Fighter is a new book which gives us an insight into the mind of Andy Lee, who was the WBO middleweight champion from 2014-2015, the first Irish professional boxer to win a world title on American soil since 1934. He also represented Ireland in the 2004 Olympics in his amateur days. The memoirs are published by Gill Books are ghosted by Niall Kelly, who wrote Philly McMahon’s autobiography The Choice.
A boxer’s style reflects his personality and at his best in the ring he is measured, thoughtful and strategic. But when it comes to it, Andy Lee does not back down. He says then you see him become stubborn, determined, headstrong, even borderline reckless at times. “Never question my heart for the fight. I won’t back down. I won’t shy away. If you want to go to war, let’s go to war.”
His introduction to boxing began at 8 years of age when he joined the Repton Boxing club in London. The family moved to Limerick and he joined the St Francis ABC in Limerick. His pinnacle as an amateur was the 2004 Olympics. He signed his first professional contract with Emanuel Steward in 2005 and made the move to Detroit where he trained in the renowned Kronk Gym until Steward died suddenly in 2012. Then Lee joined up with the English trainer Adam Booth. Andy retired in February 2018 and now lives in Dublin with his wife and daughter.
It is very hard to weigh up how finely a boxer’s life is balanced. It sits on a knife’s edge where one punch can change everything. Your entire life, your health, your happiness and your career is bound up in these decisions that make up every second you are in the ring. Lee ponders his life pattern and it is hard to know why a life turns out the way it does. Maybe you make your own fate. Maybe it’s your own destiny.
He was making good progress until life threw up new challenges to him in 2012. His career was moving along nicely when Lee suffered two devastating blows in quick succession. First the defeat in his World Championship, and then the sudden loss of Steward, his guide and confidante over so many years.
Lee reflects on those key moments in a fight. When your good body shot lands, you can hear it too. You hear the dull thud as the punch connects, and then that desperate, futile reach for breath as the muscles go into shock. You hear the air go out of them, not in the slow hiss of a burst ball, but in panicked gasps. Then you have to take full advantage of your opponent’s moment of weakness, your moment of strength and make sure that the balance of power never finds equilibrium again.
In these moments the best boxer has the instincts of a cold-blooded killer. Precise. Methodical. Completely devoid of all emotion. Utterly ruthless. That mindset made Andy Lee the successful boxer both as an amateur and as a professional. Fighter is a lyrical and philosophical memoir of Andy Lee. Niall Kelly captures the resilience, bravery and the wisdom to be found in the limits of human experience.