Andy Lee celebrates his win over Matt Korobov after their fight for the vacant WBO middleweight title
Photos: Getty Images /
By: Declan Taylor –
- Andy Lee recovers from a slow start to stop Matt Korobov Irishman landed huge right hand in the sixth round to rock the Russian
- Lee threw a barrage of unanswered punches and the referee stepped in
- Lee is the new WBO middleweight world champion
The old saying goes that nice guys finish last.
But Andy Lee made a mockery of that, and the bookmakers here in Las Vegas, to become the new middleweight champion of the world on an emotionally charged evening on the strip.
And, although he might not describe it as such, there was a sense that the popular 30-year-old fulfilled his destiny in front of the widow of his former trainer, the legendary Emanuel Steward at the Chelsea arena inside the Cosmopolitan Hotel.
It was Steward who took Lee under his wing, immersed him in his famous Kronk philosophy in Detroit, even let him stay at his home after they met in 2002.
Steward guided Lee through his formative years as a professional and even up until his first challenge for a world title, the unsuccessful attempt to wrestle the WBC title from Julio Cesar Chavez Jr in 2012.
But Lee was forced to go it alone four months later when Steward passed away until he linked up with Adam Booth, who was in the corner here, and the brains behind Lee’s preparation for this shot at the WBO title.
Lee admitted in the week, in the suite 45 floors above the venue, that a defeat here would likely end his career, with no desire to fight his way back from another failed title challenge. He also said that he was completely confident of beating undefeated Matt Korobov.
And he showed exactly why in the sixth round of this contest, which was otherwise tentative, quiet and cagey. In fact, the only moment of note before the stoppage was when Lee momentarily stiffened the Russian with a left hand in the centre of the ring.
It was a sign of things to come.
In the sixth round, Lee shipped a left hand but, almost immediately, connected with a right hook that is swiftly becoming his trademark. Korobov tottered, stunned from the impact, and Lee did not waste a second, swarming the 31-year-old. Referee Kenny Bayliss waved it off quickly.
The celebrations were passionate as Lee, truly one of boxing’s good guys, embraced his new trainer Booth. His wife was also hoisted into the ring to join the new WBO champion.
He is the first Irish middleweight to clinch a world title since Steve Collins who, 20 years ago, won this very belt. He is also the first man from the travelling community to win a world title in the history of professional boxing.
Speaking of the traveling community, this victory also sets up a mouth-watering contest between Lee and Billy Joe Saunders, who is the mandatory challenger for the new WBO king.
That is one to look forward to next year, but for now, Lee and his team should savour this moment and their achievement against the odds in this famous gambling district.
When asked how to sum up the feeling of becoming champion, he said: ‘It’s tough to describe. When I thought about this moment, I had a speech in mind.
‘I would like to say than you to my manger who has done so much for me over the last couple of years.’
But then Lee paid a poignant tribute to Steward, whose widow Marie was in attendance for the bout, along with a clutch of other Detroit natives who cheered Lee on from the crowd.
He went on: ‘But it’s also for the man who made me, Emanuel Steward.
‘We spent seven or eight years together and he said I would win a world title.
‘His wife Marie came here today, flew all the way from Detroit so from everybody from Detroit and Kronk, thank you very much.
‘Matt Korobov was giving me nightmares but i could hear all the cheers from all that came to see me from New York and Detroit.
‘We were trading and a lot of the times he was having the better of it but my right hook is a killer punch I thought he wasn’t going down but i wasn’t taking any chances.’
And what of that showdown with Saunders?
‘I am a champion now and I want to defend my belt in Ireland,’ he said.
But, for now, it’s back to Ireland to celebrate a Christmas as world champion.