Ciarán Gallagher reports from Madison Square Garden, New York
ANDY LEE HAS won his 39th professional bout against Alabama middleweight KeAndrae Leatherwood at Madison Square Garden.
Less than 24 hours after Michael Conlan made a victorious debut at the same venue’s Theater arena, Limerick native Lee claimed a unanimous points win after a cagey and fairly unexciting fight in New York.
In a middleweight bout scheduled for eight rounds, Lee and Leatherwood clashed on the undercard of world middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin’s title defence against Danny Jacobs.
Lee had originally been installed on the card as a potential back-up opponent for Golovkin should Jacobs be forced to pull out due to injury.
However, the 32-year-old fought in his scheduled bout, taking to the ring for the first time since his December 2015 WBO world title loss to England’s Billy Joe Saunders.
The early rounds were tentative with Lee pawing with his jab at his 28-year-old opponent.
A short right hand from Leatherwood two minutes into the second round was the first significant punch of the fight before the American landed a similar shot on Lee’s chin just before the bell.
The middle rounds were also cagey affairs with a restless crowd calling for more action, although Lee remained patient despite anxious encouragement from some fans.
The Limerick man put together a quality combination midway through round six, forcing Leatherwood to the ropes at one stage, while he maintained that momentum into the seventh.
It was by no means a poor performance from the Irishman, but it was certainly not overly impressive.
However, after being out of the ring for 16 months, Lee will surely be happy to have shaken off some rust. This reporter scored the bout 78-76 in the Limerick man’s favour.
The judges called the fight as unanimous points decision, 80-72, 78-74 and 79-73, for the 32-year-old Castleconnell native.
Lee’s record improves to 35-3-1, while Leatherwood – who proved to be a fairly tricky opponent for the Irishman – is now 19-4-1.