Andy Lee was in big trouble on Saturday night.
Facing junior middleweight contender John Jackson on the undercard of Cotto-Martinez at Madison Square Garden in New York, Lee looked to be on his way to his third loss as a professional, something it doesn’t seem his career can presently afford.
Jackson, son of hard-punching 1990s stalwart Julian Jackson, did his best impersonation of his father against Lee. His power was absolutely explosive and he looked calm, relaxed and in control right up until the point Lee put him on the canvas.
Lee had visited the blue mat in Round 1, a place he had not found himself during his previous 35 fights as a professional. While both of Lee’s losses were by knockout, on both occasions, against Bryan Vera in 2008 and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. in 2012, the action was halted while Lee remained upright and on his feet.
Lee went down hard in Round 1 against Jackson, but quickly rose back to his feet, only to find things above still just as bad for him as when he left.
Jackson had everything going for him on the night. He looked smooth from a distance and landed at will from inside. Lee, fighting out of a crouch, tried to stay behind a long jab. But it just wasn’t there for him. While the punch was typically one of his better punches in his long career at middleweight, it seemed awkward and slow now just six pounds south.
Nothing else was working for Lee either. The southpaw did his best to land straight lefts, but Jackson easily dodged them and punished Lee on the inside once the Irishman had missed.
A press release by Team Lee said Lee was courageous, showed character and determination. Press releases always say these types of things about fighters. It’s the job of the person writing them to make the subject of the release look as good as possible.
But this release was spot on. Lee was all those things and more against Jackson. After establishing virtually nothing in the previous four rounds, Lee showed grit and determination in the face of ever-coming danger. Despite seeming slower than his usual self and lacking almost any kind of timing to his punches, Lee continued to try to win in every moment of the fight. He kept setting his feet and throwing counters with real force, even though he was widely missing much of the time while Jackson was not.
Now here we get to the life lesson. Quitters come in all shapes and sizes, and there are many different methods to use. Some are easy to spot because they simply don’t care enough to hide it. But some go through the motions to hide what is really going on from others, and sometimes even themselves.
It’s the same in boxing. A fighter can quit sometimes and still go through an entire 10 or 12 rounds of a fight. There is a difference between just fighting and fighting to win. The latter is what’s important in both boxing and in life.
Lee fought to win, and he actually pulled it out when all looked lost. After getting pummeled up against the ropes, Lee was again hit hard by Jackson to the point of stumbling backwards again. The end was surely near. But here’s where Lee did something many would not. Just after getting knocked back off his balance, Lee reset himself and readied his punch. Just as Jackson came towards him to finish the job, Lee walloped him with as good a right hook as you’ll ever see. Jackson went down as if Lee had thrown a bolt of lightning at him. Perhaps he had. The fight was over.
“I am elated with my knockout win here at MSG and would like to pay tribute to John Jackson,” said Lee after the fight. “He is a tough and talented fighter. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank HBO, my promoter Lou DiBella, Adam Booth and all of the Boxing Booth Team.”
Maybe there is something in his post-fight comments, too. Lee is a consummate professional and a real gentleman in a sport that could use a few more of them. Actually, Lee is a consummate professional and a real gentlemen in a world that could use a few more of them, too.
Regardless, Lee, who turns 30 this week, gave us regular folk something to think about. Next time you’re in deep waters and you feel as though you just might drown, maybe think about Andy Lee. Against Jackson, Lee was all but at the bottom of the ocean. He might as well been attached to an anchor. Lee was sunk. But Lee swam hard and not without purpose. Even when things looked bleakest, he had a plan. Lee was making it out of the water.
Maybe you can, too.