By Matt Richardson
Boxing will return to the Mecca, Madison Square Garden on Monday night, March 16th, the night before Saint Patrick’s Day to feature a bevy of Irish and Irish American boxers, it was announced at a press conference on Wednesday in New York City. Former WBC bantamweight title-holder Wayne McCullough is scheduled to fight on the card against an opponent to be determined. McCullough (27-7, 18 KO’s) hasn’t won a fight since 2004 and is determined to get back on the winning track. A similar story line will take place in the main event as middleweight prospect Andy Lee (16-1, 13 KO’s) will attempt to further distance himself from an upset loss last year to Brian Vera when he takes on multiple title challenger Antwun Echols. Echols, though, also hasn’t won a fight in five years and is just 0-4-3 in his last seven fights. Fightnews had a chance to catch up at the press conference with Lee’s trainer, Hall of Famer Emanuel Steward, to discuss the fight, Echols’ presumably small chance of an upset, Steward’s other fighters and much more. Read on to see what Steward had to say.
What do you think about Antwun Echols?
“He’s a tough, old guy. I’ve seen him before so I know he’s a tough, wiry, old guy. We tried to ask for the biggest name we could get in middleweights and he may be one of the next biggest names in middleweight which surprised us. Everybody is a super middleweight…John Duddy went down to junior middleweight. So at middleweight all we could get is him. And Echols normally fights at super middleweight. So we were able to get him so we said let’s go.”
Do you regret taking the Brian Vera fight?
“No, no, no. Vera would not beat Andy Lee in a million years. We offered him a quarter million dollars and TV (broadcast) and he would not take the fight. Even for this fight, we offered it to him and he would not take the fight. Andy was sick. The last week I should have canceled it. He had a bad, bad cold; worse than the flu. He weighed 150, he never weighed that light. He was doing a lot to get up to 150. He was sick. We should’ve canceled the fight, that’s it.”
So you don’t think that loss has tainted him?
“It’s tainted his image, definitely. The public is being realistic and it was so painful because he was winning the fight, ahead on points, knocked him down, everything. But he was just physically too weak and because of American TV, Andy said he didn’t want to cancel it. We wanted to cancel so we just have to deal with that.”
Wladimir Klitschko and David Haye, what’s the latest?
“I think the deal is pretty much complete because I got a call on Tuesday from Wladimir asking me what size ring they should use because they’re completing the contract. So they must be finalizing. June 20th in the 02 arena in England.”
What do you think about David Haye? “I like the excitement he brings, the punch, the arrogance, not coming in intimidated like a lot of guys do because of Wladimir’s size. It’ll be a good, exciting fight.”
You trained Kermit Cintron. Did you ever see anything in terms of Antonio Margarito’s hands being wrapped when they fought?
“No. He took good punishment from Kermit, withstood it and gradually wore Kermit down in both fights. It could have been something out of sight that gave him extraordinary punching power or something like that but I never saw it.”
What did you think of Margarito’s suspension?
“I think his image is definitely damaged. They’re going to try to fight him in Mexico and other places…I don’t know. I think a year was a little bit too much for him. I thought it was a little much. I thought six months would have been more adequate.”
Tomasz Adamek-Jonathan Banks (Steward’s fighter), what are your thoughts on that?
“I think it’s going to be an exciting fight. Adamek, as we know, is a rough, tough exciting fighter. Banks is a guy that fights up to his competition. With Eliecer Castillo, he was a big favorite; he was good in that fight. But Banks can punch. Even though Adamek is a tough, aggressive, guy…he’s (Adamek) got to be the favorite. But still when you have a puncher in there you’ll be surprised. I think Banks is a better puncher than Cunningham. And so I think it’s going to be an exciting fight. Banks knows he can’t try to box and run for 12 rounds so he’s not going to do it.”
What did you think of Adamek’s fight with Cunningham?
“Great, exciting fight. Cunningham doesn’t punch as hard as Banks but he’s a good boxer. But I think Adamek is on a role, mentally and everything. Unbelievable chin and strong ass damn determination fighting in front of his home crowd and everything. So he’s going to come in ready to fight. It’s going to be a rough, tough fight for Banks.”