Andy Lee puts his WBO title on the line against Billy Joe Saunders as the two middleweight rivals meet in one of the biggest domestic fights of 2015 at Manchester Arena on Saturday 19 December.
Where to watch
Lee vs Saunders is available to watch live on pay television channel BoxNation, with the programme scheduled to begin at 5pm GMT. Ring walks for the main event are expected to commence at approximately 10.15pm.
There is a palpable sense of relief to finally see Lee and mandatory challenger Saunders go head-to-head, 13 months after the latter earned his first world title shot with a split decision victory over Chris Eubank Jr in London. Such a bout was originally due to take place in-mid September at Thomond Park in the champion's hometown of Limerick, only to be postponed due to him suffering a virus. Rescheduled for the following month, Saunders suffered a cut during sparring and the fight was delayed for a second time.
Lee, a former protege of legendary late trainer Emanuel Steward and currently under the guidance of Adam Booth, is set to provide the first defence of the belt he first won by stopping previously unbeaten Russian Matt Korobov with a flurry of punches despite being behind on the scorecards in Las Vegas. His last outing on the undercard of Danny Garcia's majority decision victory over Lamont Peterson back in April ended in stalemate, although he would not have lost the title in any case as opponent Peter Quillin failed to make the necessary weight.
As for Saunders, his only ring time since that memorable triumph over Eubank Jr came with a straightforward four-round tune-up win over Yoann Bloyer in July. Despite the 26-year-old preparing for the chance to become a world champion, much of the build-up to the occasion has been dominated by questions regarding a potential rematch against the man who looked so impressive in defeating Spike O'Sullivan last weekend.
What they've said (via BBC Sport)
Andy Lee: "I'd like to dominate him, show him my class and that I'm not just a puncher. The fact it's the first world title fight involving two Irish Travellers gives it an extra sub-plot. But people will be surprised.
"People are saying Billy Joe is a better boxer and I'm a bigger puncher. I can punch but I don't have to rely on it. They'll be thinking that because it's two Travellers it will be like a brawl on the street. But we're both pure boxers so it will be a high-class boxing match."
Billy Joe Saunders: "He's been in big fights in America, yes, but he's also lost some big fights there as well – against Julio Cesar Chavez and Brian Vera.
"He was getting beaten by Matt Korobov until his punch power got him out of trouble and he drew with Peter Quillin, which I would have been disgusted with. I go in to win, not draw. There are no doubts in my head at all and he knows that I'm mentally strong and that he can't get into my head. I don't think it is going to be my hardest fight."
Lee: 37 fights, 34 wins (24 via knockout)
- (D) Peter Quillin – split decision – April 2015
- (W) Matt Korobov – technical knockout – December 2014
- (W) John Jackson – knockout – June 2014
Saunders: 22 fights, 22 wins (12 via knockout)
- (W) Yoann Bloyer – technical knockout – July 2015
- (W) Chris Eubank Jr – split decision – November 2014
- (W) Emanuele Blandamura – knockout – July 2014
This is a very tricky fight to call between two talented, evenly-matched and technically astute middleweights. The smart money would be on a points decision, although choosing a victor is certainly no easy task.
Lee has proven himself to be a big puncher in the past, so Saunders will have to ensure that he avoids getting tagged with too many hard shots. If he can do that and box smartly throughout the 12 rounds, then we could well be looking at a new world champion.
Odds (via William Hill)
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