Monday, December 05, 2022  |


Billy Joe Saunders talks potential Andy Lee showdown

Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images

Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images


Unbeaten British middleweight Billy Joe Saunders was more than an interested observer on Saturday when Andy Lee and Peter Quillin fought their way to a 12-round draw in Brooklyn, New York.

Saunders, rated No. 8 by THE RING at 160 pounds, is the No. 1 contender for the WBO middleweight title Lee holds and a lucrative bout between the pair appears to be imminent. So was he impressed with goings on at the Barclays Center?

“I thought Andy Lee did well to get a draw in America when he’d been dropped a couple of times,” said Saunders, who is 21-0 with 11 knockouts. “The fight had moments of excitement but it was generally boring because there were long periods where neither man would commit. If Quillin had been busier, he could have nicked it but he wasn’t and I thought a draw was a fair result.”

Lee, from Limerick, Ireland, won the vacant title with a sensational sixth round stoppage of the heavily favored Matt Korobov in December. The Quillin bout was supposed to be his first title defense but the American failed to make weight and the bout went ahead as a non-title attraction.

“I think what Quillin did was disgusting,” Saunders said. “This was a championship fight and, with the money he’s making, to worry about losing six ounces is beyond me. He should have acknowledged that he couldn’t make 160 before the fight and moved up to super middleweight.

“Someone else could have had the opportunity to fight for that title and he should have stepped aside.”

Saunders is penciled in for a stay-busy outing on May 9 in London but, for all intents and purposes, the Lee bout is all but locked down.

“I think the fight will happen in the summer,” confirmed Saunders. “Whether it’ll be in a football stadium in England or somewhere on his home ground will be decided, according to where the money is. We just want to give the fans what they want.

“I have no problem traveling to Ireland. Like Andy Lee, I come from a traveler background and would have fans showing up in their thousands.”

Lee versus Saunders is an intriguing match-up. The all-southpaw duel would feature a veteran champion, who defied the odds in order to fulfill his dreams, against a confident young challenger who carries destiny in his corner and sees himself as the natural successor.

Saunders said, “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, unlike, say, [Gennady] Golovkin, who is still young and fresh as a champion.”

In his last outing, Saunders was involved in a high-profile domestic collision with Chris Eubank Jr. Following months of ugly, pre-fight hype, which ultimately made the contest a must-see, he prevailed by split decision.

“The build-up to a fight with Andy Lee will be nothing like it was for Eubank,” said Saunders. “This is two travelers fighting in a world title fight for the first time and that is history in the making. We don’t need bad blood and the fans will be out in force for this one.

“Andy Lee is a tough fella and he isn’t beat until the final bell. He’s also a gentleman but this is a sport and I want that belt. Whether it takes one round or 12, I will definitely be world champion when it’s over.”


Tom Gray is a member of the British Boxing Writers’ Association and has contributed to various publications. Follow him on Twitter @Tom_Gray_Boxing