SITTING at a table with his closest friends, trainers and confidantes, Andy Lee allowed himself to relax, a touch of emotion entering his voice.
Speaking as a press conference in City Hall began, the Castleconnell man exhaled slowly and professed himself “just blown away really”.
“I knew a lot of world champions and trained with a lot of them over the years, and no matter how big they were, I don’t think any of them have come to quite a reception or been treated in the way that I have been today,” said the new WBO middleweight champion. “It has been amazing.”
Speaking in front of the assembled media, Lee said it had been “a while” since he had been home in his native city.
“My mother asked me when we were in the car, ‘How does it feel?’ and it is like I never left,” he smiled. “Just the warmth and the feeling that I get when I am here. Thank you all for the support and for this, being here today.”
He was flanked on either side by his coach Adam Booth, Damien McCann, long-time friend and advisor of many years who negotiated his first professional contract and training partner Richard Towers, who was in the ring with him with him when he beat the previously undefeated Russian Matt Korobov in Las Vegas on Saturday night.
Of Adam, described as his “coach, mentor, holistic manager, music choice selector and pretty close friend”, he said: “He has changed who I am as a boxer. I have changed so much, certainly in the last six months.”
The results were clear, sitting in front of the Limerick southpaw was the glistening world middleweight belt, attracting almost every eye in the room.
But down to the business of when he would be defending the belt. Booth indicated that the team had looked at Thomond Park on the way in from Shannon Airport, and a challenge in front of a potential audience of 30,000 people on the hallowed Thomond turf was on everyone’s minds.
“Thomond Park with 30,000 people would be special,” said Andy.
“It would be brilliant - not just good for me and for Irish boxing but for Limerick city. It would be great to have a big fight here in Thomond Park in the summer, that would be the next thing on the check-list - to win the world title, to bring it to Limerick and then to defend it in Limerick would be the next big step.”
Lots of opportunities are on Andy’s horizon, but as his manager put it, he is in control of his own destiny “for the first time in his career”.