavanagh. The 19-year-old light welterweight will make his professional debut in Madison Square Garden on the undercard of the Amir Khan/Paulie Malignaggi fight on Saturday night.
Kavanagh has signed a promotional deal with Golden Boy Promotions, and with Roach and Golden Boy in his corner the foundation is well set for a good career.
“It is a dream come true to be working with both. I had options but there was a good vibe about Golden Boy. I liked the plan they had for my future. When we discussed my career they took on board what I had to say.
“They will allow me to fight at home when the time is right. That was important to me. I want to fight in America for most of my career, but there is no place like home,” Kavanagh told Irish-boxing.com last week.
Irish fans heading to the Garden this Saturday night should get there early as Kavanagh will be near the start of the undercard.
From a young man taking his fledgling steps in the pro game to a wily old pro lacing up the gloves one more time, Wayne McCullough (27-7, 18 KOs) is poised to fight in the next Prizefighter competition set for York Hall in London on May 29.
The “Pocket Rocket” has not fought since June, 2008, but will participate in the shortened three-round prizefighter super bantamweight competition format, where the victors progress until one winner emerges in the one-night competition.
Finally, according to boxrec.com, Maureen Shea is set to fight this Friday at the Paradise Theater in the Bronx, and light welterweight Danny O’Connor (11-0, 3 KOs) is down to fight at a card at the Mohegan Sun on May 22.
No Irish Need Apply? Not anymore