ANDY Lee’s world title shot came to a crashing end in the early hours of Sunday morning in the sweltering heat of the Sun Bowl Stadium in the Texan city of El Paso.
There were always going to be many obstacles to the Limerick southpaw’s ambitions of becoming the new WBC world middleweight champion, but in the end it was a superb performance from champion Julio Chavez Jnr that saw the referee step in to stop the fight with 2.21 on the clock in the seventh round.
It could be argued that the referee stepped in to stop the fight early, but Lee was in trouble.
But while the Limerick man didn’t appear to have an answer to Chavez’s flurry of punches in the end of the seventh round, afterwards it was confirmed that Lee was ahead on points on the scorecards of all three judges – losing just the fourth and sixth rounds.
The Castleconnell 28 year old started superbly and had his Mexican opponent on the back foot in round one and two and perhap in the third but slowly and surely, Chavez grew in confidence and dragged Lee into a brawl.
All pre-title fight talk was of Lee’s nessecity to keep the fight as a boxing contest and not get involved in trading punches with Chavez, who brought and undefeated record of 45 fights into the contest.
At 4.15am (Irish time) on Sunday morning Lee made a confident entry into the ring in El Paso, despite jeers from the crowd of 13,670 – dominated by Chavez supporters, who had travelled across the near-by border from Mexico.
Lee could even afford a smile for referee Laurence Cole as his gloves were checked but then the stadium erupted as Chavez arrived into the Sun Bowl in a white hummer.
Fighting out of the blue corner and wearing the yellow shorts of the Kronk Gym, Lee took control from the first bell taking the centre of the ring and with intellient boxing he bossed his 26 year old opponent with continous jabs.
Chavez caught Lee with a left to the head but there was no doubting it was the former St Francis Boxing Club Olympian that had won the opening round.
Round two also went to plan with Lee opening with a big left to the head of his opponent but any shots landed by the the Detroit based Irish man didn’t appear to hurt his opponent.
Back in his corner, Emanuel Steward, Joey Garmache, Javan Hill and brother Roger Lee continued to emphasise to their man that he had to stay boxing.
But that was to prove increasingly difficult for Andy as Chavez started to move forward with menace. He started round three with a big left to the body of Lee, which appeared to hurt the Limerick man. But Lee continued to work with his tactic and kept Chavez at long reach – that was until a late upper cut caught Lee in the final seconds of the round.
Lee again started round four at range but there were just 40 seconds left when Chavez left Lee dazed after connecting with another uppercut to the chin of the Limerick man.
Lee was now showing the scars of the bawl on his face and looked to be tiring with his punches now lunges more than straight punches.
Chavez was now centre of the ring and forcing Lee on the ropes. Time after time, the Mexican worked the body of Lee and what was now clear was that Lee had been drawn into the brawl that all had warned he needed to avoid.
A confident Chavez now stood centre of ring, hands down and calling on Lee. There was a warning for Lee from the referee and his concentration looked shattered.
Get back to boxing was the warning at the end of hte fifth round from manager/trainer Steward.
The sixth was to be the best round for Chavez. Lee was now unable to duck off the ropes and took body shot after body shot from the champion.
Then timed at 2.15 in the seventh of thescheduled 12 rounds, the referee stepped in to stop the fight and signal a second pro defeat for Lee in his 30th fight. A hard left hook to the body hurt Lee, and then Chavez finished him off with a flurry to the body.