Lee Humbles McKay to win Irish title

By George Kimball @Ringside


Lee Humbles McKay to win Irish title

DUBLIN, Ireland --- To question a boxer’s is to hit him where it hurts, and it’s generally a bad idea to goad a man you’re about to fight unless you’re prepared – and equipped -- to back it up.

Jason McKay had accused Andy Lee of lacking heart, but after six blood-spattered rounds and a couple of trips to the canvas, it was McKay who quit on his stool, handing the undefeated Kronk boxer his 14th win and the vacant Irish super-middleweight championship.
The Belfast-based McKay had been woofing on Lee almost from the moment he crossed the border on his way to Saturday night’s Irish title fight at Dublin’s National Stadium, labeling the Emanuel-Steward trained prodigy “the Tin Man.”

“He’s all tin, with no heart,” McKay told a Belfast newspaper the day before the fight.  As long as we’re tossing around Wizard of Oz analogies, that must make McKay the Scarecrow: you know, the one with no brains.

During the singing of the Irish national anthem, McKay glared across the ring at Lee and pointedly tapped his own heart.

Moments later, toward the first minute of the fight, Lee drilled McKay with a straight left that knocked him halfway across the ring as the crowd roared, and then punctuated the message by tapping on his own heart with his right glove.

McKay, who had hoped to add 168-pound title to the Irish light-heavyweight belt he already owned, was moving down in weight but up in class. His principal claim to fame was that he is  the last man on the planet to have beaten John Duddy --  a feat he accomplished more than five years ago, in the Ulster Amatuer Championships. His 18-1 professional record had been for the most part accumulated against a collection of warm bodies whose aggregate record was stood at 151-362-26.

(If it accomplished little else for McKay, having faced Lee will improve that statistic.)

Lee was so dominant in the first that the stanza might have verged on a 10-8 round. In the second, McKay had already been cautioned for an apparent low blow by referee Emile Tiedt when he initiated a butt, pulling Lee’s head down as his own came forward.

Both boxers were cut, but McKay clearly got the worst of it. A gash on his forehead above his left eye bled for the rest of the night. Lee had a small (though deep) cut on his left eyelid.

Late in the second, Lee floored McKay with a big right that came over the top. In the fifth round, Lee appeared to deck his foe again, landing a right hook to the side of the head as McKay turned away, but Tiedt, apparently deciding that the blow had been to the back of the head, disallowed the knockdown.

It had by then become obvious that one point wasn’t going to make much difference anyway. McKay was game, but out of his league, and didn’t win a round, at least not on our scorecard.  His increasingly bloodied face increasingly occupied the attention of his cutman Eamonn Magee (whose claim to fame until just a week earlier had been that he was the only man to have knocked down Ricky Hatton), and it seemed only a matter of time.

The round-card girl carrying the number ‘7’ had barely made it up the steps when McKay’s trainer John Breen summoned Tiedt to the corner had said that his man had had enough. The official explanation was that he had injured his shoulder in the fifth.

“He said he hurt his shoulder, but it looked to me like he was just getting beat up,” said Derek Rooney, the Boxing Union of Ireland inspector overseeing the McKay corner between rounds.

“In another round Andy would have knocked him out anyway,” said Steward.

“Andy Lee was the better man tonight,” said Breen, who had initiated the “heart” talk by goading Lee at a Wednesday press conference. (For which he subsequently apologized. “I was just trying to upset him, and it did,” said Breen. “It’s all part of the game.”)

If Lee had one self-criticism it was that he had allowed the oppostion’s taunts to interfere with his focus on the fight.

“I knew they were just trying to wind me up, but I still let it get to me,” said Lee. “That’s something I’m going to have to get used to, especially when I fight back in the states.”

Lee and Steward had both expected McKay to be tough, and he was, at least to the extent that he came within an unsounded bell of taking Lee where he had never been before – into a seventh round.

“The evilness was in him, but eventually Andy wore him down,” said Steward.

Although the timetable could now be contingent on how quickly the cut sustained in Saturday’s fight heals, the plan is for Lee to remain in Ireland through the holidays before accompanying Steward to Wladimir Klitschko’s Florida training camp in January. Promoter Brian Peters hopes to have Lee headline a Feb. 2 card in Limerick, and then Steward plans to have Lee box again on the Feb. 23 Klitschko-Ibragimov undercard at Madison Square Garden.

“I’m hoping to have Andy fight Howard Eastman (who lost a close decision to fellow Irish middleweight John Duddy last weekend) on the Garden card,” said Steward.

On the undercard of Duddy’s July fight against Alesso Furlan at the National Stadium, Eugene Heageny and Colin Moffett had engaged in what was described as “a mini-classic,” with the unbeaten Heageny, a Dublin-born English resident, just getting the nod over the scrappy Belfast journeyman. Saturday night’s rematch was contested for the vacant Irish bantamweight title, and the two picked up right where they had left off five months earlier.

Had it occurred in a different part of the world, or been seen by a television audience larger than the one that viewed it on Ireland’s RTE, this one would at the very least be a legitimate short-list entry for 2007’s Fight of the Year.
Neither Moffett nor Heageny demonstrated much aptitude for (or even interest in) defense, but for seven rounds they waged a savage, nonstop war that left both men spattered with blood. Heageny was pounding Moffett’s face with both hands, punishment Moffett appeared more than willing to accept while he banged away at his opponent’s body.

Althought Moffett gave as good as he got, Heageny appeared to have a nose in front on our scorecard, even though Moffett had landed the best punch of the night, a fourth-round right hand that sent Heageny’s mouthpiece into orbit. (It flew all the way across the ring and into the crowd.)

The bout abruptly turned in the eighth, though, when Moffett’s relentless body attack finally paid dividends. A hard combination brought Heageny’s defenses down and Moffett waded in to land at least six unanswered punches to the head, bringing the intervention of referee David Irving at 0:58 of the round.

The loss was Heageny’s first in seven pro fights, while Moffett is the new Irish champion despite an improbable record of 8-11-4.

In a bout carried live by Polish television – which probably wishes it hadn’t – previously unbeaten middleweight Lucazs Wawrzyczek (8-1) was knocked down twice and had his nose bloodied on the way to a 9th-round TKO loss to George Katsimpas of Somerset, England.

Katsimpas (5-1) decked Wawrzyczek in the first round when he caught him backing up at the end of a jab, and more seriously in the fourth when he sent him down with a left-right combination. In complete control throughout, Katsimpas was hammering away at his bloodied and exhausted foe when the white towel of surrender came flying out of the Polish fighter’s corner at 1:45 of the ninth.

Dublin lightweight Eddie Hyland had to chase Wladimir Borov around the ring for eight rounds, but even with the Bulgarian journeyman in full retreat Hyland caught up with him in the seventh round and floored him with a big left hook. Hyland might have finished his foe before the round ended had he not knocked Borov’s mouthpiece out. The reprieve allowed Borov to catch his breath just enough to run for another three minutes.

The Bulgarian didn’t appear to be interested in winning a single minute, let alone a round.

“I worked harder than he did,” said Tiedt, who returned an 80-71 scorecard. Hyland is now 8-1, Borov 16-40-1.

When 15-1 British welterweight John O’Donnell withdrew from his scheduled prelim against Latvian Artur Jashkul, Steve Haughian, who had dropped a controversial split decision to Giammario Grassellini on the Duddy-Eastman Belfast card a week earlier, happily stepped in. This time Haughian left no doubt on the scorecard, hammering the visitor from pillar to post over six rounds on the way to a 60-54 (Irving) rout. Haughian is now 13-1, Jashkul 2-12-3.

In other bouts, British featherweight Paul Truscott remained unbeaten at 9-0 with a six-round decision over Ukrainian Nikita Lukin (7-11-2), with Irving scoring it a 60-54 shutout, and Irish cruiserweight Michael Sweeney outpointed Latvian Klaids Kristapsons (40-36; referee Sean Russell). The globe-trotting Kristapsons is now 0-7, and has lost in five different countries. For the second Saturday night in a row, Queens-based Irish light-heavyweight Alo Kelly drew the walk-out bout. Kelly (5-0-1) appeared to take the term literally and dispatched his Latvian opponent Andrei Tolstihs in the second round before most of the crowd had even vacated the building. Tolstihs, who had lost to the debuting Caine Brodie in Belfast a week earlier, was 0-for-Ireland in the month of December, and is 0-6 overall.

With former world title challenger Sean Mannion working his corner, Mayo heavyweight Declan Timlin ran his pro mark to 6-0 with a one-sided win (40-36 on Russell’s scorecard) over Latvian Aleksandrs Selezens (1-1). Timlin, whose first three victories came in the US before he moved back to Ireland, also gained a measure of familiar revenge with the victory, since Selezens had outpointed his brother John on the Duddy-Prince Arron Jones card in Dublin back in October. Selezens, on the other hand, could take some solace in the fact that his win over John Timlin made him the only one of the four Latvians performing on Saturday’s Dublin show to have ever won a fight outside Latvia.

The fact that there were nearly as many Latvians on the Dublin card as there were Irishmen reflects a disturbing trend on the contemporary boxing scene. It has been a tradition nearly as old as the sport itself that American boxers who had outlived their usefulness on our side of the Atlantic could still make a decent coming over to lose to up-and-coming European fighters, but in the years since the collapse of the Iron Curtain that practice has changed dramatically. For a promoter looking to pad his fighters’ records with wins, it’s a lot cheaper and far less dangerous to round up inept young opponents from, say, the Baltic states than it is to import shot veterans from the USA.

After their losses on the Dublin show, Jashkul, Tolstihs, and Kristapsons, all in their twenties, are an aggregate 2-25-3. That both wins and all three of the draws came in fights in Riga makes that trio 0-24 in fights outside their home city. That doesn’t say a lot for the overall quality of Latvian boxing, but the more disturbing aspect of it is that these guys are preventing our American bums from making an honest living.

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DUBLIN, Ireland
December 15, 2007

SUPER MIDDLEWEIGHTS: Andy Lee, 162 1/2, Limerick, Ireland TKO’d Jason McKay, 161 1/2, Craigavon, Northern Ireland (6) (Lee wins vacant Irish title)

HEAVYWEIGHTS: Declan Timlin, 227, Rossport, Ireland dec. Aleksandrs Selezens, 252, Riga, Latvia (4)

CRUISERWEIGHTS: Michael Sweeney, 193 1/2, Ballinrobe, Ireland dec. Klaids Kristapsons, 196, Riga, Latvia (4)

LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHTS: Aloysius Kelly, 172, Milltownpass, Ireland TKO’d Andrei Tolstihs, 165 1/2, Riga, Latvia (2)

MIDDLEWEIGHTS: George Katsimpas, 159, Somerset, England TKO’d Lukasz Wawrzyczek, 162, Budapest, Hungary (9)

JUNIOR MIDDLES: Stephen Haughian, 151, Lurgan, Northern Ireland dec. Artur Jashkul, 147, Riga, Latvia (6)

LIGHTWEIGHTS: Eddie Hyland, 131, Dublin, Ireland dec. Wladimir Borov, 132, Sofia, Bulgaria (8)

FEATHERWEIGHTS: Paul Truscott, 124, Middlesbrough, England dec. Nikita Lukin, 127 1/2, Odessa, Ukraine (6)

BANTAMWEIGHTS: Colin Moffett, 116, Belfast TKO’d Eugene Heageny, 118, Huddersfield, Yorkshire (8) (Moffett wins vacant Irish title)


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