Lee was pitching for a meeting with champion Kelly Pavlic before the end of 2008 but his plans were blown apart by a sixth round stoppage against Brian Vera in March. But the 24-year-old is keen to put that memory behind him.
Trainer Emanuel Steward admitted: “Andy wants to fight the best fighters in the world. Rather than find easier fighters, we wanted to fight the best available and we have a very dangerous guy in Willie Gibbs. It’s going to be a dramatic fight between punchers and I predict it won’t go the 10 rounds — someone will get knocked out.”
A defiant Lee added: “I know he has come here to knock me out but I am here to knock him out so we will see what happens — one of us will have his way. He is a very good opponent with a very big reputation in America and I respect him but I have trained very hard for the fight.”
He revealed: “I would like to look at this fight as the beginning of the build-up to a world title fight. But you have got to win your next fight — beat the guy in front of you — and for that reason I am not looking past tonight.”
The undercard for tonight’s Ladbrokes.com Fight Night features a trio of fighters, Stephen Haughian, John O’Donnell and Logan McGuinness, with impressive creditentals according to promoter Brian Peters.
“This will be Logan’s first fight as a pro but he was a very good amateur in Canada,” said Peters. “Stephen and John are both well regarded welterweight prospects who could be on a collision course and I think that’s a fight that would interest a lot of fans both here and in the UK.”
Haughian has won all but one of his 15 professional bouts while O’ Donnell has been victorious in 17 of his 18 paid outings. With both knocking on the door of title contention, they will be out to impress in Limerick.
Haughian, in particular, looks set for a hard night’s work against Italian Giuseppe Langella. Haughian’s only defeat came when he was controversially outpointed over 12 rounds by another Italian, Giammario Grassellini, for the IBF Intercontinental title last December, a split decision defeat in Belfast which still rankles with Haughian’s trainer John Breen.
“I think the two judges who voted for Grassellini were the only two people in the Kings Hall that thought he won that fight,” fumed Breen.
Breen who also has Paul McCloskey, Jim Rock, Neil Sinclair, Martin Rogan and Jason McKay in his stable rates the Lurgan man highly. “I’ve been saying ever since he turned pro with me that Stephen is the secret weapon in my gym. People are slowly finding out about him so he’s no longer a secret but I believe he’s set for big things. I’d put him in with anyone in Britain right now and I’d love to match him with John O’Donnell.”
Big things are also expected of Canadian/Irishman McGuinness. The Ontario native is trained by ex-pro Chris Johnson who also trains World Champion and potential Bernard Dunne rival Steve Molitor. Johnson is delighted with McGuinness’ work ethic and believes he’s a potential star in the making.
“Logan listens to me and applies everything I teach him, so I am really looking forward to his transition from the amateur ranks to the pros. It’s an entirely different game, one that I think Logan will excel in.”
The chief support contest will feature the undefeated and highly rated Paul McCloskey as he takes on English Champion Nigel Wright while there will also be local interest in the shape of Limerick’s Jamie Power who has his second pro outing. Also in action is former Lee opponent, Jason McKay.