What it takes to be a champion

Andy Lee

Andy is a former Boxing Middleweight Champion of the World. Known in boxing circles as a tough-as-nails southpaw, Lee’s famous right hook is world renowned. He’s also an Olympian, having competed for Ireland at the 2004 Olympic games in Athens.

In this interview, you’ll hear Andy and me get into his training techniques and methodologies, what Lee thinks about success and what it takes to be a great champion.


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Andy Lee’s early steps towards becoming a champion boxer

  • How his career path was a surprise to those around him
  • The importance of “sticking with it”
  • Always striving to win the next fight instead of aiming towards world championship


Writing the book “Fighter”

  • The long and hard work of writing a book
  • Working with a ghost writer
  • Being newly retired and why this was the best moment to write this book


Andy’s Gypsy heritage

  • How it defines and shapes who he is
  • The advantages and disadvantages it offers


The shift to High Performance training in Irish boxing

  • Gary Keegan’s role in professionalizing amateur sport
  • The changes in lifestyle and mentality required of high performance athletes
  • The previously neglected importance of mastering the technical nuances of boxing


Andy’s early training and first coaches

  • His start at a prestigious London boxing school
  • Having blind faith in your coach
  • The different coaching styles of Billy Walsh and Gary Keegan


Getting the call from notorious coach Emanuel Steward

  • Andy’s surprise when he got the call from Emanuel: “I thought it was a joke”


Andy’s Olympic career and the progress of Irish boxing

  • His decision to remain at the amateur level and compete in the 2004 Olympics
  • Andy was the only Irish fighter in the 2004 Olympics, but every following year those numbers went up


Moving up in the boxing world

  • Making the switch from amateur to professional boxing
  • Why staying at the amateur level longer helped him be more successful at the professional level


The skills honed in amateur boxing

  • Mastering basic fundamentals
  • Always adjusting to different opponents and different boxing styles


Emanuel Steward’s influence

  • Andy’s time spent living with Emanuel’s family in Detroit
  • His big influence on Andy’s life, both personal and professional
  • What Andy learned by watching and commenting matches with Emanuel


The difference between Emanuel Steward’s and Adam Booth’s coaching styles

  • Emanuel loved knockouts
  • He encouraged fighting tall, using your jab, and setting up your opponent with tricks and feints
  • Adam Booth’s approach was more based on raw power through conditioning


The Kronk gyms

  • Andy’s introduction to the Kronk gym: sparring with Cornelius ‘K9’ Bundrage
  • What it was like to share a gym with world champions
  • Even when just watching from the sidelines, there was always something to learn at Kronk
  • Sparring as the main focus of Kronk’s old training style


Working and training outside the gym

  • Doing extra work to impress your coach and gain his approval


First professional fights

  • Fighting on the road: the home arena advantage
  • Dealing with local competitors who were also vying for Emanuel’s attention
  • How Emanuel selected challenging fights for Andy


Early hype

  • Andy was highlighted early as “one to watch”
  • He won the super middleweight belt in 2007
  • The recognition and hype happened too soon and he played fights he was unprepared for


Dealing with his 2008 defeat against Brian Vera

  • In boxing, it is very difficult to recover from a loss
  • Your confidence is affected: “Am I good enough to make it?”
  • Andy learned that he just had to work harder and rededicate himself
  • All the fame and all the accolades have to be taken “with a pinch of salt”


Other major fights

  • His opportunity to avenge Vera in 2011
  • The controversy around his 2012 loss to Chavezs


A new coach

  • Andy’s coach Emanuel Steward passed away in 2012
  • He sought out Adam Booth who offered a very different culture and training style
  • Booth allowed him to acquire a new set of skills, including close-range boxing


World championship fight with Matt Korobov

  • A fight that was years in the making
  • The most complete and technical performance of his career
  • Adam’s intense training and heavier workload prepared Andy for this fight


Strains in Andy’s relationship with Emanuel

  • It is sometimes difficult to navigate the blurred lines between a relationship that is both personal and professional
  • They both saw each other’s good and bad sides
  • With Emanuel, there was much more good than badmy will get overheated


Adam Booth’s different coaching style

  • Businesses and nation are underspending on R&DAdam’s style was more athletic, explosive and dynamic
  • He was very different personality-wise from Emanuel
  • Adam had great skills as a manager and negotiator


Sparring with Wladimir Klitschko

  • Always a challenge, with Klitschko working hard and being heavier
  • Very competitive, since there was always a crowd watching Klitschko spar


The personal impact of fighting for a living

  • Doing it from a young age makes it second nature
  • Feeling no fear
  • Changing your mindset so that you can hurt someone that you have nothing against


59:30 The mental side of boxing

  • The way to prepare for a fight is through training
  • Thinking you will win is what makes you winThe country needs to provide well-educated, skilled people



  • Visualization happens unconsciously all the time
  • The important thing is to be prepared and present in all scenarios, even if you haven’t imagined them
  • In any stressful situation, we fall back on the familiar and comfortable
  • Practice is what allows you to develop the ideal default mode


Nutrition and weight

  • Moving up or down a weight class
  • Re-hydration



  • The guiding role of faith in Andy’s life
  • Faith helped him believe in himself and his life’s purpose


The corner man

  • The huge importance of the coach in the corner
  • Their role as a psychologist who needs to know the fighter intimately and understand what he can give and take


The business of boxing

  • The darker side of boxing at the lower levels
  • The importance of finding people with good reputations who have earned your trust


The negative image of Irish boxing

  • Despite a bad reputation, there is a resurgence of interest in boxing


Boxers to look out for

  • TJ Doheny
  • Michael Conlan
  • Katie Taylor
  • Ryan Burnett



  • Lots of things may go wrong but it will likely continue to growRetiring on his own terms, at a perfect time
  • After a few losses, Andy realized that he couldn’t define himself as a boxer, so he developed other interests
  • The discipline is not something you miss, but you do miss the training, the fighting and the camaraderie
  • Andy’s wife Maud and her role in initiating Andy to more artistic pursuits.


Favourite boxers

  • Technical, stylish boxers
  • Roy Jones
  • Ronald Winky Wright
  • Thomas Hearns
  • Sugar Ray Leonard
  • Ray Robertson



  • Andy dabbled in acting, but he won’t be calling himself an actor anytime soon.