BROOKLYN — “Irish” Andy Lee (34-2-1, 24 KO) and Peter “Kid Chocolate” Quillin (31-0-1, 24 KO) opened Saturday’s “Premier Boxing Champions” broadcast on NBC with a middleweight tussle which had lost some of its luster after Quillin failed to make weight on Friday.
Nobody told Lee and Quillin, though, and they fought to a rousing split draw as the judges turned in cards of 115-112 for Lee, 113-112 for Quillin and one even at 113-113.
Brooklyn native Quillin received a loud ovation as he walked into the arena, while Lee received just as boisterous a welcome with strong support from the Irish New York fight fans and goodwill from his stirring come-from-behind victories last year.
Chants of “Andy Lee” in the 1st round filled the air as both men were tentative. Seconds later Lee was dropped by a Quillin right hand that dumped him to the mat. He rose on shaky legs and narrowly escaped another knockdown just as the bell rang.
Round 2 ticked by like a battle of nerves until a series of furious exchanges unfurled in the closing seconds. Though seriously hurt in the previous round, Lee was willing to stand toe to toe and trade, showing he wasn’t going down without leaving it in the ring.
Lee looked determined to impose himself in round 3 and though he had some success, he took another Quillin shot on the chin and was knocked to the canvas again. A cut opened over his left eye, but for all that he kept coming forward, landing with power and pushing Quillin’s back to the ropes, catching him with shots.
In the middle rounds, Quillin’s laser-like right hand seemed to slow down just enough for Lee to avoid the big shots that felled him earlier. Though he continued to avoid the canvas, his face was starting to show the wear of a tough fight.
In the 7th Lee uncorked one of his signature right hooks and leveled Quillin, sending “Kid Chocolate” stiff-legged back to his corner.
Rounds 8 and 9 turned into a more tactical battle as the two fighters battled on, looking for their opportunities to score big. Impatience began to brew, however, and the championship rounds started with fireworks as both men looked to fire off big salvos, with Lee grinning at Quillin as if to tell him this was his kind of fight.
Lee, rarely finding a home for his killer right hook, found a temporary sublet for the straight left hand and used it to pester Quillin in the run-up to the finish.
As the final bell neared, both men showed they wanted the win and exchanged heavily to close out the fight.
At the end of 12 hard-fought rounds the judges returned scorecards of a split draw. Lee retains his belt, which was never in jeopardy due to Quillin’s weigh-in snafu. He will have opportunities as a fan friendly, seemingly beatable though tough and dangerous contender.
Quillin’s path is more uncertain and his best opportunity may be to rematch Lee, but both men proved their mettle and surely lost no fans with their gritty performances however.
(Photo: Quillin, left, and Lee trade punches. Via: PBC)