Andy Lee's professional career, thus far, has been clearly rivaled by his success in the amateur ranks. As a former Olympian for Ireland, Lee (28-1, 20 KO) defeated younger and unpaid versions of current contenders such as Ismail Sillakh, Alfredo Angulo and Gennady Golovkin, grabbing medals and other honors in the process. His glossy record belies his relatively limited success as a pro, but Lee will have a chance to beef up his résumé on Saturday at Sun Bowl Stadium in El Paso, Texas, against middleweight titlist Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. (45-0-1, 31 KO).
In a rare faceoff between premier young fighters, Chavez, 26, and Lee, 28, will begin their similar quests to clear the middleweight landscape currently populated by several titlists scattered across the globe. Lee plans to make the most of his outstanding boxing skills against Chavez, and he shared it with ESPN Deportes during a recent exclusive interview from his training camp in the final days of preparation for his first title opportunity.
Tell us a little bit about your training for this fight.
I had a very good training camp. Emmanuel Steward was there every day; he is my head trainer. I boxed a lot of rounds with Edwin Rodriguez, Brian Vera, Mike Jimenez -- all good, aggressive fighters, most of them super middleweights. So it was a very good training, very hard work in the gym. Everything came together; I am coming in injury-free and in great shape and ready for the fight. This week, we've been just staying sharp, working on some things on the pads, just getting ready for Saturday night.
What do you know about Chavez as a fighter?
I studied him a lot, even before I was scheduled to fight him. I watched his fights a lot. He is a good fighter, strong and aggressive. He can box, too, when he wants to. He seems to be a good puncher and seems to have a good chin, as well. I believe both of us are very offensive fighters and this will make for a very interesting fight on Saturday evening. Both of us come to fight and come to win, and I think it's going to be a good show on Saturday.
Do you see any obvious weaknesses in his style?
I believe he does have a lot of weaknesses. Defensively, he is not that good, and he gives his opponents a lot of opportunities to land clean punches. And I'll be looking to take those opportunities when I see them.
Are you concerned about his sustained body attack?
It's not really a concern for me. Nobody likes to get hit in the body, and I am sure he doesn't like it either. I am a good body puncher; I like to go to the body, too. He has a good way to get to the body, but I can take it; I am conditioned for it. I am ready to see what he has. When he goes to my body, that means he will be open in the head, so I will be looking to counter him when he goes to the body.
What other assets do you see in him as a fighter?
Not much, really. He is a good fighter, he throws a high rate of punches, but that's about it. He is basic enough and predictable enough. He likes to throw a good shot and come forward. He fought a lot of smaller people, guys in the light middleweight division who came up to fight him, and he never really fought anybody with any serious intention of winning. The guys he fights are just opponents who are just happy to be there and happy to get a payday. But this is not just a payday for me. I am coming to win this fight, and I think he is in for a surprise.
How much of an advantage will your southpaw stance be?
Well, he never fought a southpaw before. In me, he is going to be seeing something new. He sparred with a lot of southpaws in preparation for this fight, but it's a different thing when you get nailed by a sparring partner compared to a real fight. I think it will be a great advantage for me, because he's never seen anybody like me before in the ring. He's going to have to deal with some new stuff.
There have been a string of bad scorecards in Texas recently. Is this a concern for you? Do you think you need to be extra impressive to wrestle the title away from Chavez?
Yeah, Chavez is the favorite here in Texas, and there have been some bad decisions here lately. But there have been a lot of bad decisions in boxing lately, and I don't think boxing can afford any more bad decisions. I think the officials need to be more responsible and see the fight fairly, because boxing is getting so much bad publicity from all these bad decisions that it's turning people off boxing. I will go in and box to win every round, but if I have the chance to knock him out, I will be going for the knockout because I don't want to leave this fight to anybody, to any judge. I want to knock him out.
What's your opinion of the current middleweight landscape?
I think the division is starting to heat up a lot. It's an exciting division right now. Sergio Martinez is there, and I hope to fight him. There's Dmitry Pirog, Gennady Golovkin, Felix Sturm, and they are all facing each other. In the next three months, there are going to be great fights in the middleweight division.
So Martinez is a target for you? Do you believe beating him is the only way to gain legitimacy in the middleweight division?
Chavez is the one with the belt, so he is the one to beat. He is a champion, so if I beat Chavez, then I will be the champion. But Martinez is a great fighter, and I would love to fight him. If I beat Chavez, I will fight Sergio.
There's a notion that Chavez has the most to prove in this fight. Do you have something to prove, as well?
I think we both have something to prove. People question him about the guys he fought and how he won the title, and I have something to prove because I believe I am one of the best middleweights in the world, and I want to beat Chavez and show that. So yeah, we both have something to prove in this fight.
What's next for you after this fight? Who do you have in mind as a future opponent?
I want to win the fight and become one of the best fighters in the world. After I become a champion, a great champion, I want to defend this title against the best. This is my dream, to be in big fights and be a great champion for Ireland. I don't think about losing at all.
How do you envision the fight playing out in your mind?
I see myself boxing well through the middle rounds, and then Chavez coming on and being aggressive. I think he'll be frustrated by the midrounds, and he may tire towards the end of the fight, when I can take him out.