No sleep 'til Brooklyn: How Andy Lee can retain his title tomorrow night

The Limerick native is the big underdog against ‘Kid Chocolate’.

SOME BOXING COMMENTATORS have been quick to label Andy Lee’s rise to champion as being down to the “luck of the Irish”.

Even in the promotional video for Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions series, Lee is referred to simply as the “titleholder” — not as the WBO Middleweight Champion.

Source: NBC Sports/YouTube

The bookies are showing a similar lack of faith, with most having former-champion Peter Quillin as a 3-1 on favourite. But is all this doubt justified? Why can’t Andy shock the world like he did a few short months ago?

This is how the Limerick man can defy all the odds and retain his WBO strap on Saturday night.

Stick to the Game-Plan!

Whenever I think of boxers using clever gameplans or getting their tactics in a fight spot on, I think of Adam Booth. There have been numerous examples, the best of which are probably Haye v Valuev and Groves v De Gale.

The former, in particular, was impressive. Instead of looking for the ‘Hayemaker’, Booth put together the ideal game plan that managed to keep Haye outside Valuev’s range for the entire fight. Since he began working with Andy Lee, there has been obvious improvements in the Limerick man’s game and his fingerprints were all over his extraordinary win against Matt Korobov before Christmas.

Let’s take a look back at a game plan that could be equally effective against ‘Kid Chocolate’ on Saturday night.

Although Korobov was winning on most scorecards up until that fight-ending exchange in round six, it was Lee’s frustrating style throughout the early stages that helped make that thrilling conclusion possible. Take a look at Lee’s movement here:

Source: Imgur

The first thing you will notice is his excellent balance and posture. Lee and Booth would have known going into this fight that Korobov, like Quillin, is a fast and aggressive fighter. As Korobov attacks, Lee’s weight is sunk down low onto his bent rear leg and this allows him to easily slide back out of trouble every time Korobov attempts to initiate offense.

Lee doesn’t just move out of the way. He throws a lot of feints, threatening the Russian and keeping him on the outside. As we’ve seen in past fights, one of Lee’s weaknesses is inside fighting. He doesn’t deal with pressure too well and tends to get hit. But during this fight he was able to frustrate the Russian and limit him to attacks from range.

Staying on the back foot, Lee controls the range so well that the Russian is forced to lunge in. This is exactly what Andy will need to do against Peter Quillin. Force him to lunge forward, desperate to land a shot and then use his rear leg balance to launch that money shot of a right hook. It’s quite unique for a southpaw to have such a devastating right hand but what a lot of his opponents seem to overlook is that Lee is a great judge of distance and he also possesses a very well-timed left jab.

Source: Imgur

Don’t get pulled into a brawl

One of the most important things we learned from the Korobov fight is that Andy Lee won’t be goaded into a slugfest. In the past we’ve seen him pulled into these wild brawls, against Johnson, Vera etc, and it usually ends with him getting knocked down. One thing we know for definite is that Peter Quillin loves a brawl and will do everything in his power to take the fight there on Saturday.

peter-quillin-ko-o Source: Gifsoup

Quillin has already scored 10 knockdowns in two of his world championship fights. He dropped Hassan N’Dam N’Jikam six times en route to a decision and knocked down Fernando Guerrero four times in a seventh-round knockout.

What impressed me about Lee’s performance against Korobov, given some question marks over his cardio in the past, is something he did in the third round of the contest. He lands a shot that hurts Korobov but realises his follow up shots aren’t landing clean and when the Russian begins to recovers. Instead of wasting energy or getting caught in a brawl, Lee reverts right back to the game-plan. He goes back on the back-foot, staying at range and returns to feinting and controlled boxing. It can be seen in this clip:

Source: HBOBoxing/YouTube

This strategy eventually pays off when Korobov slows and Lee can begin looking for the big right hook.

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Timing vs Speed

There has always been an argument in boxing about which is more important — timing or speed. On Saturday, we might get our answer. Peter Quillin is one of those boxers that possesses very impressive hand speed. He likes to control the action by forcing his opponent into uncomfortable situations and then use his power and hand speed to make the difference. His straight hand is particularly effective.  As seen here against Gabriel Rosado:

Source: Sbnation

He looks his best when he is patient and picks his shots. There was a similar story against Rosado. Expect Quillin to work behind a stiff jab early on in this fight.. This is what he uses to set up his combinations and he will use it to try and make his power a decisive factor in the fight.

But his technique and footwork have often looked sloppy, particularly his left hook. He isn’t the greatest defensive fighter and tends to get hit a lot — even in the fights he looks impressive. In his fight against N’Dam, he did struggled in some rounds where the Frenchman was able to box him and limit his aggressive attacks. There was a similar story against Rosado. This is where Lee’s timing could come into play. He is undoubtedly the more technical fighter. He needs to use the same frustrating game that worked so well in his last fight and force Quillin to expose himself to that deadly right hand.

Styles that present the most danger to Lee are fighters who work from the inside and have good stamina. I don’t think we’re going to get that from Quillin. In his fights against N’Dam and Rosado, he showed signs that he was slowing down as the fight reached the later rounds.

How does Lee win?

Peter Quillin may have the posture of a defensive fighter, but he is far from it. He is a fighter that will stand flat-footed, in the line of fire and take shots just to dish out a few of his own. Andy Lee needs to use the same gameplan that won him his world title. Especially in the early rounds, Lee needs to stay on the back foot, stay out of range and use his reach to land punches.

He wants to frustrate Quillin so that he lunges in wildly, where Andy can use his superior technical boxing to hurt him. Like Korobov, Quillin will tire as the fight goes on and then Andy can look for the right hand but he needs to play it smart early on. He doesn’t need a knockout win. His ability to switch between the right and a swift left could see him outpoint Quillin on his way to a decision.

How does Quillin win?

There are several ways ‘Kid Chocolate’ could win this fight. He is a dangerous opponent because he is good going forwards and backwards. If Lee sits on the back foot, he could allow Quillin to find his rhythm and really make his hand speed count. Lee was behind on all scorecards against Korobov and if Quillin stays patient, he could very well out-box the Irishman and earn a wide decision victory.

But if Lee decided to come forward throwing big shots, Quillin has the game to apply pressure and Lee leaves himself vulnerable to the American’s punching power.

Who do you think will be holding the strap come Sunday morning? 

Poll Results:

Andy Lee (428)
Kid Chocolate (99)
Dunno, but it's gonna be worth staying up for (84)

Read: ‘Watching my uncle pass made me more motivated about living’ 

Read: ‘People are what they consistently do’: How Andy Lee changed since becoming champ

About the author:

Donal Lucey

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