A new stage in Andy Lee's career started today in Belfast, as he got through a fight with Anthony Fitzgerald that turned out to be a lot more difficult than expected.
Andy Lee has a new trainer and has relocated himself overseas, but his homecoming of sorts in Belfast probably didn't go exactly as he wanted it to, as he was given far more of a test by Anthony Fitzgerald than anyone really expected. Lee won the fight on a referee's score of 98-94, struggling at times to handle the pressure of a determined, gutsy fighter who just kept coming forward. BLH scored it 97-93 for Lee.
Lee (29-2, 20 KO) is now working with Adam Booth, who has led David Haye and George Groves to success in the sport, but the 28-year-old Lee didn't look much different than he ever has before. There's no doubt that losing Emanuel Steward, who guided his entire pro career, was a major factor for Lee during his time out of the ring since last June, but the same issues that have plagued him before were still there tonight, and it's worth wondering if he's really a world class fighter, or just a fringe contender at middleweight.
That said, he definitely won the fight tonight, and had an honest post-fight interview with Sky Sports about his performance, doubting that he'd be pleased after reviewing the fight on tape, and saying the performance was "not my best."
Fitzgerald (13-4, 4 KO) came out gung ho from the opening bell, employing some of the tactics that helped Brian Vera upset Lee back in 2008. Lee was able to win the fight on talent and class, but there were too many questions asked of Lee in this one. Most expected an easy night for Andy, and that just wasn't the case. All due respect to Fitzgerald and his valiant effort, but the feeling is that that says more about Lee than it does about Fitzgerald.
After the bout, Lee challenged British middleweight Darren Barker, which could be a good fight for both of them. Lee would need to be better than he was today, but maybe it's a real challenge that he needs right now.