BY STEVE BRENNER IN NEW YORK
ANDY LEE will leave New York today with his head held high and a burgeoning reputation firmly intact.
With Quillin dramatically failing to make the required weight of 160 lbs on Friday, Lee strode out in front of a healthy crowd knowing whatever happens, his belt wasn’t going anywhere.
Yet this was still one hell of a contest and when the judges correctly called it a tie, no-one was really arguing.
While it was scored 113-112, 112-113, 113-113 , the statistics told a different story.
Lee threw more punches (299-267) and connected with greater frequency (113- 103).
It was a warrior like display. Not maybe enough to have destroyed Quillin’s unbeaten record, but impressively solid and energetic.
Lee , however, was hard on himself.
“It was a tough fight, he dropped me at the start because I was lazy, “ he said.” I had the momentum late on. I understand with two knockdowns people may have thought he won but I could have done better.”
Billy Joe Saunders is the mandatory challenger and looks the likeliest next opponent.
Another meeting with Quillin, although intriguing with the title on the line, is highly unlikely.
“If my next fight is Quillin it should be in Ireland. He has an Irish surname. Maybe he has some ancestors there, “ smiled Lee who will now look forward to a few weeks off to recharge the batteries before making his next move.
Lee would never display such a lack of professionalism. The 30 year-old in the form and shape of his life.
Title fight or not, this was the Irishman’s chance to show he belongs at boxing’s top table.
A polished display was the order of the evening to ensure his rapier like trajectory continues this year.
Quillin insisted before the clash it would be like a chess match. He was right yet playing with Kings or Queens don’t often lead to the explosion of power which sent Lee spiraling to the canvas at the end of the first round.
Quillin’s right hook rocked the Irishman who was given a standing count. It was just the second time he’d hit the floor, taking in both his amateur and professional career.
No wonder Lee looked dazed.
The American was quickly showing why he’s the proud owner of an unblemished record. A razor sharp combination had Lee reeling again but the Limerick man is a true warrior.
Nevertheless, Lee needed some respite. The Brooklyn crowd unleashed some booing to display their displeasure at both fighters standing their ground. Yet the Irishman , who won his last two fights by coming from behind to land the killer blow, wouldn’t have care a jot.
Heading into the sixth, Quillin was ahead in the eyes of the judges. Lee , the master of coming from behind to snatch victory, needed something special.
The comeback came at the end of the seventh, a crunching right leaving a very open Quillin tumbling.
It was the first time he’d been down in his career. Lee , though, needed more heading into the tenth.
The final rounds were dramatic without ever really looking terminal for either fighter.
And when the last bell rang, Lee and the amiable Quillin, hugged and showed a deep admiration towards each other which has been evident all week.
“ The judges see it their way and I respect the decision, “ said the American.