Irishman faces Chavez Jnr for middleweight title

Irish southpaw Andy Lee will fight for a world title for the first time in his career on Saturday when he faces unbeaten World Boxing Council middleweight champion Julio Cesar Chavez Jnr.

Lee, who is 28-1 with 20 knockouts, has won his past 13 fights in a row over four years to earn a chance at the crown.

"I relish this opportunity," Lee said. "I'm totally focused on the fight and I'm ready to take care of business. I have never been more ready.

"This is the pinnacle of a lifetime's work and the opportunity is not going to pass me by. I'm going to win the title. This is my date with destiny."

But to take the prize, he will have to dethrone the undefeated Mexican, a ring legend's son who at 26 is making his own fame and will be supported by throngs at Sun Bowl stadium, just across the US border from his homeland.

"This will be the toughest fight of my career," Chavez said. "I am facing a tough, difficult opponent in Andy Lee."

Chavez, 45-0 with one drawn and 31 knockouts, will be making the third defense of his first world title, won last June when he edged previously undefeated German Sebastian Zbik by majority decision.

Chavez, who has won 22 fights in a row since a 2005 draw, stopped American Peter Manfredo in the fifth round last November and took a unanimous decision over Mexico's Marco Antonio Rubio last February in prior title defenses.

"Julio Cesar Chavez Jnr has been a proud champion and has kept himself busy in the last 12 months, but I will be too strong and have too much ring craft for him," Lee said. "I will be the fighter who will leave as the new champion."

Lee, 28, was a 2004 Olympian who turned professional in 2006 and trains in Detroit under Emanuel Steward.

"Preparations for the fight could not have been any better," Steward said. "We've prepared for every possible scenario. Chavez has never fought a fighter like Andy Lee and the champion is going to realize that on fight night.

"Andy's time has arrived. He has trained his entire life for this moment. Andy is a fighter on a mission and with the frame of mind he has had in the gym during camp I believe he can knock Chavez out."

Lee promoter Lou DiBella pleaded for a fair outcome in the wake of Filipino icon Manny Pacquiao's controversial loss last weekend to unbeaten American Tim Bradley, a verdict so contrary to what most observers saw that it has come under investigation.

"In recent times, the sport of boxing has been plagued by inexplicable decisions, questionable judging and the appearance of possible impropriety," DiBella said.

"The greatest hope of Team Lee is that the fighter who truly wins on Saturday night gets his just rewards and not simply the consolation of a public that knows the truth.

"We are confident that the athletic commission in Texas, the judges and the referee are fully aware and agree that the sport of boxing cannot take and does not deserve more unnecessary controversy."

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