2 March 2011 – Steve Wellings
Now that Anthony Fitzgerald has signed to box Affif Belghecham on March 19 for the EBA title, it is conceivable that the Dubliner will drop his hard earned Irish super-middleweight title.
One man spying an opportunity is former challenger Lee Murtagh. The southpaw based in Leeds fought Fitzgerald twice for the national crown and each time his challenge ended early due to nasty cuts. After realizing that a rubber match with Fitz is off the menu, Lee is willing to tackle any available co-challenger for a chance to claim the coveted prize.
Ive read that Fitzgerald is boxing for an EBA middleweight title which is something Ive never heard of, but he is boxing against a quality opponent, conceded Murtagh. I dont see how he can just dump the Irish title after what has happened in our last two fights. Im more than happy to fight Robbie Long, either McDonaghs or have a rematch with Ciaran Healy. I do feel that I should be next in line because of the unsatisfactory ending to the last fight.
Lee was stopped in seven rounds by Fitzgerald in Dublins City West on January 29 after the cut he sustained was deemed too nasty to allow the bout to continue. A BUI representative told Irish-boxing.com that the cut had clearly come from a punch and that Fitzgerald was well ahead at the time of the stoppage anyway. Lee, however, sees a different version of events.
You can clearly see on the picture that the cut on my head wasnt from a punch, he contests. The cut was inspected several times from rounds one to four and I felt at the time of the stoppage the cut hadnt got any worse. Had the fight been stopped then it would have been another no contest.
Im unhappy about some of the reporting I read on the fight. It was a good scrap and I spoke to people who had me ahead on the scorecards. They [the powers that be] obviously didnt want another no contest result. It wasnt clear whether the official word was that the cut was caused by a punch or a head clash. To me it was a head clash and the wound was deep.
Fighting through the pain barrier seems to be something Murtagh will have to contend with from now until the day he decides to hang up the gloves. The 36-year-old, who won and successfully defended a Central Area middleweight title in his heyday, was forced to withdraw from two previous Fitzgerald fights with separate knee injuries. When they finally got together, in Limerick late last year, the fight was ended from a similar head gash.
I also dislocated by left shoulder in the first round of our rematch and had to fight on for a couple of rounds with a numbing sensation, he revealed. My corner man pushed it back into place and I hadnt even realized. I wished Fitzgerald all the best for his career and I sincerely mean that. That said, I want another fight to settle the score 100 per cent Id take this again as soon as Im fit and well.
That wont be on March 19, as the soft tissue around his latest laceration has not sufficiently healed to accept a bout on that date. But other options could yet materalise.
Phil Sutcliffe mentioned to me about boxing Robbie Long or JJ McDonagh although Id prefer a third fight with Fitzgerald as its unfinished business from the way I see it. After the fight, Phil told me there wouldnt be a third one though. I told Phil that because our first fight had ended in a clash of heads, which was a no contest, and then this fight ended unsatisfactorily on my part with a cut to the head, that I thought a third fight would have been a natural.
Earlier in his career Lee challenged Ciaran Healy for Irish light-middleweight title in the Kings Hall, Belfast, as an eager crowd waited for John Duddy-Howard Eastman. After being stopped in five rounds, it was another three years before he received another Irish title chance. It may be that the man originally from Short Strand never gets to realize his career dream, but hes not ready to quit just yet.
It [the Fitzgerald fight] was a good, honest scrap, but Im not a complainer. Ill dust myself off and come again, he concluded.