“I had to come from adversity, which makes this win all the sweeter,” said Lee. “He fought well and is a strong kid. He was coming on in the fifth, but I caught him with a peach, and that was the equaliser.”
Lee’s night got off to a terrible start as he was dropped in the first round by a huge overhand right from Jackson, whose father Julian was a three-time world champion known for his fearsome power.
The Limerick man recovered well from the knockdown, but Jackson came out and dominated the second round by constantly changing from orthodox to southpaw and scoring with the overhand right.
In the third, Lee got into the fight more, countering well and timing Jackson’s shots better, but the tide turned in Jackson’s favour again in the fourth when a straight right landed flush on Lee’s face and capped another winning round for the 25-year-old from the Virgin Islands.
Going into the fifth, Lee trailed on all three judges scorecards, 39-36, and the 2004 Olympian looked out of ideas. Jackson pinned him on the ropes, hurt him again and looked like he might be about to end the fight.
However, as Jackson was about throw another one of his signature right hands, Lee produced a sensational right hook that knocked Jackson out.
Referee Benjy Esteves Jr. took one look at the prostrate Jackson and called the fight.
“I ran into a real bad one. What a lucky punch,” was how Jackson described the shot after regaining his senses.
With the victory, Lee picked up the vacant NABF light middleweight title, but he said the punch that won him the fight was no fluke.
“It’s something Adam (Booth his trainer) and me worked on every day in the gym. We saw that he throws big right hands, so we worked on squatting down, bending low and then throwing the hook,” added Lee.
“I think that with the occasion and the circumstances, that was the best knockout of my career.”
Lee’s promoter, Lou DiBella, was delighted with how Lee turned the fight around.
“When you have that kind of sensational knockout then you have a great night,” he said.
Lee, who turns 30 on Wednesday, is now on a five-fight winning streak since losing to then WBC middleweight champion Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. in El Paso two years ago.
“I am ready to fight anyone, and after that tonight, people will want to see me,” said Lee.
In the main event, Miguel Cotto (39-4, 32 KOs) defeated Sergio Martinez (51-3-2, 28 KOs) to become the WBC middleweight champion.
In doing so he became the first Puerto Rican to win world titles in four different weight divisions. Cotto dropped Martinez three times in the first round and once more in the ninth before Martinez’s trainer, Pablo Sarmiento, retired his fighter at the start of the tenth round.