Photo by Chris Farina / Top Rank – Andy Lee won his first title after defeating Matt Korobov by TKO on Saturday.
LAS VEGAS — Andy Lee spent most of his career at the side of the late, great Hall of Fame trainer Emanuel Steward. They traveled everywhere together and became almost like father and son.
Lee even spent several years living in Steward’s Detroit home when he moved from Ireland to the United States. In their first title shot together, Lee got knocked out by Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. in the seventh round in 2012. A few months later, Steward died from cancer.
Vowing to win a world title in Steward’s memory, Lee knocked out Matt Korobov in the sixth round to win a vacant middleweight world title on Saturday night on the Timothy Bradley Jr.-Diego Chaves undercard at the Cosmopolitan.
Lee, 30, of Ireland, and Korobov, 31, a 2008 Russian Olympian now living in Florida, were both tentative early in what was a jabbing contest between southpaws as they each tried to establish control. It was a close contest all the way and neither man had taken control when the fight suddenly came to an end.
Out of nowhere, Lee (34-2, 24 KOs) landed a tremendous right hook that badly staggered Korobov. He did not go down, but he was in terrible trouble and Lee jumped all over him. Lee landed numerous punches until referee Kenny Bayless had no choice but to stop it at 1 minute, 10 seconds.
“We were trading and a lot of the times he was having the better of it but my right hook is a killer punch. I thought he wasn’t going down but I wasn’t taking any chances,” Lee said.
Lee said during the lead up to the fight that he wanted to win the title in Steward’s memory and then he paid respects to him in victory.
“When I thought about this moment, I had a speech in mind,” Lee said. “I would like to say thank you to my manager [and trainer Adam Booth], who has done so much for me over the last couple of years, but it’s also for the man who made me, Emanuel Steward.
“We spent seven, eight years together and he said I would win a world title. His wife, Marie, came here today, flew all the way from Detroit, so from everybody from Detroit and Kronk [Gym], thank you very much. Matt Korobov was giving me nightmares but I could hear all the cheers from all that came to see me from New York and Detroit.”
Korobov (24-1, 14 KOs) was ahead on all three scorecards, but had no complaints about the stoppage.
“I’ve never been hurt before but he got me with a tremendous hook,” he said. “I was stunned. I couldn’t continue.”
Said Charles Mooney, Korobov’s trainer, “He should have taken a knee but it didn’t happen and he couldn’t continue.”
Lee won the fight with titleholder Gennady Golovkin ringside and they could meet in a unification bout.
“Great performance and strong performance,” Golovkin said of Lee’s knockout.
Before a Golovkin fight, however, Lee had something else in mind.
“I am a champion now and I want to defend my belt in Ireland,” he said.
Lee and Korobov were fighting for the 160-pound belt that Peter Quillin vacated rather than defend against Korobov, the mandatory challenger, for a career-high purse (about triple) of $1,428,630 under the terms of a purse bid won by Roc Nation Sports. Lee, the next leading available contender, quickly accepted the fight.