Undefeated middleweight Andy Lee said that he was on an emotional rollercoaster when he saw his Kronk Gym stable mate, cruiserweight Johnathon Banks, get deposited on the canvas twice in the first round by Eliseo Castillo at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York on July 26.
When Banks roared back to stop Castillo in the fourth round, Lee was as ecstatic as Banks.
“It was baptism by fire,” said the 22-year-old southpaw Lee. “Someday my baptism will come. You never know when it is going to happen, so you have to always be ready for it.”
Chances are that it won’t happen on Thursday, August 10, at the Orleans Hotel and Casino, in Las Vegas, when Lee, 3-0 (2 KOS), squares off against journeyman Daniel Stanisavljevic, 7-7-2 (3 KOS), of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
The card, which will be televised by the Outdoor Life Network (OLN), is headlined by WBC light flyweight champion Brian Viloria’s second title defense against Omar Nino Romero, 23-2-1 (10 KOS), of Guadalajara, Mexico.
The hard-punching Viloria, 19-0 (12 KOS), hails from Waipahu, Hawaii. He won the title with a sensational first round knockout of Eric Ortiz in Los Angeles in September 2005.
In his first defense, in February, he won a twelve round decision over Jose Antonio Aguirre in Las Vegas.
Although the well-traveled Stanisavljevic has gone the distance with prospect James McGirt Jr., and in his last outing in May fought to a technical draw with the once promising Cleveland Corder in Corder’s hometown of Boise, Idaho, he shouldn’t pose much of a challenge for the multi-talented Lee.
After all, Steward, who recruited Lee out of the 2004 Olympics where he was a quarterfinalist, has referred to Lee as “the white Sugar Ray Robinson” and says he is one of the best prospects that he has ever worked with.
“There are a lot of things that Andy does well, but what is most impressive are his instincts,” said Steward. “He already has all of the things that you can’t teach a fighter. He fights as if he has had a lot more than three pro fights.”
Lee, who was born in London and raised in County Limerick, Ireland, is replacing another future Irish superstar, John Duddy, who was forced to withdraw from his bout against Carlos Boroquez because of ailments incurred during last week’s debilitating New York heat wave.
The Detroit-based Lee is glad to be spoken of in the same breath as the New York-based Duddy, whom he greatly admires, and looks forward to fighting him somewhere down the road.
Although the 5’11” Duddy, 17-0 (15 KOS), is more professionally experienced than the 6’2” Lee, should they both continue winning their winning ways they are destined to wind up on a collision course with each other.
“A showdown between Andy and John would be the biggest middleweight fight in history,” said Steward. “It would break all the records. It would be the ultimate fan’s fight because it would pit two crowd pleasers against each other.
“Andy can punch, he can box, he can do everything,” continued Steward. “They call him the sharpshooter in the gym.”
Lee has sparred quite a bit with Banks, who is 12-0 (9 KOS), as well as the universally regarded middleweight champion Jermain Taylor. He more than holds his own against both.
Lee says the experience he garners everyday at the Kronk is invaluable.
“The history of the Kronk speaks for itself,” said Lee. “When I chose to be a professional boxer, I wanted to get the best training available. It is a blessing to train with Emanuel at the Kronk, where so many great fighters have been developed from the bottom up.
“When I think of all the great fighters that have passed through those doors, it’s just amazing,” he continued.
“The heat is always turned up and there is so much competitiveness, so it is easy to understand why so many champions have come from there.”
Although Steward is a much sought after trainer, he admits that it was he who chased after Lee.
“After seeing him beat so many United States fighters, I was very impressed,” he said. “As soon as I saw him, I knew that he had the potential to be a world champion.”
Lee, who had an abundance of offers from other promoters, as well as from the Irish Sports Council which was willing to sponsor him for a run at the 2008 Olympic Games, jumped at the opportunity to learn from the best.
He moved into Steward’s home and raves about his cooking, especially his barbeque sauce, of which Steward steadfastly refuses to divulge the ingredients
Besides all that Lee learns in the gym, he learns even more by accompanying Steward to fighter meetings, press conferences, and all other events associated with fights of all levels.
Being able to soak in all of that experience is only helping to prime Lee for the inevitable superstardom that so many people – but none more than Steward – envision for him.
“Emanuel is grooming me for stardom,” said Lee, a likable and extremely mature young man who enjoys great support from his family back home. His father is a tree surgeon, his mother a homemaker, and his two brothers, who also boxed at the amateur level, are scrap metal merchants.
“Everything we do is in preparation for the next step,” continued Lee. “Everyday I learn something that will help my career. I am blessed to be associated with him.”
Thursday night will mark the next step in Lee’s continuing education, and will also bring him one step closer to a mega-fight with Duddy. Lee is much too classy to disparage Duddy, but says a fight between them would be one even he would pay handsomely to see.
“Duddy’s a good one, so why not?” said Lee. “He is a very exciting fighter who keeps packing the fans in and knocking his opponents out. When you have two undefeated Irish guys who can punch, you’re guaranteed to pack the house and send everyone home happy.”
For more information or tickets for the August 10 show call 702-365-7075.