25 June 2008 – by Mark Doyle
Andy Lee has admitted to having a number of sleepless nights following his shock stoppage defeat at the hands of Brian Vera but the Irish middleweight believes that the whole experience has taught him a number of valuable lessons.
Limerick native Lee, who is based in Detroit and trained by the legendary Emanuel Steward, appeared to be closing in on a shot at Kelly Pavlik until he came unstuck against Vera in Connecticut in March, with the referee calling a halt to an absorbing battle towards the end of the seventh round.
The loss came as a massive blow to Lee but he insists that he has now moved on and is looking forward to returning to the ring in his hometown next month for a fascinating clash with Willie Gibbs.
Ive had a lot of sleepless nights thinking the Vera fight through and wondering where it all went wrong, he confessed.
Ive pinpointed the reasons behind it and Im working hard in and out of the ring to address them.
I suppose complacency was a major factor, things were moving very quickly for me at that point and there were fights lined up beyond the Vera fight and I got caught up in that and started looking beyond him.
With the reputation and build-up I was getting and with the fight being live on ESPN across the States it was a big stage for both of us and it was only natural that Vera was going to come in and try and spoil all that for me. He was very hungry and determined and it was his world title fight.
I was just treating it as another fight but he saw it as his big chance and fair play to him he took it.
He was very determined and had prepared excellently and thats one of the many lessons Ive taken from it: you cant overlook anyone and you have to be at your best every time you step between those ropes.
Lee continued: I suppose there was a macho element involved because when he got through with some good shots I wanted to get in my reply straight away so that led me into a brawl and what has always stood to me in my career has been my boxing skills but that went out the window when the crowd started cheering and I got drawn into his fight. That was a valuable lesson.
And Lee is now hoping to get his career back on track with a win over Gibbs, who is a cousin of Bernard Hopkins.
I could have taken an easier opponent but I dont think that would have been right, he reasoned.
Limerick people know their sport and I wouldnt expect them to turn up and pay good money to see me have an easy night.
They pay good money to see a good fight, and I think myself and Gibbs will certainly give them their moneys worth.
Lee added: A win over Gibbs will probably put me ahead of where Id have been even if Id beaten Brian Vera and Im in no doubt that Gibbs will be treating this fight against me the very same as Vera did.
He sees this as his big chance to get back on top. His only defeats have been to top guys in America so hes a very dangerous fighter and his record shows that he can punch too.
Lee has been preparing for his return by sparring with champion and heavyweight number one Wladimir Klitschko.
Its great to see how the heavyweight champion of the world goes about his business, he enthused.
Hes exceptionally dedicated and focused and hes a great influence to have around.
Ive done some sparring with him and it benefits both of us. It helps him with his speed and helps me with my strength and conditioning and of course its a great experience sharing the ring with the heavyweight champion of the world.