A father to be, Andy Lee hopes to return to the ring by the end of the year, with a home bout being one possibility for the 32-year-old following his comeback on Saturday night in New York.

The Limerick middleweight recorded an eight-round unanimous points victory over Alabama’s KeAndrae Leatherwood at Madison Square Garden’s main arena less than 24 hours after Belfast’s Michael Conlan made a victorious debut at the New York venue’s Theater.

The judges called the fight as a unanimous points decision, 80-72, 78-74 and 79-73.

The bout was Lee’s first ring outing since he lost his WBO world title to England’s Billy Joe Saunders, who is now a stablemate under trainer Adam Booth, back in December 2015.

With his wife expecting the couple’s first child in summer, Lee is now planning a short break but he intends to get back in action later this year.

“I’ll just relax,” said the Limerick man on his immediate plans. “I’m going home and the first baby is on the way… in June.

“I’ll just look forward to that, enjoy it and I’ll be back in the gym in September and I hope to fight [around then], maybe in Ireland,” added Lee, whose opponent, Leatherwood, proved to be a fairly tricky customer although the Alabama fighter did not offer much in terms of aggression throughout the eight-round bout.

Competing on the undercard of Gennady Golovkin’s world middleweight title defence against Daniel Jacobs, Lee took around four rounds to find his rhythm against the cautious Leatherwood, a 28-year-old who carried a 19-3-1 record into the bout.

The 32-year-old Irishman, boxing for the 39th time as a pro improved his own record to 35-3-1 after winning the cagey bout. 

“It’s always good to come back to New York and it’s always a pleasure to fight here,” said Lee following his fourth victory at the Garden. “It took me a while to get going but he was a tough and awkward opponent.

“He stayed in his shell and he wouldn’t really open up and I could see he was very wary of my right hook,” continued the Limerick southpaw on Leatherwood.

“He was protecting that side all the time, but it took me a while to get into it. Around rounds four, five and six [I was] good… and then towards the end I knew he kind of just wanted to coast and try to go the distance,” added the 32-year-old, who admitted the win was not particularly impressive but helped him shake off his ring rust.

“Yeah, I think there was a bit of ring rust, but I was just getting back into it,” said Lee, who took over year out following a points loss to Saunders.

“It’s been a long time… I’ve been completely out of boxing for a year, I was at home [in Ireland] and I wasn’t in the gym, but it’s good to be back and I think the rounds will stand to me more than if I had finished him in a round,” added Lee, who claims he plans on fighting for at least another year in the hope he can book a title shot with Golovkin’s name mentioned by the Limerick man ahead of the Kazakh’s main-event meeting with Jacobs.

Leatherwood did manage to land some decent right hands late on in the second round, but Lee took control from the midway point of the fight with a combination of punches being the highlight of the Irishman’s performance in the sixth round.

Golovkin, who has also been linked to a bout against Saunders, claimed a unanimous-decision win over Jacobs in the headliner at the Garden.