Wladimir Klitschko has lauded former WBO middleweight titleholder Andy Lee as “an amazing champion and person” after the Irishman announced his retirement earlier in the week.
Klitschko teamed up with the legendary Emanuel Steward a couple of fights after suffering the second stoppage defeat of his career, a devastating second-round TKO at the hands of Corrie Sanders in 2003. Though Klitschko would go on to suffer another stoppage loss to Lamon Brewster in his first fight under the tutelage of the great American trainer, the Ukrainian heavyweight’s fighting style subsequently underwent significant alterations and he completely turned his career around. Klitschko would go on to win his next 22 fights, claim the IBF, WBO and WBA titles, and dominate the heavyweight landscape for the next decade.
The same man who had such a dramatic impact on Klitschko’s career in the mid-noughties was also the one responsible for Lee’s transition from the amateurs to the pros. Lee, a 2004 Olympian, signed with Steward in 2005, before turning pro in March of the following year. Steward was not only Lee’s trainer, manager and mentor, he was also something of a father figure to the Limerick southpaw. Lee even lived with Steward for seven years until the trainer’s death in 2012 at the age of 68.
Due to the fact that they shared a trainer for so many years, Klitschko and Lee regularly trained alongside one another, even sparring on occasion despite the massive difference in their size. Thus, when he took to Twitter on Saturday to wish Lee a happy retirement, Klitschko ended his tweet with a really touching message for his one-time training partner.
“Andy, congrats on your retirement,” wrote Klitschko, who himself retired last year. “You were an amazing champion and person. I admire you and so did Emanuel and people that are close to you. You’ll do well in another chapter of your new life. Just ‘keep on punching’ my man and remember I’m in your corner. Later.”
Andy, congrats on your retirement. You were an amazing champion and pperson. I admire you and so did Emanuel and people that are close to you. You’ll do well in your another chapter of your new life. Just “keep on punching” my man and remember I’m in your corner. Later
— Klitschko (@Klitschko) February 25, 2018
Lee, who captured the vacant WBO middleweight title with a sixth-round stoppage win over Matvey Korobov in December 2014 and lost it to Billy Joe Saunders one year later, announced his retirement on Off the Ball last Monday, calling it a day with a stellar record of 35-3-1(24).