Middleweight contender Andy Lee (19-1, 14 KOs) announced details of his next fight today at a press conference overlooking the hallowed turf of Thomond Park in Limerick, Ireland. The U.S. based southpaw will be back at the University Sports Arena in his native city on November 14th when he takes on Frenchman Affif Belghecham (19-3-1, 4 KOs). Today’s press conference at the legendary home of twice European club rugby champions Munster gave Lee the perfect opportunity to talk about his clash with Belghecham, the reigning European Union and French middleweight champ.
The Lyon native is rated just ahead of Lee in the current European ratings occupying eighth place with the Shannonsider just behind in ninth place on a list headed by newly crowned European Champion Matthew Macklin.
There has been plenty of talk about a possible all Irish European title showdown between Lee and Macklin but the Castleconnell man insists that his sole focus is on dealing with the formidable threat posed by Belghecham in Limerick next month.
“I’ve watched him in action and he’s going to be a very tough opponent,” said the U.S. based Lee. “He’s the current European Union Champion and is coming into this fight on the back of some very good wins. He’s never been stopped so it could be a tough night but I’m really looking forward to it.”
The fight will be Lee’s third in his native Limerick since making history there last year by headlining the first ever night of pro boxing in the sports mad city. On that occasion Lee saw off the challenge of Argentina’s Alejandro Falliga in 5 rounds while in his second outing at the University Sports Arena he thrilled his hometown fans with a final round KO of Willie “The Gladiator” Gibbs.
Since that night Lee has racked up another three wins to take his overall record to 19 wins from his 20 professional fights and the Limerick man clearly packs a punch having registered knockdowns in his last 16 consecutive fights.
“It’s great to be fighting at home again,” revealed Lee. “It always means that little bit more when you’re fighting in your hometown. I’ve always got tremendous support from the people of Limerick right from my amateur days they have always backed me 100% so I’m always trying to repay that support.
“Even the week building up to a fight in Limerick is special because everyone’s wishing you luck and coming up to say hello and it’s great to have that kind of support. Then on the night you can pick out so many people in the crowd that you know and it really gives you that extra push.”
While a possible fight with Matthew Macklin isn’t on Lee’s immediate agenda he admits it’s something he’d relish in the future. “Obviously that would be a big fight and it would be great if it happened but right now I’m only concentrating on this fight. The European scene at Middleweight has really come to the fore recently and outside of Kelly Pavlik the other champions in the division, Felix Sturm, Sebastian Sylvester and Sebastian Zbik are all based in Germany so the European’s are starting to dominate.”
Promoter Brian Peters believes that a win over Belghecham could lead to some major opportunities for Lee. “We tried to make a fight between Andy and John Duddy for next month and when that didn’t come off we looked at a rematch with Brian Vera (the only man to beat Lee to date) but unfortunately neither party was interested.
“To Andy’s credit he was up for both of those fights and that shows you his mentality. He doesn’t want any pushovers and he’ll certainly have his hands full with Belghecham because he’s a quality operator and will provide Andy with a very stiff test but if he can come through this then I’m sure there could be some massive fights around the corner for Andy.”
Details of the undercard for the University Sports Arena on November 14th will be announced shortly. Tickets for the Yanjing Fight Night priced from €40 will go on sale from Ticketmaster (phone 0818 719 300 or visit ticketmaster.ie) and all usual outlets from 9am tomorrow (Wednesday, October 14th).