Twitter has been awash with tributes for Andy Lee after the popular boxer announced his retirement on Monday.
Athens Olympian and former WBO middleweight champion Andy Lee officially called time on his professional boxing career on Monday, telling Off the Ball’s Joe Molloy, “[Boxing] has defined my life, it has defined who I am but it’s the right time to call it a day.”
Lee hadn’t fought since March of 2017 when he scored a unanimous decision win over KeAndrae Leatherwood at Madison Square Garden in New York, but he had kept himself available in case one last big opportunity arose.
That didn’t happen, however, and Lee, whose wife recently gave birth to their first child, wasn’t willing to leave his family for lengthy spells for just any bout.
“None of the fights and none of the offers were good enough or big enough to get me to go back and I have responsibilities now as a father – to leave my wife and my daughter, it would take a big fight to get me to do that, to leave them, to go away training and to put myself through all that,” he said.
“If I was single with no child – I probably would have been back in the gym straight away after the fight with Billy Joe Saunders but I took a decision to take some time off and then we had the baby so that’s been the best thing and that’s really my priority right now.”
Lee retires with a stellar professional record of 35-3-1 with 24 KOs.
Already a pro for over eight years, Lee captured his first major title in December of 2014, coming from behind to finish Matvey Korobov in the sixth round at the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas and become WBO middleweight champ. Four months later in Brooklyn, Lee was dropped twice in the opening three rounds by former WBO titlist Peter Quillin, who had failed to make the middleweight limit a day prior, but fought back to score a knockdown of his own in the seventh and rescue a draw. Lee lost his strap that December, however, as he dropped a split decision to Billy Joe Saunders in Manchester.
Lee was one of the most universally beloved fighters in the game, known for his heart inside the ring and his class outside it. Thus, Twitter was awash with glowing tributes for the Limerick southpaw in the hours following his announcement. The vast majority shared one major observation phrased in slightly varied ways – Lee was a good fighter but he’s an even better human being.
— Adam Booth (@boxingbooth) February 21, 2018
Congrats to my friend, @AndyLeeBoxing, on his well reasoned decision to retire as a boxer. It was a pleasure and honor to work with him. He represented himself, his family, #Ireland and boxing with class dignity and grace. He leaves healthy, with a beautiful family and future.👋 pic.twitter.com/9KpCzkF54T
— Lou DiBella (@loudibella) February 21, 2018
Andy Lee gave it his all in every match–he was a credit to the sport. Wish him the best https://t.co/PODSbj9K7s
— Al Bernstein (@AlBernstein) February 20, 2018
Happy retirement to the gentleman of boxing @AndyLeeBoxing ☘️
Its been an absolute pleasure training and learning alongside this man for years!
Enjoy the life you've created for you and your family x pic.twitter.com/Xz4lt3x6AH
— Ryan Burnett (@ryanburnett01) February 20, 2018
#The Quiet Man with the right hook from hell” Mr Andy Lee. Rest well my good friend, you reached the top of your mountain. Time to enjoy what is important in life.
— Kenneth Egan OLY (@kenegan30) February 20, 2018
— Michael Conlan (@mickconlan11) February 20, 2018
@AndyLeeBoxing apologies for being late, wanted to say congratulations on an outstanding career Champ. I’ll never forget you KO’ing CarlDaniels in MSG in NYC 16/3/07. Best of luck in everything you do the future Andy #classguy
— Barry McGuigan (@ClonesCyclone) February 21, 2018
— Jamie Moore (@JamieMoore777) February 21, 2018
What a fighter Andy was Am & Pro! I always admired him from afar tbh! I remember him coming to the Olympia in Liverpool for Ireland and leaving a man on the floor for 5 mins from 1 body shot! He was ruthless.. I wish you happiness in retirement champ! 👊 #QualityBoxFighter https://t.co/hGv39m4yWi
— Tony Bellew (@TonyBellew) February 20, 2018
One of my favourite fighters retired today. Thanks @AndyLeeBoxing – a very good boxer and an even better man
— Donald McRae (@donaldgmcrae) February 20, 2018
Happy retirement 👊👍 @AndyLeeBoxing
— Paddy Barnes OLY (@paddyb_ireland) February 21, 2018
All the best to @AndyLeeBoxing in retirement. That irresistible right hook in the ring was matched only by his gentlemanly conduct outside of it. A terrific pro and a "deserving" world champion #boxing pic.twitter.com/rGBu8CmHP0
— Tom Gray (@Tom_Gray_Boxing) February 21, 2018
Just read @AndyLeeBoxing has retired from boxing. Congratulations on a fantastic career bud. I remember seeing you at the bar in JFK on your own after the Chavez loss. You kept the belief & went on to achieve your dream..well done!👊🏻👌🏻🇮🇪 Good luck with whatever’s next👍🏻
— matthew macklin (@mattmacklin) February 20, 2018
One of Ireland’s greatest ever boxers amateur and professional @AndyLeeBoxing enjoy your retirement 🥊🇮🇪
— Jason Quigley (@jay_quigley) February 20, 2018
One of my favourite boxing conversations was one I had with a Mexican waiter in Washington DC who took my @AndyLeeBoxing t-shirt as his cue to launch into a passionate explanation of how much of a hero Andy was to him. Congrats on a spectacular career Andy!!!
— Eoin McDevitt (@EoinMcDevitt) February 20, 2018
Andy Lee is one of life's good people. Not too many people get to be an Olympian, a world champion & liked by pretty much everyone they meet. He's a superstar. Congrats @AndyLeeBoxing & good luck in the future.
— Jacqui Hurley (@jacquihurley) February 20, 2018
Tad emotional at that @AndyLeeBoxing announcement. An outstanding man and fighter, in that order.
As a fan, I threw every shot, took every loss with him. Woke my neighbours on that famous December night. As a writer, I got to know him a small bit, and frankly became a bigger fan
— Gavan Casey (@GavanCasey) February 20, 2018
— Tom Craze (@TomCraze) February 20, 2018
@AndyLeeBoxing congrats on an amazing career mate . Good luck in the future 👍🏽
— Martin Murray (@MartinMurrayBox) February 20, 2018
Never met or crossed passed w/ you @AndyLeeBoxing , but I have the utmost respect for you, & that right hook. Enjoy life after boxing, champ.
— 🐍 Sergio Mora (@TheLatinSnake_) February 20, 2018
@AndyLeeBoxing enjoy your retirement mate!
Well deserved after a fantastic career.
Proud to have been there for a couple of your big nights.
All the very best for the future to you and the family. pic.twitter.com/yv6mM7Xrzl
— Dave Coldwell (@davidcoldwell) February 20, 2018
Have a great retirement @AndyLeeBoxing. Fantastic to deal with professionally, never a bad word said about you and the KO of Jackson one of the best nights ever in the @boxnationtv studio. Today begins the rest of your life.
— Steve Lillis (@stevelillis) February 21, 2018
The tributes being paid to @AndyLeeBoxing are richly deserved and show the high esteem he's held in by sports fans across the world. A true role model for any young athlete. Everyone at the BUI wish you the very best in retirement Andy. pic.twitter.com/5VkE5P8ozn
— BoxingUnionOfIreland (@boxingunionIRL) February 21, 2018
Was always a fan of Andy Lee. Pure heart, guts, and fight altering power. Was an honor to see his last fight at the Garden.
— caposa (@Grabaka_Hitman) February 20, 2018
One of this country's best ever exponents and a true role model for kids sportsmanship & manners and such an articulate speaker pleasure to have ever been punched by the man
— Niall Kennedy Boxer (@niallbaskennedy) February 20, 2018
— Gordon D'Arcy (@Gordonwdarcy) February 21, 2018
Thanks for the great memories @AndyLeeBoxing. I was fortunate enough to fight on the same card as you in your prime. Best wishes in your retirement champ. #formerworldchampion #futureworldchampion pic.twitter.com/OQbiBxH6mk
— Ray Moylette (@raymoylette) February 20, 2018
Happy retirement my friend @AndyLeeBoxing nobody more deserving of all the plaudits i hope u receive for the years of enjoyment u have given fight fans a true gent outside the ring and gifted inside #Gentleman best of luck with ur next chapter 👊👊
— Niall Kennedy Boxer (@niallbaskennedy) February 20, 2018
— Bradley Skeete (@BradleySkeete) February 21, 2018
Wishing you all the best in your retirement @AndyLeeBoxing 👊🏾
— Kell Brook (@SpecialKBrook) February 21, 2018