Andy Lee will face Anthony Fitzgerald on an emotional return to Ireland at Belfast’s Odyssey Arena on February 9 live on Sky Sports in Betfair’s ‘Unfinished Business’.
Lee returned to the UK from America to train with Adam Booth following the death of Emanuel Steward in October and the Fitzgerald bout will be Lee’s first fight this side of the Atlantic since 2010.
The 28 year-old suffered a seventh-round stoppage when he challenged Julio Cesar Chavez Jr for the WBC middleweight title in June and that defeat prompted Lee to consider his options.
“It is a new start for me over here,” he explained. “I was in America for a long time. I fought for a world title but it didn’t work out so I felt I needed a fresh start and for me to come back here and train with Adam has been a fresh start.
“If I had stayed over there I would have stayed in the same place physically, and metaphorically in my career as well. When you fight for world titles and don’t succeed you have to ask yourself why you didn’t succeed and you have to evaluate things. I felt like I had gone as far as I could in Detroit and the only way forward was to change things.
“It was tough losing Emanuel. I trained with Emanuel, lived with him and was very close with him. Before he was sick I had already made my mind up to maybe try with a new trainer. Unfortunately he was sick and passed away and that was a tough loss for me and everybody who was close to him.
“To get back to world title fights I have to win fights, it is as simple as that. We need one or two fights and then maybe fight one of the best lads from the British scene and that will put me right back in the mix and in touch of a title. I am not a million miles away, three or four fights and I am back in contention.”
Fitzgerald isn’t planning an easy night for Lee and the Dublin fighter says he intends to grab the chance to showcase his talents.
“I am delighted with the opportunity that Matchroom have given me,” he said. “This is the fight that we have been looking for and I am aiming to prove that I am at that level. Everybody had been keeping me in the shadows of Andy Lee, Matthew Macklin, Martin Murray and Darren Barker. I was looking to face any of them and Lee was the fight that has come up and I am happy to take it. I want to prove that I am at that level.
“I come to fight. I give the crowd value for money, I am there to win and make an impression on everybody. I have been at a couple of Lee’s fights and I think he is an exceptional boxer. He is a lovely lad as well and you can’t really fault him.”
The bumper Belfast bill is headlined by Carl Frampton’s shot at the European super bantamweight title against Kiko Martinez and also includes Martin Lindsay’s British and Commonwealth featherweight title challenge against Lee Selby.
Floor and tiered seats are on sale from the Odyssey Arena website www.odysseyarena.com priced £30, £40 and £60, while Ringside tickets at £100 and Inner-Ringside VIP tickets at £150 are both available from Matchroom Boxing’s website www.matchroomboxing.com