Lee eyes better targets

The look on Andy Lee’s face when the referee called a halt to his bout with Ferenc Hafner, after just 1 minute and 19 seconds of round two, said it all about the man’s current level of ambition.

Lee eyes better targets

The 29-year-old, oozing confidence from his southpaw stance, had just floored his Hungarian opponent for a third time in less than four minutes, this time with a right hook, but looked aghast when the official said enough was enough. This is a man who has a point to prove — and he wants to do it quickly.

Still rebuilding after his defeat to Julio Cesar Chavez Jnr in their WBC middle-weight world title fight nearly 18 months ago, Lee is part of an exciting crop of British and Irish middleweights and knows that now is the time to show he is pick of the bunch.

This, his debut as a pro on English soil, was his third outing since February — and his third straight win — but he wanted a more emphatic victory over Hafner to make an even bolder statement about what he has to offer.

But, nevertheless, a second-round stoppage on the undercard of the huge pay-per-view bill for Carl Froch v George Groves at the sold out Phones4u Arena in Manchester did him no harm at all. Another knockout under the belt ahead of what could be a huge 2014 for the Limerickman.

“I certainly needed it,” he told the Irish Examiner. “You need to be active. You can see that I got hit with silly shots right from the off, that was rustiness from inactivity. I wasn’t sharp defensively but I pulled it together, made an adjustment and that was all. That’s why it was such a valuable exercise.

“I really didn’t want the referee to stop it. I was just getting going, I wanted to really finish him.”

This victory will have done nothing to quell the demand for Lee to face compatriot Matt Macklin, with a St Patrick’s Day showdown in Dublin, as he puts it, the “dream scenario”. But, before March, Lee has some other business to attend to, starting over in Germany.

“I’m hoping I should be out again in three weeks so now I’m just getting ready for that,” he added. “It looks like it will be in Germany, but nothing’s confirmed yet.

“When that’s done I’ll go home for Christmas in Limerick and Dublin, it’s my first as a married man. I might take a week or two off, maybe just Christmas week. Then hopefully everything turns towards the possibility of a Macklin fight.”

Alongside English middle-weights Darren Barker, IBF world champion, and Martin Murray, it is Lee’s all-Irish rivalry with Macklin which is set to ignite global interest.

Both are looked after by New York-based promoter Lou DiBella, and both have followings in the United States, where they have campaigned frequently throughout their careers.

Macklin, the older at 31, is currently preparing to face Lamar Russ in Atlantic City next month, but his trainer Jamie Moore told us that, if they come through that unscathed, his guy is equally desperate to set up the St Patrick’s Day showdown.

And Lee said: “It feels inevitable. He will win his fight in December and then hopefully, over Christmas my trainer Adam Booth, Lou DiBella, Eddie Hearn and Macklin’s representatives will talk. But as long as he wants it and I want it, the fight should happen.”

Lee currently sits fourth in the British and Irish middle-weight rankings, with Barker top, Murray second and Macklin just ahead in third. But, following his link-up with Booth a year ago, he feels he is in the best hands.

“When we’re all so evenly matched in this division, Adam is the key,” he explained. “Once that bell goes, the only man who can help you is the one in the corner. I don’t think there’s a better trainer in the world of boxing, I honestly don’t.

“I’ve been around and seen a lot but with Adam, he confirms a lot of the things I know. I’m at around 60% — don’t forget I took this fight on Tuesday. When I got the phone call I was at home eating a chicken kebab watching telly. But this is all learning, it’s all preparation.

“Now it’s on to Germany and by the time I get back in the new year, I’ll be nearing my best.”

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