By Derek Bonnett from the Garden
Andy Lee returned to the ring for an eight-round middleweight contest against Keandrae Leatherwood as part of the Madison Square Garden undercard for Golovkin vs Jacobs. Lee broke a stretch of inactivity starting back in December 2015 following his title loss to Billy Joe Saunders. The action over the course of the middleweight contest was far from memorable, but it brought Lee back to active duty and puts him back in line for some meaningful contests as a contender.
First minute feel out round for both fighters. Lee jabbed, but few punches connected. Very little action from both men in the second minute. Lee had his left cocked all round. Several attempts to throw it were made, but there was not much to score. Still lots of posturing in round two. Lee waited on his left to find the right opening. Lee landed with stiff right, but got countered. Leatherwood landed good right to end the round. Lee started to increase his attack in round three. A one-two backed Leatherwood up to put him on defense. Lee waited on the left still, but not finding the opening. One good left finally landed with a minute to go. Leatherwood darted in with well-timed one-two, but not enough to win the round. Lee landed right at the bell. Lee boxing mostly off the back foot. Still low connects from both men. Both fighters doing a lot of punching out of range in the fifth. Lee continued to throw the jab with little intention. Boos from the crowd increased minute to minute. 49-46 Lee. Lee landed with the lead right. Right jab and strong left hook to body by Lee kept momentum in the Irishman’s favor. Tight left hook to chin by lee. Best round for Lee. Timing and range are coming back to him since the layoff. Lee popped stiffer jab in the seventh. Right hook connected solidly, but no follow up from the former champion. Lee hooked to the chest and followed up with a one-two. Lee pumped the jab in the final round, looking to engage Leatherwood a bit more. Leatherwood tagged Lee twice with right hands.
After the final bell, SecondsOut favored Lee by a score of 79-73. The official scores read 80-72, 78-74, 79-73. Lee raised his record to 35-3-1 (24). Leatherwood fell to 19-4-1 (12).
Also in action, Ryan Martin enjoyed a four-inch height advantage over Bryan Cruz in a lightweight bout scheduled for ten rounds. Martin fired a sturdy jab patiently while Cruz showed some speedier hands. Martin pinned Cruz on the ropes late in round one and fired a flurry of shots. Mutual fire improved in round two as Cruz began putting more punches together. Martin controlled the pace and began digging body shots on the inside. The round ended with Martin landed a solid hook to the chin, but Cruz showed grit and swallowed it whole. Cruz leading in round three as he fired quick combos to force the action, but Martin’s high guard kept him safe. Cruz was busier, but took some shots in return. Overall, his work may have been enough to take the round. Martin came out fast and hard in the fourth. The Ohio fighter dug to the body to slow the attack of his foe. To his credit, Cruz showed success with his much shorter jab. Cruz’ right eye showed signs of wear in the final minute.Martin rocked Cruz with a flurry of shots to the head at the end of round five. Cruz kept his footing and never appeared ready to go down.Cruz opened the sixth with some digging shots to the body of Martin. Cruz landed well to the jab and smothered a lot of Martin’s heavy shots. Martin landed a big one-two down the pipe with thirty seconds to go. Cruz absorbed some punishment along the ropes, which cost him the round on SecondsOut’s unofficial card. The doctor examined Cruz closely before the seventh. Martin, perhaps hungry for an early evening, upped his punch output and kept Cruz under fire along the ropes.
Cruz’ face showed plenty of marks at the top of the eighth, but his will had yet to be broken. The referee saved Cruz in the first minute of the eighth after Martin pinned him in the corner. Martin improved to 18-0-0 (11). Cruz fell to 17-2-0 (8).