Monday, September 25, 2023  |



Andy Lee-Billy Joe Saunders announced for Sept. 19

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Andy Lee Billy Joe Saunders

WBO middleweight titleholder Andy Lee and challenger Billy Joe Saunders met face-to-face for the first time today ahead of their eagerly anticipated, all-southpaw collision, which takes place in Limerick, Ireland on Sept. 19.

Lee won the title with an against-the-odds sixth-round-stoppage of Matt Korobov last December and held previous WBO titleholder Peter Quillin to a draw in April. The affable 31-year-old is rated No. 2 by THE RING at 160 pounds and has a record of 34-2-1 (24 knockouts).

Lee said, “As soon as I won the world title, I wanted to defend it here. This is a global event and I’m proud to put Limerick on that stage and to bring an event like this to my city is an honor. It goes some way to repay the people who have supported me.

“I’m fighting one of the best middleweights in the world. Saunders is the British, Commonwealth and European champion. He’s undefeated; he’s waited his time and he will come in with a spirited challenge but I’ve got to hold on to my belt.

Lee continued, “I respect him. He’s an undefeated Olympian. This is going to be a hard, hard, fight and he’s going to take a lot of beating. His biggest strength is his will and how much he wants to win a fight. This isn’t a handpicked fighter; he’s the mandatory challenger and this is a real fight.”

The unbeaten Saunders is 21-0 (11 KOs) and is rated No. 5 by THE RING at middleweight. The crafty 25-year-old stepped aside to allow Lee to fight Korobov and marked time by handing Chris Eubank Jr. his first professional loss when he claimed a split decision in November.

“I’ve got a lot of respect for Andy and he’s a great champion,” said Saunders. “You’ve got two proud men representing their countries and the fans are going to win on the night. I guarantee that Andy and I are going to leave nothing out and put it all in the ring.

“I’m in his backyard and he’s got the home support but when I pulled up to the stadium, I got a homely feeling straight away. I’ve boxed in Ireland seven times now with seven wins and I aim to keep it going. It’s going to take a lot to take the belt but I’m going to give it my all. Andy’s the same as me and, in the end, it’s going to come down to heart, determination and grit.”

Information provided courtesy of a press release by Queensberry Promotions

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