Middleweight Andy Lee (25-1, 19 KOs) knocked out Craig McEwan (19-1, 10 KOs) in dramatic style in the 10th round of their fight on Saturday night at the MGM Grand in Foxwoods Resort Casino.
In doing so, he keeps his name in the running among the middleweight contenders.
“It wasn’t my best performance, but it was a great victory,” said Lee afterwards.
As the fight wore on, it looked like Lee was wasting his chance on HBO to impress the U.S. boxing public. But the stirring nature of the knockout win will stand to him. In the ring after the fight, Lee spelled out what he wants next.
“I want a title fight or to avenge my loss to (Bryan) Vera,” he said.
At the press conference afterwards, Lee said that he would welcome the chance to fight Sergio Martinez. However, Lou DiBella, Lee’s promoter (who also promotes the Argentinean) said that would not be happening in Lee’s next fight.
“What this fight does for Andy is make him an HBO fighter,” said DiBella.
“I will be talking to Manny Steward in the next week to discuss what is next for Andy,” he added.
At last month’s press conference to promote the fight, DiBella said that if Lee beat McEwan, he would love see him in a rematch with Vera.
Vera’s career was on the brink after losing four out of five fights since beating Lee in March 2008, but a very solid win over former world champion Sergio Mora on February 4 now makes the rematch much more marketable.
But for a long time on Saturday night, Lee’s own career was in some jeopardy.
He started brightly, rocking McEwan with a right hook within 10 seconds and dominating the first stanza.
However, the 26-year-old allowed his Scottish opponent to completely dominate him for the next five rounds, so much so that he lost every single one of them on all judges’ cards.
During this five-round-pelting, McEwan was too fast for Lee, outworking him and catching him on several occasions with multi-punch combinations that stung him. When Lee got some shots off to the body, he seemed to slow the Scot down, but that happened too infrequently during this spell.
McEwan almost stopped Lee in the fifth when he unleashed a barrage of punches that the Irishman had no answer for. The bell could not come soon enough for him in this round.
“Andy hurt him early on and he thought he would just catch him again with one big punch and finish the fight,” Sugar Hill, head trainer for the night, told the Irish Voice after the fight.
“He was looking for one big punch; he was looking for that right hook. Later on I was telling him to switch it up by using a one-two and then brining the hook behind it.”
In the seventh round, McEwan’s pace slackened a little and Lee slowly started to find his range, finally throwing more than one punch and scoring with some combinations, opening a cut on McEwen’s left eye in the process.
Though Lee might have sneaked the seventh and eighth, he dug himself such a hole in the early rounds that he needed something big in the last rounds if he was going to win.
In the ninth he found his target in stunning form, flicking a jab in McEwan’s face that he followed with a straight left that put the Scot on the canvas.
McEwan took the count but was very unsteady on his feet and just made it to the bell.
Lee came out in the 10th round and was patient as the two cagily went at each other. Lee waited for his moment and ended the fight with a huge left that floored McEwan, this time for good, with 56 seconds gone in the final stanza.
“In the middle of the I fight asked myself, ‘What am I doing? This is my night, this is my opportunity.’ I decided that if he was going to beat me he would have to kill me, so I walked forward and took his best punches.
“I took the fight to the street. I walked him down and I took his best shots. That is the Kronk gym attitude -- if we go out, we go out fighting,” added Lee.
“He started to wilt. I could feel it and I could see it in his eyes. Eventually, I caught up with him in the end and I got the knockout. I felt fortunate to get it but I thought I deserved it.”
At the time of the knockout, two judges had the scores 85-85 while one had it 86-84 to McEwan.
Sugar Hill said Lee needs to work on not becoming complacent.
“He needs to stay more focused on the fight. He hurt him early and thought he could finish him off. He needed to go back to the way he started and that is what he did in the eight and ninth round,” he said.
McEwan felt he had done more than enough before Lee’s late revival ended proceedings.
“I thought I was winning. I thought I had enough rounds in the bag. I just got caught with a shot,” he said.
Lee plans to take a short break and may return to Ireland while his team goes about planning his next assignment in the ring.