The classy Limerick southpaw is clearly one of the most gifted Irish fighters of his generation. However, following two stoppage defeats, the 30 year old was in danger of becoming a talent unfulfilled.
Booth – feted for his work with David Haye and George Groves previously – is keen to prevent that happening as he leads the London born traveller into a second world title crack with Russia’s former crack amateur Matt Korobov in Las Vegas this weekend.
Boxing writer Glynn Evans tracked down the native south Londoner for a quick chat about Lee’s prospects, prior to his departure for the US.
How did your association with Andy come about?
I won him in a raffle, five tickets for a pound!
No, I got his number through an Irish contact of mine, Damien McCann. Damien also introduced me to Belfast’s Ryan Burnett who I’m also now training.
I was aware of who Andy was, knew he was a tall southpaw but didn’t really know much more than that. I’d not followed him closely.
What was your initial assessment of Andy? What were you impressed with?
Firstly, he was a very nice man, very easy going….unless you owe him any money!
You could tell that he was very experienced and that he’d been around the block. Having been managed and trained by Emanuel Steward for a long period, you knew he had pedigree.
To be honest, I didn’t know myself how I’d work with him because I’ve very limited experience of working with fighters of his style, tall southpaws. It was quite a challenge to me as a trainer and it took a good year for the changes to start to surface in the gymnasium and another six months before they became apparent in his fights. Initially the progress was steady, lately it’s been steep.
What changes did you feel it was necessary to import?
I needed to persuade Andy to stop boxing at just one height. I needed to help make him less upright. I’ve tried to make him far more comfortable whilst fighting up close. Basically, I’ve worked on the many things that he could already do and tried to make it even better.
Lee made a big statement in his last fight, getting off the floor to iron out highly touted Virgin Islander John Jackson with a single counter right hook in round five. What aspects of that performance were you pleased with….and less pleased with?
Well, I certainly was not impressed with how he started. Despite lots of work in the gym, he forgot to move his head and paid the price for that against a very big hitter.
But after that I was very impressed. That was the first time that Andy had been off his feet, as a pro, in his long amateur career, or even in the gymnasium. Yet despite twisting his ankle as he fell, he just dusted himself down and responded very calmly. He carefully eased his way back into the fight.
John Jackson is a very dangerous man and he attacked relentlessly but Andy used all his experience to walk him onto a bomb. It was a very special finish but I always knew Andy had that in his locker. I’d seen a tape of him starching (ex WBA light-middleweight champion) Carl Daniels rigid with a very similar shot, earlier in his career.
Ideally, would you have preferred more time to work together, prior to entering a world title fight?
Not really, no. We’ve been working together for two years now and it’s all coming together very nicely in the gym, of late. I’d like to think he’s improved in all areas, technically and physically. In fact, I’d go so far as to say the timing for this fight couldn’t be better. I’d not swap a thing.
What is your assessment of Matt Korobov, the unbeaten Russian southpaw, who Andy confronts for the vacant WBO middleweight title in Las Vegas this Saturday?
I didn’t see too much of him in the amateurs but I’ve certainly been aware of him since he first turned pro. I’ve seen enough of him. I’m not about to publically analyse his strengths and weaknesses before I go into a fight against him. Ask me after the fight!
I know he was a very successful amateur, a former two time world champion and an Olympian but amateur boxing is amateur boxing. He’s not really shone as a professional yet but perhaps that’s because he’s not yet had the opponents that would enable him to advance his obvious talent to another level.
I’m not really sure how Korobov will approach the fight and I don’t really care about him. I just care about Andy Lee. Hopefully, I’ve prepared him for every eventuality. Let’s just say that, I don’t enter this fight hoping that Andy will cause an upset, I fully expect him to win.
The WBO have ordered the winner to fight Billy Joe Saunders, who at the end of last month won his eliminator against Chris Eubank Jnr. Billy stepped aside to first allow Demetrius Andrade a shot and when he declined, Andy Lee stepped in. A victory for Lee would pave the way for a huge showdown with fellow traveller Saunders…
Whatever. I’m not remotely interested in discussing anything other than Matt Korobov on Saturday evening. That’s our only focus, right now