Andy Lee’s points win over Anthony Fitzgerald at the Odyssey Arena in Belfast on Saturday night was swiftly followed by an ultimatum from fellow middleweight contender Matthew Macklin to fight him on May 11 at Madison Square Garden.
Comments Lee (29-2, 20 KOs) made in an interview with iFilm London last Friday appear to have stoked the fire in Macklin. While talking about possible fights with the likes of Darren Barker, Martin Murray and Macklin, Lee said the following, “I think he (Macklin) would be one of the easier fights for me.” On Monday, Macklin issued a press release calling out the Limerick native to fight this spring.
“Lou (DiBella) has a HBO television date for May 11 and I know he wants to match myself and Andy on that show. We're both promoted by Lou, so as Andy himself said, there are no obstacles to making the fight,” said Macklin.
“It could be made in five minutes, Lou has a TV date for it and I want the fight so the only question is, does Andy really want it, or does he just want to be seen to want it?”
The Irish Voice reached out to DiBella to ask if the HBO date in May was confirmed and if Macklin/Lee would be an acceptable fight for the network. We also asked if Macklin’s renewed interest in Lee was down to the fact that, so far, DiBella has not been able to secure a fight for Macklin with any of his primary targets, IBF champion Daniel Geale or Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.
DiBella Entertainment, via PR director Kevin Rooney, informed the Irish Voice that DiBella was unable to comment on the situation before presstime.
Last week Lee told the Irish Voice that he saw no reason why a fight with Macklin could not be made this year. Both men feel they have the measure of each other, and Macklin reiterated that point in his statement.
“He's a decent boxer, but privately he and the people around him have always known that I have his number,” said Macklin.
“I've already told Lou that I'm happy to take the fight, so if Andy wants it all he has to do is call Lou and we can get it on. Otherwise he needs to stop talking about a fight he's afraid to take and get on with his own career.”
Lee’s primary goal since relocating to London was to challenge the likes of Macklin, Barker and Murray. In the immediate aftermath of his win, Lee called out Barker ringside as his next possible opponent.
Lee and Macklin avoided each other in recent years because they were on separate paths to a world title shot. Now, while Macklin is ahead of Lee in terms of the middleweight pecking order, if the former cannot secure another fight with a belt holder or Chavez then one of the most high profile fights in the U.S. is against Lee.
Lee went on Newstalk’s Off the Ball radio show on Monday evening to reiterate that he wants to fight Macklin, but he added that he might need time to work with his new trainer before taking on that challenge.
“Ideally I would like maybe another one or two fights with Adam (Booth) as trainer before I fight Matthew Macklin,” Lee said.
Based on the weekend’s fight in Belfast, that is the sensible course of action. Macklin’s confidence about beating Lee might have been further bolstered by Lee’s performance in his victory over Fitzgerald.
It was a night of firsts for Lee, who was boxing for the first time in Belfast and who was fighting for the first time as a professional without the influence of the late Emanuel Steward in his corner.
The new man in Lee’s corner was Adam Booth, and he will know that he and his new charge have a lot of work to do after this display.
Lee was fighting an inspired Fitzgerald (13-4, 4 KOs), who knew he was taking on a mammoth challenge and went on to deliver an excellent performance.
Lee was by far the better technician and boxed rings around Fitzgerald at times, but the Dubliner’s sheer will to make the most of this opportunity caused Lee serious discomfort, particularly in the middle third of the fight.
What Fitzgerald lacked in skill he made up for in effort, and the tempo he set upset Lee, who fought on the back foot and looked a little ring rusty throughout.
The early rounds went to Lee, who jabbed away at Fitzgerald’s head and worked the body with left uppercuts and right hooks. However, Fitzgerald kept coming forward and enjoyed moments of pressure on Lee.
In the sixth and the seventh Fitzgerald worked hard, and in the latter stanza he seemed to stumble Lee slightly with a left hook and left uppercut to the head. However, Lee was able to box his way out of any serious trouble in the last few rounds.
Lee, who won 98-94 on points, was upfront about his showing in the post-fight interview. “Not my best, but saying that he was very spirited and you have to give him credit. He was very determined,” Lee said.
“He rose to the occasion. I boxed okay in spurts. It was a nice 10 rounds and I will take something from it, but it was the first time with Adam and we are getting used to each other but no excuses. I won the fight and I will keep moving forward.”
Trainer Booth was keeping his focus on the bigger project. “We know what we are working on and I definitely saw elements of that. I am pleased with the things he did technically in there tonight, and as far as I am concerned there is progression and I am looking forward to the next one,” he said.
There will have to be progression if Macklin is Lee’s next opponent. As spirited as Fitzgerald’s pressure was, Macklin would be capable of much more pressure with a far more refined boxing game and considerably more power.
Lee’s preference for Barker next might be because the Londoner is more of a boxer than a pressure fighter, a type of opponent that Lee has had issues with in the past, most notably in his losses against Chavez last June and Brian Vera earlier in his career.
However, it appears at presstime that Macklin still has no opponent for his May fight date, which might explain why he took the opportunity to call out Lee so vehemently. If DiBella cannot secure a fight for Macklin soon, he may try to entice Lee into foregoing the tune-ups to take the fight.