“THE referee could have stopped it three or four shots earlier and he [Matt Korobov] wasn’t going to complain.”
Trainer Adam Booth was assessing the finishing blows that earned his man, Andy Lee, the WBO world middleweight title.
“No one gave him a prayer,” Booth continued. “Everyone was just being polite to us saying, ‘Good luck, you’ve got a chance. You can do this.’ It felt like they were patronising.”
Lee used to be trained by the late Emanuel Steward. He promised the Irishman he would become a world champion and Lee has seen through his prophecy with a thrilling win.
“I had a message in the week asking me to get in contact with Marie, Emanuel’s wife, and we kept missing each other’s calls,” Lee said. “Then I got a message on Friday saying, ‘Andy, I land tomorrow for the fight.’ So Adam sorted her out a ticket for the fight and it was a great boost that she could be there, you know. She came of her own accord, it was nice that she’d take the time to do that and pay her own money. It was great to win it.”
Booth was certain that fate was on their side.
“I never knew anything about boxing,” he added. “I didn’t even know it existed until I was 12. My stepdad got me out of bed at one in the morning in 1981, dragged me to a cinema, gave me biscuits and made me watch [Ray] Leonard-[Tommy] Hearns I that my room [at The Cosmopolitan this week] overlooks at Caesars Palace. There, you had Tommy Hearns, an Emanuel Steward fighter, fighting my idol and my only idol in life and I’ve watched that fight 10 times more than I’ve watched anything else. I still love it to this day. Now I’m back here, with an Emanuel Steward fighter, next to Caesars Palace, who’s for the world middleweight title. If he wins it… Last night, after the fight, I was in my room looking over Caesars Palace with Emanuel’s wife. You take all of these things in.”
Lee continued: “For me it’s great. It’s come full circle. There were so many backstories to this fight. “I signed my first professional contract nearly nine years to the day with Emanuel Steward, December 15, 2006, and a year before in December I came here [Las Vegas] for the first time to see Danny Williams fight Vitali Klitschko, Emanuel invited me out and I came to Las Vegas, and the thing about coming back here with Adam, and the only reason he started boxing was the Thomas Hearns-Sugar Ray Leonard fight and here we were back by where that fight happened.”
Lee’s underdog win sparked jubilant scenes and Booth was more particularly satisfied with the result.
He and Lee have become close during their time together.
“You know what,” he said. “It gave me faith in what I think I know about how to see boxing and how to train boxers because each time you get it right you feel that much better about what you believe. And it gives me faith that people who deserve things get them. It doesn’t just go to the mouthy scumbags who don’t appreciate it. If you take those two factors into account and our backstories, my personal backstory that feeds into his, it’s full of these little, beautiful coincidences and on top of everything else, it’s special.
“I put [on twitter] that it was my proudest moment and everyone asked me if it was a dig at [David] Haye, saying I was bitter because he was gone. It was so much more that something like that but some people won’t get it. I do.”
Korobov was no different to what either of them had anticipated.
“I stayed relaxed in my shoulders, whipped my shots up and picked up my feet and moved, which is what Adam was telling me to do,” Andy went on. “The punches I didn’t land with were probably more ferocious than the ones that hurt him and that’s why the fight was so tentative at times. Both of us were throwing hard punches so I couldn’t over-commit and he was the same. Some of the shots that just whistled over my head, I’m glad they went over!
“When I caught him near the end I wheeled away to go to the neutral corner. He didn’t go down but luckily he was still hurt so I jumped on him and once I had him I wasn’t going to let him off the hook. I was going to punch for the rest of the round if I had to. I could see Kenny Bayless in my peripheral vision and I just thought, ‘Please, jump in. Jump in’.”
“It was exactly what we thought,” Booth assessed. “That Korobov was strong, sharp legs, that he kept an amateur distance, controlling the distance the way the good amateurs do, and that was the essential thing to take away from him. If you watch, all I was yelling at Andy was to keep stepping the foot. Everytime Korobov was trying to do something, Andy just had to keep stepping back. So when instead of making one step Korobov had to make two so his legs were working twice as much. Then Andy had to step back to him, threaten him and make him do it again. Then you can do it more and more. Andy made one mistake and that was in the second round when he went for a left hand, it wasn’t there and Korobov thought ‘I’ve got you.’ Andy came back, settled back down and the most important thing in the first four rounds was patience. It was just to be patient, because he’s going to get chances and plenty of them. We knew that when the chances came Andy would hurt him.”
Booth knew his man had the power to take out Korobov, who was unbeaten before that shacking right hand was launched.
“Of course,” said Booth. “My hands have been hit thousands of times, and on the pads it can never be hard enough, I always want more accuracy, more power, more technique. So I know he can hit. “He’s a two-handed fighter and yesterday he hurt him with the left hand [as well].”
Booth was due to meet with HBO’s Peter Nelson after we spoke, Lee talked about a dream fight with Miguel
Cotto in Madison Square Garden.
“Andy’s got three territories,” Booth concluded. “Britain and Ireland, the US because of the exciting, power-punching, Irish-American thing and travellers. That’s three societies.”
Lee completed an incredible story that started with Emanuel Steward and ended near a place where Steward had carved out so much boxing history.
But Andy Lee always had confidence in himself, and in both Steward and Booth.
“If you have a certain amount of talent and you’re dedicated and you’re hungry and you have the right trainer and the right manager who can manoeuvre you it’s not a one in a million shot. If you’re a good fighter who has a certain amount of talent, as long as you listen to your coach, it’s not one in a million.”
For a full ringside report from the big Las Vegas bill, and Andy Lee’s guest column, download this week’s Boxing News on Tuesday.