Lee to return after tough 2012

Andy Lee hopes to bounce back from a trying year in a February return against Anthony Fitzgerald. AP Photo/Tim Larsen

It has been a tough year for middleweight contender Andy Lee. In June, he challenged then-titleholder Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. for his world title but was stopped in the seventh round. In October, Emanuel Steward -- Lee's trainer, mentor and dear friend -- died.

Now Lee, who is from Ireland but had relocated to Detroit years ago to live with Steward, is returning home to restart his career.

He will face Ireland's 27-year-old Anthony Fitzgerald (13-3, 4 KOs) on Feb. 9 at Odyssey Arena in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on the undercard of the Kiko Martinez-Carl Frampton European junior featherweight title fight.

The fight will be Lee's first since the loss to Chavez and Steward's death. He is now working with British trainer Adam Booth, best known for training former heavyweight titlist David Haye and super middleweight contender George Groves.

"It is a new start for me over here," said Lee, 28. "I was in America for a long time. I fought for a world title, but it didn't work out. So I felt I needed a fresh start, and for me to come back here and train with Adam has been a fresh start.

"If I had stayed over there, I would have stayed in the same place physically and metaphorically in my career as well. When you fight for world titles and don't succeed, you have to ask yourself why you didn't succeed and you have to evaluate things. I felt like I had gone as far as I could in Detroit, and the only way forward was to change things."

Lee said even before Steward died following a short illness he thought he might have to change things up.

"It was tough losing Emanuel," Lee said. "I trained with Emanuel, lived with him and was very close with him. Before he was sick, I had already made my mind up to maybe try with a new trainer. Unfortunately, he was sick and passed away, and that was a tough loss for me and everybody who was close to him."

Lee (28-2, 20 KOs), a southpaw and 2004 Irish Olympian, hopes to land another title shot quickly under Booth's guidance.

"To get back to world title fights, I have to win fights; it is as simple as that," he said. "We need one or two fights and then maybe fight one of the best lads from the British scene, and that will put me right back in the mix and in touch of a title. I am not a million miles away. Three or four fights and I am back in contention."