LOOK AHEAD TO ANDY LEE vs BILLY JOE SAUNDERS
By TOM WATT on June 25 2015
This last week it was announced (as expected) that Ireland’s Andy Lee will defend his WBO Middleweight World Title against England’s Billy Joe Saunders at the Thomond Park Stadium in Limerick, Ireland. Lee became the first traveler to win a World Title when he beat Matthew Korobov in December last year and his second defence of that title will be the first time in history two travelers have fought for a World Title. Hot on the heels of Lee and Saunders is Tyson Fury, another traveler, who has his sights set on a Heavyweight Title match-up with Wladimir Klitschko.
Away from the records, this is a fantastic match-up that will see two very talented fighters face-off in a match that has seemed to be building for a very long time. Saunders was due to fight Lee for the Title earlier this year but took ‘step-aside’ money to allow Lee to make a voluntary defence against America’s Peter Quillin, a fight Lee managed to win via split decision after being knocked down in rounds one and three. Saunders for his part has had a quiet 2015 so far and hasn’t fought since his split-decision win over Chris Eubank Jr last year in a fight that captured the public’s imagination and saw Saunders thrust into the limelight.
Billy Joe Saunders is an ex Olympian having qualified for Beijing at the tender age of 18, shortly after Saunders joined Frank Warren’s promotion team alongside fellow Team GB boxers Frankie Gavin, James DeGale, Bradley Saunders and David Price who have all gone on to make their mark in the professional ranks with DeGale picking up the Super-Middleweight World Title earlier this year with a win over Andre Dirrell. Since turning professional Saunders’ career has progressed well with wins over Australia’ Jarrod Fletcher for the Commonwealth Title and Gary O’Sullivan for the WBO International Title being the highlights prior to last year’s victory over the polarising Chris Eubank Jr.
Lee, in contrast, has had an interesting career that has seen him train in Ireland, America and England before he teamed up with current trainer Adam Booth who helped guide Lee to his WBO Title. Lee has constantly been under-estimated and in his fights with Korobov and Quillin he was seen as a real under-dog. This looked to be a fair assessment in his first World Title shot against Korobov before Lee’s famous ‘equaliser’ leveled the playing field and sent Korobov sprawling to the canvas. Lee will once again go into this fight as a slight under-dog against a highly-rated Boxer-Puncher in Billy Joe Saunders but he will once again be out to prove the doubters wrong.
Saunders expects those tough recent battles to take their toll on Lee and said in an interview recently “Andy Lee is strong and game but he’s been on the floor in his last three fights and is coming to the end. He’s at a point where he’s cashing in and I don’t blame him for that but I’m too fresh for him. His luck has got to run out some time and I’m the man to take his title. He’s got a lot of miles on the clock”. There aren’t too many that would disagree with that statement from Saunders but one thing we have learned from watching Lee’s career is to never count the London-born Irishman out until the final bell is rung, as long as Andy Lee is in a fight he stands a chance.
Away from the WBO, other Champions in the Middleweight Divisions are Gennady Golovkin, David Lemieux and Miguel Cotto, both much bigger names in the sport and who appear to have other ambitions at present although GGG has always said his goal is to unify the division – although he seems far more committed to fighting Cotto than any unification as he hasn’t mentioned Lee’s WBO Title in any of his recent interviews. Saunders has made no secret that he doesn’t fancy the Golovkin fight any time soon so I can’t see him calling out GGG any time soon but if Lee should win I wouldn’t be surprised to see him take the challenge, it’s the type of fighter he is. As far as the IBF Title goes, HBO’s new star David Lemiuex just defeated Hassan N’Dam for the vacant belt and fans and pundits alike seem to be eager to see him face Golovkin although a chance to unify against a less prolific opponent in Saunders or Lee may be on the cards if the GGG fight is not made.
The Lee vs Saunders fight is still a long way away and Saunders is set to fight in a tune-up fight in July on a Frank Warren card in London. If both men go through perfect training camps then I would make Billy Joe Saunders a slight favourite in this one because of his amateur pedigree and boxing IQ, I can see this fight going much the same way of the Saunders-Eubank fight last year with Saunders out-boxing Lee in the early rounds and staying out of range of his power as the final rounds close in to take a points win, as always with Andy Lee though he has a chance to turn the fight at any minute if he is able to land one or two of his trademark heavy punches..
Whatever the result, September 19th in Limerick will be a raucous affair.
1. FLOYD MAYWEATHER JR.
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