Photos: Will Hart
By Kieran Mulvaney
Andy Lee may not be the most talented middleweight in the world, or the one with the smoothest boxing skills, but even in a division that boasts the likes of Gennady Golovkin and Miguel Cotto, he might very well be the most dramatic. Certainly, he’s building an impressive résumé' of spectacular, come-from-behind stoppage wins. Back in June, he was deep in trouble against John Jackson, only to uncork a right hand that dropped Jackson face-first to the canvas in the fifth; and on Saturday, he appeared to be getting outworked by Matt Korobov until a right hook and a follow-up flurry brought him a sixth round TKO victory and a middleweight belt.
The affair had been relatively pedestrian to that point, the highlight coming when a southpaw left hand from Lee briefly stunned Korobov (24-1, 13 KOs) in the third. The Irishman seemed keen to find one punch to replicate that effect, while Korobov, efficient if unexciting, scored points with effective combinations.
It all changed in an instant in the sixth. The two men swung at each other, Lee’s right hook landed flush, and Korobov’s legs danced involuntarily. Lee (34-2, 24 KOs), backing up to avoid Korobov’s own right hand, appeared to take a moment to realize how much trouble his opponent was in; when he did, he raced across the ring and unloaded with a furious succession of rights and lefts that forced referee Kenny Bayless to step in and halt the contest.
Lee gave thanks to his trainer, Adam Booth, but dedicated the win to the man who molded him into championship material, the late, great Emanuel Steward, who would have been prouder and more delighted than anybody by the manner of his protégé’s win.
Mauricio Herrera must wonder what he needs to do to get a decision in a big fight. Two fights and nine months after losing a majority decision to junior welterweight champion Danny Garcia in a fight that most observers felt he deserved to win, he lost a wide unanimous decision to Jose Benavidez on Saturday by scores that must have surprised even the biggest Benavidez partisans.
How one judge saw fit to award Herrera only three rounds is baffling, given that the veteran appeared to win at least three of the first four alone, confusing the youngster with jabs to the chest and working him over repeatedly on the ropes. Benavidez turned the tide over the next couple of rounds as he found his range and started landing powerful body punches that clearly sapped Herrera’s strength and diminished his enthusiasm for combat, but the older man found a second wind and a new bag of tricks to stall the youngster’s momentum over the next few. Benavidez stormed to the finish line, using his height and arm length to torque powerful body punches and straight right hands, particularly in a phenomenal final round that saw both men exchanging furiously. Even so, it seemed as if Herrera had done enough in the early going to hang on for the win, and the scores of 116-112 (twice) and 117-11 for Benavidez were received unenthusiastically by the crowd. With the win, Benavidez stays unbeaten at 22-0 with 15 KOs, and picks up a title belt; Herrera drops to a hard-luck 21-5 (7 KOs).