Andy Lee with his WBO middleweight title belt
“My right hook is a killer punch” beamed Andy Lee in the centre of the Chelsea arena in the Cosmopolitan Hotel in Las Vegas just minutes after referee Kenny Bayless placed the WBO title belt around his waist.
The KO success made the Castleconnell southpaw the first Irishman to win a world title bout in the US since 1934.
In true Lee fashion and in the midst of the title euphoria, the Limerick man paused to pay tribute to his former coach Emanuel Steward, RIP.
This week, Andy Lee confirmed his boxing retirement.
In true Lee fashion, he took time over recent weeks to speak with all involved in his career before making this Tuesday evening’s public announcement.
”It’s the right decision and I am very happy with it. I know now that if I got a call tomorrow that it would have to be something crazy to entice me to come back - it’s not going to happen,”he said.
Tributes to Lee have come from across the globe.
“It’s been surreal,” he told LeaderSport of the acclaim.
”I don’t really feel comfortable with it - it’s very nice though. It’s like being alive for your own funeral,” he laughed.
Lee has coached with professional boxer Eric Donovan in recent times and works with Off The Ball on Newstalk radio, but as for his future plans he has “no idea”.
“I will take some time and I am happy taking time. I feel happy to have the rest and find out what I want to do and in the meantime I will be a full-time daddy and that will keep me busy,” he said of his eight month old daughter Julia.
Lee turned pro in 2006 and for 13 years lived out his dream.
”Beyond what I could have imaged with all the experiences I had. I was very lucky to do that - who gets to live out their dreams. I am one of a very rare few who get to do what they want to do and I know I am very fortunate to have had a great career and a great life through boxing. It’s sad that it has come to an end but it was always going to be that way when you call it a day. It would have been a different story had I never done what I wanted to do or never reached my goal,” outlined the former St Francis Boxing Club Olympian.
“There were more lows than highs - trust me. Things that I never spoke of and that people wouldn't really know that were going on behind the scenes - most people would have packed it in or threw their hat at it and said that’s enough but I got there in the end and it was all worthwhile.”
One of those low-points was the cancelled 2015 world title fight in Thomond Park.
”It was just bad timing - it was the time, everyone was in hard times and there was no money going around for TV or for anyone. It wasn’t about me having the luxury of boxing in Limerick - we tried Thomond Park but unfortunately it didn’t happen when I got ill and there were other reasons but it was just difficult,” he recalled.
“I can’t complain - I have been very fortunate. I managed to come through all that and out the other side quite happy with what I done - I can’t ask for any more, there is nothing more I want,” said Lee.
Andy Lee departs with a record of 35 wins with (24KOs), 3 losses and one draw.
That’s not to mention a short-lived but decorated amateur career that brought a world junior silver medal, a European bronze, three national senior titles and an Olympic Games appearance.
“I lived out my dreams,” said Andy Lee.
Lee retires a former world champion with a pro record of 35 victories from 39 fights – two of his three defeats were in world title fights.
”Winning the world title - it’s the pinnacle and my life time work up to that point. Finally achieving that and being at ease with yourself and to be able to say that you done it gives you great peace of mind. It was the time of my life. I don’t sit down to watch it but any time that it comes up it definitely gets the emotion going,” he said of his world title win in Las Vegas.
”It’s sad that it has come to an end but it was always going to be that way when you call it a day. It would have been a different story had I never done what I wanted to do or never reached my goal - it’s very satisfying. I can’t complain - I have been very fortunate. It’s the right decision and I am very happy with it,” said the married father of one.
Detroit based for over a decade training under the legendary Emanuel Steward and then relocating to London to work with Adam Booth, Andy Lee always remained a people’s favourite.
”I have just been myself all the time -no airs and graces. I was out pushing my daughter in the pram this morning trying to get her to sleep and met three or four people. On a daily basis I have two or three who want to chat to me or say hello – I have to say it’s a buzz for me and I get a kick out of people and it’s good to be recognised for what you did.”