Boxing: Breen gets under Lee's skin
Normally so laid back he is almost horizontal, Andy Lee found himself angered for probably the first time in his career yesterday.
Middleweight Lee, just like John Duddy, is being tipped for the top with even more gusto than is being poured upon the Derry man's ambitions.
Legendary trainer Manny Steward arrived in Belfast yesterday and duly declared that Limerick man Lee was going to be "the greatest Irish fighter of all time" and that he would be winning the world middleweight title in 2008.
"We are not concerned what is happening with John Duddy and his team, maybe they want a couple of more fights before they fight for the world title but Andy Lee is ready to fight Kelly Pavlik for the world title right now," said Steward at yesterday's press conference in Belfast's Kronk Gym for Lee's clash with Banbridge's Jason McKay on Saturday night in the National Stadium.
Detroit-based Lee and McKay, both natural middles, meet for the Irish super-middleweight title in what is the biggest fight for both men.
As we waited for McKay to arrive, it was left to his coach and manager John Breen got underneath the skin of unbeaten Lee.
"I think there's a big question mark over Andy Lee's heart. I used to think it was his stamina but now I think it's his heart," said Breen, sparking Lee into a sharp retort as the Belfast man continually referred to him as "a good amateur" who has been well protected.
"Who's Jason McKay fought; name me one outstanding name on his record," snarled Lee.
Breen, clearly enjoying the verbal sparring, made it clear to the 2004 Olympian that his rise up the middleweight rankings was about to come to an end.
"You're all in for a big shock on Saturday night, Jason McKay has been waiting for a chance like this throughout his whole career and now that the opportunity is presenting itself to him he intends to maximise it," added Breen.
"Andy has trained in my gym and he's a good boxer but he hasn't fought someone like Jason before.
"He's boxing a proper middleweight this time and a credible opponent for the first time."
Manager Steward, who has trained numerous world champions, was adamant that Lee is well ahead of McKay in terms of progression as a professional and is ready to handle the pressure of headlining his first show in the Stadium.
"Andy has been sparring with world champions like Jermain Taylor and Kermit Cintron as well as Wladimir Klitschko and I know there's no way McKay has had that kind of development over here," said Steward.
" Andy has been around, watching me get fighters ready for really big shows and I could tell he was thinking about when his time would come and now is his time but we're not taking McKay for granted.
"I've seen films of Jason McKay and he's a good, fundamental boxer who moves well in the ring and has a good awareness of where punches are coming from.
" This is a good test for Andy and we are glad that he has taken the fight."
Lee has already pencilled in a date in February in his home town of Limerick, which will be one of four or five shows on Irish soil in 2008.
Steward added: "The plan is for Andy to box once a month and when we get the chance to fight Pavlik he will be ready.
"I will be going back to talk more with Bob Arum with whom I have already been in negotiations about Andy fighting Pavlik in 2008.
"Andy is currently being viewed in America as the best prospect in the world."