Super-Prospect Andy Lee Loses! A Truly Tough Test, A Truly Questionable Stoppage, A Truly Massive Upset

Well, this isn’t a post I expected to be writing anytime soon.
On ESPN’s Friday Night Fights, perhaps the most hyped prospect in the sport — unbeaten middleweight (160 lbs.) Andy Lee, whose legendary trainer, Emmanuel Steward, has compared to the all-time best fighter, Sugar Ray Robinson — suffered a seventh round technical knockout loss to the unheralded Brian Vera.

Let me say first that I don’t think the referee should have stopped the fight, despite the fact that as the rounds went on, and especially in the seventh, Vera was beginning to beat the stuffing out of Lee. But there was clearly some stuffing left in Lee, because he threw a big punch after the big punch Vera landed that made the referee step in and call a halt to it. Steward, according to ESPN’s team, said he had no problem with the stoppage.
But that’s secondary. Lee was probably going to lose this fight. He controlled a lot of the rounds, but at the end there, he was getting hammered by the very game Vera. Vera, by the way, despite being on the reality show “The Contender,” is no more experienced than Lee — coming in, he had 16 bouts to Lee’s 15. Vera wasn’t especially skillful in there, he just seemed to have a lot of heart, managed to figure out a way inside the taller Lee, and may have been a little bigger than the super-prospect, since Vera has fought at super middleweight (168 lbs).
Lee landed an unbelievably flush left hand on a charging-in Vera in the first, sending him down. But he didn’t seem super-hurt, Vera, and after that, when Lee landed a big shot, he just kinda stood there. ESPN’s Teddy Atlas was begging for Lee to throw combos. But I’m guessing Lee’s not used to anyone taking his shots, and didn’t even think to follow up. I wish I knew what Steward was telling Lee between rounds, because Lee was doing a number of things wrong, like not throwing his right hand enough and not jabbing enough. And Steward’s proteges have shown a tendency of late to ignore what he tells them.
All praise due to Vera. He shrugged off a lot of what Lee threw at him, and kept coming in, making life uncomfortable for him. Lee needs to figure out how to fight on the inside because of occasions such as this.
Lee lives to fight another day, and that’s a good thing. He’s got a lot of talent, and this fight didn’t change it. Like Juan Diaz, the lightweight (135 lbs.) superstar-to-be who got beat up a couple weeks ago by the Nate Campbell, he still can be big, because he’s got youth and ability on his side. I do think this wipes at least some of the shine off Lee — Vera asked questions of his chin, and Lee’s chin, never previously interrogated, didn’t answer too well. Faced with adversity, Lee didn’t back down, but he didn’t handle it well, either. That he got upset by a guy in Vera who had no real quality wins on his ledger and a knockout loss to Jaidon Codrington is grounds for wondering whether Lee just got — and I hate to use this word — exposed.
But man, I’ve complained about this before — Steward needs to knock off some of his more pie in the sky talk. Kelly Pavlik wasn’t out of Jermain Taylor’s league, like Steward proclaimed; Pavlik knocked Taylor out to become the consensus middleweight champ. Vladimir Klitschko is not, as Steward proclaimed, one of the best heavyweights of all time, certainly not yet and certainly not anytime soon. Nor could, as Steward proclaimed, Lee beat Pavlik today, a gripe I’ve had before. Nor does it serve Lee to have Steward compare him to Robinson. It builds expectations beyond all chances that they can be lived up to. I liked Lee’s ability before this fight. I still do. But he’s not Sugar Ray Robinson. He’s a good prospect who ran into a tough test and failed, and he may still be special one day. Just not Friday night.

About Tim Starks

Tim is the founder of The Queensberry Rules and co-founder of The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board ( He lives in Washington, D.C. He has written for the Guardian, Economist, New Republic, Chicago Tribune and more.