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Dublin: 2 °C Wednesday 21 March, 2018

Former world champion Andy Lee announces retirement from boxing

The 33-year-old Limerick man captured the WBO World middleweight title in 2014, and won 35 of his 39 pro bouts.

IRISH MIDDLEWEIGHT ANDY Lee has confirmed his retirement from boxing after a professional career which spanned 12 years and culminated in his becoming WBO World middleweight champion in 2014.

Limerick’s Lee, 33, made the announcement on Off The Ball with whom he now works as a co-presenter and analyst.

The stylish southpaw won 35 of his 39 professional contests, 24 of them quick, with his ‘right hook from hell’ gaining notoriety among boxing’s middleweight ranks as one of the most potent weapons in the sport.

A 2004 Athens Olympian, Lee turned professional under the legendary Emanuel Steward in the latter’s equally iconic Kronk Gym in 2006, and established himself as one of the world’s hottest pugilistic properties before suffering a shock stoppage defeat to Bryan Vera two years later.

The Irish boxing great rebounded with 13 straight victories before succumbing to a dubiously blown-up Julio Cesar Chavez Jr in his maiden world-title tilt in El Paso, Texas, during the summer of 2012.

It was 2014 before ‘Irish Andy’ earned another shot at world honours, and true to form, it was a title shot born of inauspicious circumstances; in a light-middleweight bout with hard-hitting Virgin Islands native John Jackson – son of the nuclear-fisted Julian Jackson – Lee recovered from his first career knockdown, and a large deficit on the judges’ scorecards, to register one of the most replayed one-punch KOs in recent memory and resurrect his career.

A sophomore world title shot beckoned after Peter Quillin’s decision to vacate the WBO title left fancied Russian Matt Korobov without an opponent.

Lee, fresh off his stunning near-decapitation of Jackson, again took matters out of the judges’ hands, creasing the former amateur standout with another right hook before pummeling the Russian to a standing stoppage and raising the maroon strap.

In victory in Las Vegas, Lee became the first Irish man since the great Jimmy McLarnin 80 years earlier to win a world title on US soil.

In his next outing, he survived three knockdowns – one of them a clear slip and incorrectly counted by referee Steve Willis, who later apologised to the Munsterman – to fight the returning Quillin to a draw, inflicting upon the Cuban-Brooklynite a first knockdown of his own – Lee’s right hand again doing wreck on the big stage.

A twice-postponed bout with Briton Billy Joe Saunders would eventually see Lee relinquish his bauble as he survived two heavy deckings to lose narrowly on points. Saunders still holds the WBO belt.

Lee fought just once after that December 2015 defeat – at Madison Square Garden last March, when he outpointed American KeAndrae Leatherwood – but despite several negotiations with high-profile opponents, couldn’t land the meaningful fight which would have seem him prolong an enthralling career.

Having become a father for the first time last year, Lee retires on his own terms, having by his own admission already lived his dream of becoming a world champion.

He departs the sport – as a participant, at least – having gained a reputation as one of the most affable characters within it, in spite of its often nefarious nature.

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