Lee out to dethrone king of Lyon

THE middleweight champion of France, Affif Belghecham, breezed into Limerick yesterday confident of playing his part in a French sporting double against the Irish tomorrow night.

Belghecham, who also holds the European Union title, was oozing confidence ahead of his clash with Andy Lee at the University Sports Arena where he insists he can derail the Limerick southpaw’s world and European title ambitions at the Yanjing Fight Night and complete what he insists will be a French double.

Belghecham and Lee will climb into the ring shortly after the final whistle has gone in the Ireland-France World Cup play-off. With the match being shown live on the big screens in the University Sports Arena, Belghecham believes that those in attendance will be in for double disappointment.

“The Irish people have proven that they are warriors over the years,” said Belghecham. “You only have to look at their spirited performances on the rugby and football pitches and of course in the boxing ring but sport is about levels and I believe that unfortunately for the Irish both myself and the French footballers are on a different level to our opponents this weekend.”

Belghecham won the French middleweight title earlier this year to follow in the footsteps of French boxing legend Marcel “Casablanca Clouter” Cerdan who won the French and European Middleweight crowns en route to becoming World Middleweight Champ in 1948. Like Cerdan, Belghecham is of Algerian stock and he admitted yesterday that Cerdan’s achievements are a source of great inspiration to him.

“I am blessed to have two cultures and two countries in my heart — just like Marcel,” he said. “Cerdan was a legend and one of the greatest fighters from any nation and any era.

“Of course I would love to follow in his footsteps and even to hold the French middleweight title that he once held is very special for me. To become world champion would be a dream come true and I know that a win over Andy Lee will get me a step closer to realising that dream.”

Despite his confidence the Lyon man says he has plenty of respect for Lee’s undoubted talents. “I have watched Lee and it’s easy to see why everyone is so excited about him in Ireland. He has tremendous potential but I think this fight has come too soon for him and my championship experience will prove the difference.”

Irish–Canadian middleweight Matt O’Brien is hoping he can upstage Lee. While Irish fight fans are familiar with current Irish middleweight stars such as Andy Lee, Matthew Macklin, John Duddy and Jim Rock the name Matt O’Brien may not be as instantly recognisable.

O’Brien boasts an impressive resume of 17 wins from his 18 pro contest and on Saturday he will aim to add to that record against Cameroon’s Jean Rodrigue Kamdoum in a bout that will be shown live on Canadian TV. He hopes that the fight will set him on a collision course with Ireland’s leading middleweight’s and he’s targeting a clash with Jim Rock. !

RTÉ’s live coverage of the event begins at 10:30pm directly after their broadcast from Croke Park. Tickets for the Yanjing Fight Night priced from €40 are available from Ticketmaster.

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