Lee will be back stronger, says Steward

HALL of Fame trainer Emanuel Steward has promised Andy Lee will come back a better, stronger fighter after his shock first defeat as a professional last weekend.

The Irish middleweight, who turned pro in March 2006, lost his unbeaten record on Good Friday in an upset stoppage by Texan Brian Vera at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut.

Lee, 23, in his 16th pro fight, was making his debut on US national TV as the main event on ESPN’s Friday Night Fights live broadcast.

The fight was stopped by referee Tony Chiarantano midway through the seventh round of a scheduled 10-rounder having taken a series of heavy blows during an exciting toe-to-toe brawl that was not the strategy either Lee, who was ahead on all three judges’ scorecards at the time, or his trainer and manager Steward had outlined for success.

“Andy will be right back in July and he’ll be fine,” Steward said from Detroit. “You know, Joe Louis was knocked out by Max Schmelling in an upset and I was right there with Ken Norton when a guy named Muhammad Ali got his jaw broken. They both came back stronger.”

While Lee, who needed stitches for a cut over his right eye after falling to Vera, regroups, Steward has been busy trying to organise a rematch with former “contender” contestant Vera in July.

“All we’re working on is trying to get the rematch. We’re working off a bad situation and we’re hurting, but that’s it.

“He wants to fight Vera again and they’ve offered us a July date and it will be a humongous fight that everybody wants to see.

“That’s me talking as a fight fan, not as a trainer, manager or broadcaster. I would love to see the fight, it has all the elements of a good fight. It could have the makings of another Arturo Gatti-Micky Ward series but I hope not.

“Usually in rematches, the more technically-skilled fighter wins — Wladimir (Klitschko) lost to (Lamon) Brewster and then came back and won the rematch. When they lose, it’s usually because something has gone wrong, in Andy’s case it was losing the strategy, but almost 100% of the time they come back.”

While Lee was assured that a proposed promotional deal with Bob Arum’s Las Vegas-based Top Rank organisation was still intact and on course to be signed in the near future, Steward said he had not talked with Top Rank about including a Vera rematch as part of the agreement.

“Our lawyers and advisers are on it but the rematch is going to be made and it’s going to be made on a bigger broadcast network because it’s going to be a fight everybody will want to see.

“So we’d like to do it with Bob Arum and Top Rank but if not, we’ll just move on and find new people. Top Rank will have to talk to (Vera’s promoter and Contender executive producer) Jeff Wald and if they still do not want to do it we will have to find another way but there’s enough interest in the fight.”

Steward excused his protege’s abandonment of the Vera game plan but took issue with the manner of the stoppage, which came as Lee appeared to be clawing his way back into the seventh round having survived a barrage by the Texan.

“All the great fighters have bowed to temptation and got into a little scuffle but with his Irish sense of humour he was able to laugh about it afterwards and say it was a nightmare but he was trying to get the last blow in.

“He said he saw from Vera’s breathing he was tired and was trying to take (the fight) to him but the referee stopped it.

“I don’t like to sound like a sore loser but it was definitely stopped too soon. Andy was going to him and he had taken the worst. The other guy was totally exhausted and Andy was just trying to get even with him but the referee stopped it and he’s very upset about it.

“By that point he’d weathered the storm. Vera had been throwing roundhouse punches but they weren’t hitting him square on the chin, just like Kelly Pavlik and Jermain Taylor, so it shouldn’t have been stopped.”

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