BOXING titan Andy Lee has been honoured with the Limerick Person of the Month award following his sensational victory in Las Vagas which saw him being crowned the WBO middleweight boxing champion of the world.
The Castleconnell man who beat Russia’s Matt Korobov on a sixth round TKO (technical knockout) for the title returned home to a hero’s welcome in his home city last Wednesday where he was presented with his Limerick Person of the Month award.
“I’m delighted, it’s a lovely honour,” said the 30-year-old as he was inundated with requests for photographs, selfies, autographs and interviews by an adoring public which crowded around him in City Hall. “It’s surreal but a great feeling all the same.”
Expressing his delight at having returned to Irish soil as a world boxing champion, Andy said: “It’s something I have fantasised about – coming back to Shannon and Limerick. The response I have got so far has been amazing.”
The next dream he hopes to realise is defending his world title in Thomond Park. “Adam (Booth, Andy’s manager) is on the ball and making plans for maybe Thomond Park which would be another dream come true. We’ll see, hopefully.”
The victory, he said, was worth all the long years and hard slog in the boxing ring. “This is a great reward for everything I have done. What can I say? It’s a dream come true.”
The former Olympian was very excited at the prospect of defending his title in front of his own people. “It would be fantastic, I’ve been there to watch Munster play so many times. I’ve had certain dreams and one of them was winning a world title, the other was stepping off the plane in Shannon and I’m doing those right now and defending my title at Thomond would be another one.”
In the meantime, the world champion is set to Stand Up and Fight with Munster in Thomond Park on St Stephen’s Day.
The proud Limerickman, who has listed Paul O’Connell as one of his top sporting heroes, will be honoured at half-time during Munster’s interprovincial against Leinster in Round 11 of the Guinness PRO 12. The game has a kick-off time of 5pm.
Lee dedicated his victory to the late, great Emanuel Steward, the Hall of Fame trainer who had shown such faith in the Irish traveller.
Andy is the first Irishman from the Traveller community to win a world title. “This is the first time it’s really been mentioned. I’ve always been a Traveller, obviously, but I’ve never made an issue about it or championed the cause,” Andy told the Telegraph newspaper. “I’m a boxer first and foremost. That’s really what I am. But it does mean a lot to me and it is a nice thing. It doesn’t separate me from anybody, though.
“I don’t want to become known as the Traveller boxer or become a spokesperson for Travellers. It makes me proud, it’s great for my dad and my family, but they’re happy anyway.”
Andy moved to Castleconnell at the age of 13 and was reared in a two-story red brick home beside Daly’s Cross. He never went to school in Ireland and in his early teens he was working with his father Tom in the tree surgery business.
“I went to work with my dad so there was no real social outlet except boxing. In a way it helped me to focus,” he said.
He has no regrets about missing out on school days as a teenager and is now a voracious reader. He reads “in intense bursts” and believes constant travel has broadened his mind.
“Travelling and boxing is an education in itself. I have loved the years of work getting to where I am now,” he said. “The world title is the biggest thing I have achieved in my life, with the exception of getting married to Maud.”
Andy married singer Maud Reardon in 2013. He said she gets nervous during his fights “but handles it well”.
He spoke of how he himself gets nervous watching other people fight and paid tribute to his mum, Ann, who, he said, is “very educated and astute when it comes to boxing”.
“As we grew up she also learned about what to cook us and is now actually very educated in boxing. When myself and my brothers were boxing she had years of driving us to the gum and paying for boxing equipment so its nice to repay her.”