Will Andy Lee-Peter Quillin be a career-defining fight?
The middleweight division has gone headlong into a redefining year, with WBA titlist Gennady Golovkin and RING champion Miguel Cotto generating a healthy debate about who should be considered the true best 160-pound fighter in the world. That said, the remainder of the division is also slated to see some heavy movement near the top of its ranks.
And the fight between Irish WBO titlist Andy Lee and former champ Peter “Kid Chocolate” Quillin, on Saturday, April 11 at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center as part of the “PBC on NBC” series, will be one that could redefine the future of the division.
The match-up has already created a great deal of intrigue among fans and media alike and the principals believe they know the reason why.
“We have a chemistry together,” said Quillin (31-0, 22 knockouts). “When we get in the ring and try to figure each other out, that’s going to make a good fight and that’s what makes the chemistry of the fight.”
Part of that chemistry is the respect that both fighters have for each other.
“Peter is a very good boxer; he’s undefeated. He is a good athlete; he’s a good all-around fighter”, said Lee (34-2, 24 KOs). “I won’t say anything about his weaknesses. Hopefully I will expose those in the fight. I think you have two big middleweights and two genuine punchers. We match very well.”
As much as Lee wants to avoid the issue of his foe’s shortcomings, Quillin is more than happy to point out Lee’s. And even there, he shows respect for his opponent.
“His only weaknesses are those two only losses that he has,” said Quillin. “Everyone who has taken a defeat has learned something positive about it. As you can see in his previous fight, Andy has reinvented himself and I think those losses helped him to be a champion now. This is a great fight for people to see because you have a guy who is very determined to win – which is me as a challenger now – and you have a champion who is dedicated enough to say he wants to secure his championship.”
Technical and tactical analysis aside, the emotional aspect will surely play an important role in their mindsets for this fight. Their personal outlooks are completely different and will affect their mentalities for their fight.
“Unfortunately there is no celebration,” said Lee, excusing himself for missing yet another Saint Patrick’s Day celebration. “I seem to fight all the time around Saint Patrick’s Day but there will be plenty of time to celebrate when I retire in the future.”
Lee also had to relinquish his idea of fighting during this most sacred Irish holiday in front of his countrymen, as he has always dreamed, but his decision was made easy for other reasons.
“For a financial reason, it was a good decision to make but also from a boxing standpoint,” said Lee. “Beating Peter Quillin, an undefeated former champion, would make me one of the stars in boxing. I am a big deal in Ireland and that’s a good thing to be but if I beat Peter, I’ll be a global star in boxing and people would have to acknowledge what I’ve been doing, especially during the last year or so. That’s one of the reasons why I took the fight. Aside from fighting in America and fighting on national TV, fighting Peter takes me to the next level of boxing.”
Quillin, on the other side, also missed a significant event in his life during training camp and although it was hardly a motive for celebration, it has proven equally inspiring.
“You can have all your future planned out and mapped out in your head but it won’t necessarily happen,” said Quillin, who had rejected previous fight offers to be near his uncle and father-figure, Eric Munson during his battle with a terminal illness, only to miss Munson’s last moments when he entered training camp for the Lee fight. “When I saw my uncle on his deathbed with cancer, I saw what a fight really looked like. That was a fight that he had no control over. I saw him fight through that until he had no more left in the tank to fight with. What that taught me is that the fight is all in your head. It’s all about you controlling the fight in your head.
His last visit to his uncle provided the inspiration Quillin hopes will carry him through the most challenging fight of his career.
“He told me he was proud me and that was something that helped me endure my training camp and be motivated for this fight,” said Quillin, who visited Munson for the last time, along with his infant son a few days before entering camp. “I am inspired to be the man that he was. I made the decision to vacate the belt for my family, with my uncle passing away with cancer, and to be there with him endless hours, being there with my family and my son. You can never get that time back. I think at that time, I became bigger than the belt.”
As hard as the heartbreak of losing a relative is, Quillin appears to be ready for the challenge and to be his usual colorful self in this fight. He announced that he has reached a deal with a chocolate company to throw samples of candy into the crowd, as he has done before with Hershey’s Kisses, and he expects this will inspire his loyal Brooklyn crowd to put some extra pressure on his foe, who seems to have no problem with performing (and succeeding) under pressure.
“Even though I was down in the cards, I had no reason to think I would lose either fight,” said Lee about his last two bouts, in which he came from behind to score two dramatic stoppages. “If I land with my power, I can knock anybody out the right time and that gives me confidence. But I’ve always seen myself as technical boxer and that’s what I pride myself in being. People may have the wrong impression from me, especially from these last couple of fights, but I am very much a boxer and that’s where the power comes from.”
Quillin has his own ideas on how to handle the pressure.
“I am actually going to let Andy Lee have that pressure on him, to be able to perform like a champion,” said Quillin. “I did it two or three times when I had the belt. Now it’s up to him to do the same thing and have that pressure. Now I have the pressure of being the challenger and I’ve been here before. I am not going to do anything different besides what I learned as being a champion, to go there as a more polished challenger and try to be a two-time champion.”
Quillin is still working on this formula but he seems comfortable with the idea of improvising a new recipe on the go.
“If you were a chemist putting a formula together and you miss a measurement by one bit and you don’t have the chemistry right, something bad will happen,” said Quillin. “I worry about what’s in front of me. Andy Lee is in front of me right now. He is coming to try to beat me and catapult himself to superstardom and that thing can happen if I allow him to. I can say what I am going to do now but it’s actually when you get in the ring that you know what you can actually do. I’ve never been the type of fighter that says, ‘I’m gonna go in and throw a million jabs and see what Andy does.’ I am not that kind of fighter. I say that the chemistry of me and Andy Lee is going to make the fight that we’re going to put on. I look at Andy Lee and I respect him enough to say he was able to do a lot of things that a lot of guys couldn’t do, even in his losses.”
Diego Morilla, a bilingual boxing writer since 1995, is a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He served as boxing writer for ESPN Deportes.com and ESPN.com, and is now a regular contributor to RingTV.com and HBO.com, as well as the resident boxing writer for XNSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @MorillaBoxing.