The Limerick southpaw is the IABA’s most prized possession and his immense talent was also recognised by the Irish Sports Council who offered him a far better deal than any other amateur sportsman in a bid to keep him for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
He now looks set to return the contract and opt for professional forms with the legendary Emanuel Steward. It is reported he is due to fly out to Detroit tomorrow with his advisors to meet Steward at the famed Kronk Gym which has produced many world champions.
“I fear that the next call I get from Andy will be to tell me he has signed a professional contract,” the IABA’s High Performance Director, Gary Keegan, admitted yesterday. “But Andy knows that whatever decision he makes we will support him. He has been a great servant and he is a wonderful talent. It’s unfortunate that he will not be around for Beijing because I am convinced he would be a big contender for an Olympic medal.”
Lee’s pending departure to the paid ranks was sign-posted a couple of weeks ago when the Kronk Gym website had him down for a debut fight on August 13.
But Lee said at the weekend he had not signed any forms and was definitely not fighting next month.
Last January the contract from the Irish Sports Council, said to be worth more than €40,000, was announced. According to Paul McDermott, the ISC’s Communications Manager, the deal was done and dusted and the document was forwarded to his legal advisors. It was never signed.
It was felt by all sides at the time that, at 24 and with an Olympic medal in his pocket, Lee would be a very marketable product after Beijing.
Since winning a silver medal at the world junior championships in Cuba, he has been pursued by Steward who recognised his immense talent.
He has since won bronze at last year’s European senior championships and three national senior titles.
Last October Steward and Thomas “Hit Man” Hearns visited Belfast and met Lee to discuss his prospects.
Lee admitted he was very impressed but it appeared the following January he had put any move to the pro ranks on hold.