After Andy Lee lost his middleweight world title by majority decision to Billy Joe Saunders in December 2015, he decided he needed a bit of a break from boxing.
So Lee sat out all of 2016 in an effort to recharge his batteries and get over the little nagging injuries every boxer has before aiming for a return this year. Now he is ready to fight again.
Lee will take on KeAndrae Leatherwood in an eight-round middleweight bout that will take place on the undercard of the Gennady Golovkin-Daniel Jacobs middleweight world title fight on March 18 at Madison Square Garden in New York, K2 Promotions announced on Tuesday.
According to K2 Promotions managing director Tom Loeffler, Lee-Leatherwood will be televised on many cable and satellite services as part of the "freeview" that will take place just before the HBO PPV telecast begins at 9 p.m. ET.
Lee, a 32-year-old southpaw from Ireland, figures to have a large crowd cheering him on as the fight takes place on St. Patrick's Day weekend.
"I'm very pleased to be making my return on such a big event," said Lee, who will be boxing at Madison Square Garden for the third time. "Thank you to K2 Promotions, [promoters] Lou DiBella and Adam Booth for this opportunity. After taking a year out, I'm back. I feel refreshed and hungrier than ever."
Lee's goal is to eventually get a world title opportunity against the Golovkin-Jacobs winner.
"My goal is to eventually challenge the winner of GGG and Jacobs. March 18 will be the first step on that journey," Lee said. "I'm also very happy to be fighting in Madison Square Garden again, the scene of some of my greatest victories. I'm sure the Irish boxing fans will turn out and I look forward to putting on a world-class performance."
In 2014 at the Garden, Lee (34-3-1, 24 KOs) was down on all three scorecards and being soundly outboxed by John Jackson, but rallied for a devastating one-punch, right-hook knockout in the fifth round. In his next fight, Lee also rallied against Matt Korobov to knock him out with a right hook in the sixth round to win a vacant world title.
Lee, a 2004 Irish Olympian, successfully defended the belt once in a draw with overweight Peter "Kid Chocolate" Quillin, who was not eligible to win the title, in April 2015. Then Lee lost it to Saunders.
Earlier in 2014, Lee had agreed to challenge Golovkin in an HBO headliner slated to take place at the Theater at Madison Square Garden. However, the fight was canceled just before it was set to be announced because Golovkin's father died and he returned home to Kazakhstan to be with his family and tend to his father's affairs.
There is a chance that Lee could get a shot at Golovkin down the road if he comes through on the March 18 card, Loeffler said.
"We have a lot of respect for Andy because he was one of the guys who agreed to fight Gennady but it didn't happen because Gennady's father passed away," Loeffler said. "But we have a good relationship with Andy and I thought it made a lot of sense to have him on the card. A future fight between Gennady and Andy is always something to consider. Out of respect for Andy agreeing to fight Gennady back then, when nobody would fight him, it made sense to have him on the show, especially on St. Patrick's Day weekend. He's no stranger to the New York fans and the Irish fans. He's in a very competitive fight for his first fight back."
Leatherwood (19-3-1, 12 KOs), 28, of Birmingham, Alabama, has won five fights in a row. One of his defeats was by sixth-round knockout to Jackson in 2011.