NEW YORK CITY — Andy Lee stepped into the tiny ring crammed into the B.B. King Blues Club in Time Square — a fitting locale considering the setbacks he has had to face in and out of the ring recently. The Irishman was eager on Wednesday to pull the needle off the blues record that’s been spinning around his life for the last year, following his stoppage loss to Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr. last summer and the death of his trainer and best friend Emmanuel Steward.
Taking another step towards a shot at redemption on this night meant squaring off against Darryl Cunningham (28-5, 11 KO) of Detroit. Finding the sweet melody he’d been hoping for, the needle on the record was pulled just a minute and 20 seconds into the first round as Lee emphatically ended the contest along the ropes, notching his 30th win.
Bearded, but otherwise looking crisp and sharp, Lee stalked Cunningham from the start of the round. A quick jab in the mouth would be all the punishment foisted upon the boyish Lee for the evening, as a quick flurry of punches drove Cunningham to the ropes and started the beginning of the end.
With a body shot and a follow up hook that stunned Cunningham, Lee pounced and rattled off whistling combinations to drive the teetering prize fighter across the ring and into a corner.
“When you connect with a good shot, you know.” Lee told the gathered press from ringside later. “It was unfortunate for him, he came to fight. He was setting up with his jab and I just set HIM up.”
With Cunningham’s head snapping back, referee Benji Esteves jumped between the men and ended the bout in short order. Murmurs of a quick stoppage died almost before they were uttered as everyone acknowledged there would have been no chance of a reprieve for the hapless Cunningham.
“He’s not a bad opponent, but I just caught him with a nice shot,” Lee continued shortly after expressing interest in fighting Sergio Martinez, another of his promoter Lou DiBella’s fighters and the current middleweight champion of the world.
“Right now I’m happy where I’m going in my career. The fights I’ve been having, I’m progressing. I’ve been getting my confidence and building myself up again. Learning with a new trainer.”
Lee, who was mentored by late training legend Manny Steward and continues to wear the Kronk gym classic gold and red trunks, seems content in and out of the ring after a tough 2012.
“I’m getting married in June… in France.” His easy grin palpably painted his sunny disposition and was spurred on further by friendly jeers and warnings from the press core that marriage might derail him. Without heeding the cautions he quickly laughed them aside.
“I like to stay busy. I’ll probably fight again in late August or September if I can.”
Though many of the likely suspects for a notable middleweight bout are tied up or injured, he conceded that his next opponent would likely pose more of challenge than Cunningham ultimately did.
Lee, however, seemed to be happy with where he finds himself at the moment and sees big things ahead without putting undue pressure on himself to rush forward.
“I’ll fight who’s available to fight, when the time is right.”
With his emphatic victory at B.B. King’s, Lee put the blues behind him. With a few more performances like this, it won’t be long before he’s up the charts and looking for his next big hit.
On the undercard, formerly undefeated super middleweight Delen Parsley (10-1, 3 KO) was handed his first loss by a determined Louis Rose (6-1, 1 KO). What started out as a stinker of a fight due mostly to Parsley’s safety first style, excellent reach and defense turned into a tit for tat battle down the stretch.
Down in round 4, Parsley would rally and managed to work himself into the fight. In the end his efforts would fall short as Rose outworked him for much of the fight and earned himself a hard fought upset victory by scores of 77-74 and 76-75 twice.
Staying undefeated, high energy super middleweight Lamar Russ (13-0, 7 KO) of North Carolina won a unanimous points victory over Russell Jordan (15-10, 10 KO). In what was probably the night’s best bout, Russ’ at times sloppy but mean intentioned attack proved to be the difference in a fight that saw both men bloodied but unbowed.
Russ closed the show in the final round with a vicious blitz that included crippling bodyshots that echoed through the club like a bass drum. A follow up hook froze Jordan along the ropes, and left him flat footed and dumbfounded, before one more uppercut sent spittle rocketing into the air as the bell rang and signaled the end to their spirited contest.
Heavyweight Tor Hamer took a round to feel out the very calm Maurenzo Smith, before unleashing sustained pressure to crack that very demeanor and force an end to the contest.
The cerebral but brutish Hamer shook off his tepid first round and connected on enough solid shots in the second stanza to force a gentle nod from Smith who from then on only went to the ropes and covered up as best he could.
The bout finally ended when a cut opened above Smith’s left eye in round 3 and the fighter immediately signaled a “time out” with his gloves, before simply stating he’d had enough to the referee. The end came at 1:31 of the round and officially goes down in the record books as a TKO for Hamer who runs his tally to 20-2, 13 KO while Smith drops to 11-6-2, 8 KO.
Lightweight Neuky Santelises remained undefeated with an impressive swarming one round TKO that left his Opponent Aaron Chavez crumpled in a corner. Santelises who had a big fan following in the crowd moves to 5-0, 4 KO.
Jay “Breezy” Rodriguez bears a resemblance to rap-dancer Chris Brown, and found himself needing to dance his way through his pro debut against Andre Ward (not the super middleweight champion, but in fact a 1-1-3 Washington D.C. fighter)
The two celebrity look-a-like cruiserweights (Ward doing a passable Antonio Tarver) put on a good show. The four rounds flew by with each man fighting hard.
With a crunched nose, and blood running down from it, you could tangibly see the strife this young man, Rodriguez, was encountering in his first professional fight. Welcome to pro-boxing.
After some shaky moments where it looked like Rodriguez was figuring out if he had the stuff to be a professional fighter, he acquitted himself well. Not distinguishing himself entirely, but not embarrassing himself by any means.
The spirited affair ended in a majority draw, with Ward receiving the one judge’s outright approval. Seeing a bloodied Chris Brown look alike was victory enough for much of the gathered crowd and a draw verdict seemed to be fairly looked upon by the spectators at large.
Angel Suarez a junior lightweight from Puerto Rico made his pro debut to begin the evening. In against Elizier Agosto (2-2, 2 KO), Suarez showed impressive defense early, catching rapid fire shots on the elbows and showing a knack for firing back quickly.
In round 2 he showed a sterling dedication to body punching, folding Agosto in half with a withering attack.
The two men battled on even terms for the rest of the round, until a devastating uppercut by Agosto, the unheralded upstart, connected and sent Suarez out cold to the mat, stunning the fight crowd gathered at the Blues Club. The inauspicious start to Angel Suarez’s Pro career ended with his KO at 2:59 of round 2.