Lee-Faliga Preview

By George Kimball


Lee-Faliga Preview

LIMERICK, Ireland -- Undefeated Irish middleweight Andy Lee, already on the books to face former reality show contestant Brian Vera in the main event of a March 21st ESPN2 card at the Mohegan Sun, returns to his hometown of Limerick to battle Argentine Alejandro Gustavo Falliga in the main event of promoter Brian Peters’ six-bout card Saturday night. Lee scaled in at 159 1/2 yesterday, a quarter-pound more than Falliga at Friday’s weigh-in, while Belfast welterweight Paul McCloskey and his opponent in the co-feature, Mexican upset specialist Manuel Garnica, each weighed 142 1/2.

Peters’ Ladbrokes.com Fight Night will be the first professional card ever staged in Limerick, the Irish Republic’s third-largest city. Friday’s  ritual was thus by definition the city’s first-ever weigh-in, which may partially excuse the impetuous behavior of Limerick City Councillor (and Deputy Mayor) Cathleen Leddin, who, just as Lee was in the process of disrobing to mount the scale, interrupted the proceedings by rushing the stage like a giddy schoolgirl to introduce herself as a “longtime supporter,” even though it was apparent from the bewildered look on Lee’s face that any past supporting Cllr. Leddin had done must have been from afar.

Lee will be gunning for his 15th pro win in as many fights. Saturday’s bout against Falliga will be Lee’s third professional outing in Ireland, but his first before a hometown crowd. Last August in Dublin he stopped Ciaran Healy on the undercard of the scrapped Kiko Martinez-Bernard Dunne fight in Dublin, and in December he stopped Jason McKay to win the Irish super-middleweight title at Dublin’s National Stadium. His homecoming fight at the University of Limerick Arena marks a return to the venue in which he last performed as a 16 year-old, when he defeated Scotland’s Brian Peacock to win the gold medal at the Junior Four Nations competition in 2001.

Falliga, who looks a bit like Alfredo Evangelista, is like Lee is a tall and solidly-built middleweight. The 25 year-old is 14-3-2, and in his last outing dropped a majority decision to countryman Luciano Cuello after putting the 20-0 Cuello on the floor twice in the first three rounds.

“I’ve watched film of that one, and he was a bit unlucky not to win it,” said Lee.

Falliga will be fighting outside his native country for just the second time, the other having come in Cologne last May when he lost a decision to Germany’s Sebastian Zbik, who is now 21-0. Following Friday’s weigh-in at the George Hotel in downtown Limerick, Falliga gamely attempted to address the Irish media in English.

“I am very well,” said Falliga. “I am very training. I come here to win.”

McCloskey, who stopped Bulgarian veteran Tontcho Tontchev to win the IBF International belt on December’s John Duddy-Howard Eastman card in Belfast, will be in with another experienced veteran in the 33 year-old Mexican. Garnica (21-8) owns wins over former world champions Carlos Maussa and Gabriel Ruelas, and less than two years ago dropped a controversial split decision to highly-rated Juan Lazcano.

“On paper Garnica looks like the toughest opponent he’s fought, but I think that will just bring out the best in McCloskey,” said trainer John Breen, who hopes to move McCloskey toward a title challenge before the year is out.

Lee’s last two Irish foes will face Latvian opponents in their supporting roles on the Limerick card. McKay (18-2) will meet Martins Kukuls (3-15), while Healy (7-6-1) gets Pavel Lotah (0-3).

Heavyweight Miguel Perez (1-0), a former Cuban international who relocated after jumping ship in England last year, will box 0-3-1 Hungarian Sandor Balogh and Mayo cruiserweight Michael Sweeney (2-0), who after boxing on Lee’s last bill in December accompanied him back to Detroit last month and spent a week working out under Steward at the Kronk gym, will be opposed by Remigijus Ziausys (4-8) of Lithuania.

Birmingham middleweight Michael Macklin was also to have appeared on the Limerick card, but his scheduled opponent, Frenchman Christophe Kragoz, withdrew late on Thursday due to a family medical emergency.

When they went on sale two weeks ago, tickets for Lee’s return to Limerick sold out within hours, ensuring a capacity crowd at the 2,000-seat venue. Both Lee-Falliga and McCloskey-Garnica will be televised by RTE (www.rte.ie). The telecast will commence at 4 pm EST.