by Charles Jay
It would be a stretch to say that Andy Lee got one step closer to a title shot with his second-round stoppage of Saul Duran on Saturday night in Detroit. It was nothing more than tune-up time.
Getting that tune-up opponent was the difficult part.
It was a card plagued by pullouts, and at least a couple of those pullouts related to the main event. Finally, Saul Duran, a well-worn veteran, was brought on to serve as the opposite side to help Lee put a “W” on his record.
Duran lasted less than a minute into the second round, and went down willingly, it seemed. Lee later said in the ring “I’d have liked for it to go longer,” but did assert that he hit Duran with a good body shot.
Lee is currently #4 in the WBC’s middleweight ratings (not to mention second in the WBO and WBA). The #1 WBC contender, Matthew Macklin, is fighting this coming weekend against Sergio Martinez, who is listed as the WBC’s “Diamond” champion at middleweight.
And just because you can’t tell the players without a scorecard, the #2-ranked contender, Billi Facundo Godoy of Argentina, is slated to fight former champion Carlos Baldomir on April 14., and Avtandil Khurtsidze of Georgia (no, not in the U.S., folks), who beat another over-the-hill Duran (Ossie) in his last fight, holds the WBC’s “Silver” middleweight crown, having won the IBO version of the title less than a year ago.
The guy who holds the WBC’s “regular” championship is Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., and he’s slated for a fight in El Paso on June 16. The opponent is yet to be determined, but Lee hopes that he is first in line. If not, he said “I’ll just keep having more fights.”
Lee is a good fighter, and obviously has a sound amateur background. Emanuel Steward has really made him a pet project, but whether he’s really going to become a big star is another question. No, you couldn’t tell a whole lot against Duran, who was relatively non-combative (we could probably strike the word “relatively” from that sentence), but he is 6’2″, a southpaw, and not afraid to come forward. Chavez is improving, but is still at the level where he could flinch when somebody throws the curve ball at him.
Lee, by way of his dimensions, would be a curve ball.
However,. the Irishman does not appear to be as rangy as, say, a Paul Williams, or a Michael Nunn before him – two middleweights of unusual height who probably used those advantages a little better. He’s not a whirlwind like Williams can be at times, and doesn’t put punches together as well.
That talk may be moot anyway, because the fight Chavez might not happen right away. Martin Murray, #7 in the WBC, who boxed to a draw most recently against WBO champ Felix Sturm, could be the man who gets the call.
That still leaves Lee with a few ways he can go. He could try to win a belt from somebody like IBF champ Daniel Geale, although it would take some cash to get Geale out of Australia. And since Lee is under a promotional deal with Lou DiBella, making a fight with Sergio Martinez is always going to be a possibility. However, since that’s the kind of fight DiBella wouldn’t want to make before its time, one could expect that every attempt would be made to get Lee more “credentials” to maximize the earning power for such a thing.