Dominic Pesoli’s 8 Count Productions put on another stellar card last Friday night at the UIC Pavillion. All of Chicago’s young prospect’s won and looked good doing it. When it got time for the main event, I noticed home grown actor John Cusack, sitting just behind me wearing a baseball cap with the brim pulled low. A grimacing Brian Urlacher sat just to my right, everyone there to see the Irish National Middleweight Champion Andy Lee and his trainer the great Emanuel Stewart.
The entrance of the world Ranked Irish Middleweight Champion Andy Lee (Brian Urlacher’s hulking mug wedged between Lee and Stewart)
Coming into last Friday’s bout Andy Lee held a record of 22 wins 1 loss and 16 knock outs; many, including his trainer Legendary corner man Emanuel Stewart thought that Lee would be a World Champion by now. He was on the road to a title shot until he met up with Brian Vera in 08. Lee while way ahead on the score cards heading into the late rounds decided to go for the knock out, he got caught and was stopped on his feet by Vera.
Lee’s opponent last Friday was Chicago Journeymen Michael Walker, 19-4 with 2 draws and 12 wins by way of knock out. Walker was knocked out earlier this year by undefeated prospect Fernando Guerro in Maryland. I got a chance to talk with Walker after his weigh in and found that he took this ten round bout against Lee on three week’s notice, some may see that as plenty of time, in my opinion if Walker was gearing up to pull off an upset against a World Ranked Contender he’d have needed twice that time, especially coming off being knocked out.
At the first bell Lee came out moving laterally and snapping a razor sharp right jab that spit Walker’s guard and rocked his head back consistently.
Stewart watched as Lee easily evaded the pressure put on by Walker making the Chicago based fighter reach wildly and miss often. As Lee circled out of the corner Stewart astutely coached “Good decision Andy…”
Towards the end of the second round Lee unleashed and sharp left uppercut that landed flush to Walker’s jaw, Walker’s feet were squared and the shot sent him stumbling backward on uneasy legs.
“Punish him Andy!” John Cusack’s voice crackled over the roars.
As I snapped these shots in between rounds I heard Urlacher’s gruff voice pipe in. “He’s the only one in there earning his money.”
The middle rounds saw much of the same Lee dominating with his southpaw jab, circling out of harm’s way easily. As the fight moved to the later half Walker began to land a straight right to the body as a few of the hometown crowd urged on his late rally.
“Michael… You gotta fight like it’s the fight of your life!” A young man shouted from a few rows behind Walker’s corner, I looked to see an Assyrian American with a wide head and broad shoulders, I recognized him as Ninos Abraham an undefeated middleweight prospect out of Chicago.
Many years before I watched Abraham fight Michael Walker in an amateur bout at a Union Hall near Fulton Market. It was a big showdown, two of the best Amateurs in Chicago both with State and Regional titles to their credit. It was a close bout, in the last round Walker landed a perfect right cross that buckled Abraham’s knees and caused the ref to step in and give him a standing eight count, the final bell rang with Abraham on unsteady knees and Walker unable to finish him but earning the win. In boxing even your most despised rivals can simultaneously be your dearest friends. And always in boxing our great triumphs are followed by our eventual, inescapable defeat.
“Make him fight Michael!” Abraham roared. “He don’t want to fight Mike!!! He’s a Bitch!!!”
Abraham’s rage somehow made its way into Walker who crowded Lee against the ropes and landed a huge right hook the collision burst a thick spray of sweat out over the front row.
“What was it?” I heard Stewart ask his second as Lee rolled off the ropes and went back to his dominating south paw jab.
“A right hook” one of the Irishmen spat.
“Alright now Andy, I want you to start to lead on him now Andy…” Stewart said wiping at his mouth with his palm, a bit of concern furrowed on his brow. “Start to lead…”
Lee moving to his right planted his feet and shot an arrow straight left-cross that thudded square on Walkers jaw sending a shiver down his neck and back as he lunged forward reaching with another right hook. Lee stepped and pivoted and Walkers hook found only air as he stumbled forward gathering his unsteady feet under himself again.
After Walker’s, 6th & 7th round surge he was spent, when he came out for the Eighth round his three weeks of preparation for the ten round bout was just not enough. He’d been out boxed and outworked, he’d shown a lot of heart, landed the biggest punch of the fight but there was nothing left.
Lee finished Walker with a barrage of punches that banged through Walker’s shell, much in the fashion the Klitschko brothers have been stopping American Heavyweights for the past few years, not with one punch but with a series of devastating concussing shots that leave their opponents battered and delirious against the ropes, having been beaten down systematically for many rounds. Walker was stopped on his feet at 2 minutes 3 seconds of round 8.
For a student of the game it was an excellent performance by world ranked-soon to be world title challenger. For me it was a sad thing to witness, one of our cities fighters fell last Friday Night, another one of our progeny’s, our hopes, dismantled.
When all was said and done Andy Lee remained a legitimate contender, fully recouped from his loss two years ago, with the world’s greatest trainer and the hopes of a whole country in his corner. And Michael Walker remained a three week notice journeymen without enough cash in his corner to protect him and without enough wisdom there to tell him it’s over, or maybe, to tell him it’s time to rebuild from the ground up, take some time off then get a few winnable fights under his belt, get his legs back underneath himself before he takes another go at a Contender. Or maybe he’s just not listening.
Andy Lee will soon get test against a world ranked contender handpicked by Emanuel Stewart, he will have an 8 week camp with the best sparring and mitt work in the world at the Kronk gym in Detroit, he will likely win and take one step closer to the tittle.
Michael Walker will soon get a call from another top ten Contender, one who’s been hard at work in an elite gym or training camp like Kronk or Big Bear for the previous five weeks. They will offer Walker a pay day three weeks from then. I don’t know what Walker’s going say back into that receiver, I don’t, I wish I did. I hope Michael doesn’t say anything, I hope he just hangs up that phone.