Andy Lee, Miracle Man

Most people don’t believe in miracles anymore, but maybe they should. Ask Andy Lee. I bet he does. Ireland’s best known middleweight has won his last two fights in miraculous fashion and has gone from disappointing afterthought to WBO middleweight champion.

But take note of something else, too. Lee’s two miracle wins weren’t something that just happened to him. Like the Hebrews leaving Egypt who followed a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, Lee’s exodus from also-ran status in the middleweight division was participatory. No matter what situation he found himself in, he always believed he could win. He must be the type who believes in miracles.

If you want to study resilience in a prizefighter, Lee would be a good place to start. The southpaw has had a rough go since being beat up by Julio Cesar Chavez back in 2012. Lee lost longtime trainer, mentor and friend Emmanuel Steward just a few months after bravado got the best of him against the mammoth Chavez. Despite being up on the cards early and Steward pleading with him in his corner to box from a distance, Lee stood and brawled with Chavez in the middle rounds and was stopped on his feet in Round 7.

After Steward’s death, Lee packed his bags and headed back across the ocean to train under Adam Booth. Lee faced four middling journeymen from February 2013 to April 2014 and went 4-0 with 2 KOs. But Lee barely scraped by Frank Horta in the last of them, and he hadn’t looked in any of them anything near the prizefighter Steward once hailed as his southpaw Tommy Hearns.

It seemed at the time that Lee’s career had peaked. His better days as a prizefighter were now behind him, and he was now destined to simply be an opponent for up-and-comers looking for a name fighter to add to their resumes on their way up the ranks.

Such was the case when Lee moved down to 154 pounds to face undefeated John Jackson, son of former junior middleweight stalwart Julian Jackson, in June 2014. Lee lost almost every second of every round in the fight. Jackson was too fast and too strong. He battered Lee around as if the Irishman had never been hailed as a future middleweight champion.

The end was surely near for Lee now. But then something miraculous happened.

Lee was getting pummeled along the ropes when he let loose the right hook that separated Jackson from his senses. Whether the punch was lucky or not, it landed clean and turned a certain Lee loss into a miraculous win.

Lee was even luckier after the fight. After former WBO titleholder Peter Quillin vacated his title to avoid facing the undefeated Matt Korobov, several other fighters were offered a bout against Korobov for the title and passed. WBO junior middleweight champion Demetrius Andrade lobbied for the bout, was offered it but then declined it. British 160-pounder Billy Joe Saunders was offered the slot too, but chose a tussle with Chris Eubank, Jr. instead.

It’s a wonder Lee was called for the fight at all, but he was. And when it happened, he jumped at the opportunity.

But as soon as the bell rang on Saturday, Korobov just seemed too good for Lee. It wasn’t that it was a complete mismatch. No, Lee’s skill and ambition always keep him in fights. But Korobov was the sharper fighter on the night. He was throwing more and landing more. He looked focused and relaxed. He was there to win. Lee was just the opponent.

And just like the last fight, Lee was losing just about every round. But then something miraculous happened. Again.

In Round 6, Lee was hit flush by a Korobov left hand in the middle of the ring. Some would have retreated, but Lee stood his ground and threw his now-famous right hook the very same time Korobov started one of his own. The latter’s never landed.

Never hook with a hooker, the old boxing adage goes. Korobov was out on his feet the second Lee’s punch exploded onto his chin. He stumbled around drunk with numbness while Lee flurried his way to the stoppage win, capturing his first (and long-awaited) world title along the way.

But maybe a new boxing adage is emerging, too. Never give up on Andy Lee, The Miracle Man, the Irishman with the best right hook in the world, because he’s the type who always believes he can win.

He’s the type who believes in miracles.

Another Miracle

The charity fundraiser fight between Jermell Charlo and myself raised over $9,000 for Corbin Glasscock, a six-year-old diagnosed with bone cancer. The boxing community truly rallied behind Corbin and his family, and I am forever grateful for all those who have contributed. The donor list reveals a who’s who in boxing, and stands as a testament to the good the boxing community can do together when given an opportunity.

One last plea: let’s get the total over $10,000 for Corbin and his family. It may seem like a large number, but I assure you it is a drop in the bucket compared to some of the medicine his family has to purchase to give Corbin his best chance to defeat cancer. Some of the pills he has to take cost a few thousand dollars a pop! It’s a tremendous expense and burden on a family already loaded down with enough.

Please donate whatever you can spare. Every little bit helps: