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Billy Joe Saunders: ‘You will see me stand and punch with Andy Lee’

15
Dec
Billy Joe Saunders (R) alongside titleholder Andy Lee at a July press conference. (Photo by Jordan Mansfield - Getty Images)

Billy Joe Saunders (R) alongside titleholder Andy Lee at a July press conference. (Photo by Jordan Mansfield – Getty Images)

The road to Andy Lee versus Billy Joe Saunders has been long and arduous but on Saturday in Manchester, England, the pair will finally collide for Lee’s WBO middleweight title and fight fans are hoping for a 160-pound Christmas cracker to close out the year.

Irishman Lee was initially set to face the unbeaten Saunders in August when a virus severely hampered his preparations. Consequently, the bout was rescheduled for October but this time Saunders, from Hertfordshire, England, was forced to pull out due to a cut sustained in sparring.

This reporter was keen to find out if the challenger’s inactivity and staleness from consecutive training camps could become a factor in this long-awaited battle of middleweight left-handers.

“When you have this type of situation your team looks after you,” said Saunders, who is rated No. 4 by THE RING at 160 pounds, just underneath Lee. “Jimmy Tibbs is one of the best coaches in the world and if I needed time off (from training camp) then Jimmy would make the decisions.



“Right now, in fight week, I’m firing on all cylinders and I feel better than ever.”

Lee vs. Korobov (Photo by David Becker - Getty)

Lee vs. Korobov (Photo by David Becker – Getty)

All-southpaw showdowns are known to be tricky though. Lefties are accustomed to facing right-handers and their offensive and defensive techniques are configured accordingly. Saunders, when asked about the stigma of going against the southpaw stance, insists he doesn’t see it that way.

The Englishman countered, “I love fighting southpaws. I would rather fight a southpaw than an orthodox opponent. I don’t know about Andy but, from what I’ve seen, he’s always struggled a little bit with left-handers.

“I’ve got nothing against him, but he’s got something I want and I’m going to get it.”

Lee has competed on or around the world level for a period of years. At 31 years old, the defending titleholder has faced adversity on several occasions but while the challenger acknowledges that fact, he remains fully confident of victory.

“Andy brings strength, boxing ability and experience to the table but I’m going in there to outfox, outbox and outfight him,” said Saunders sharply.

“He has a dangerous right hook but you actually have to be wary of all his punches. Still, even though he can hit, he’s no Gennady Golovkin and you will see me stand and punch with Andy Lee.”

Saunders (22-0, 12 knockouts) also weighed in on the rest of the division and was habitually outspoken when it came to his peers. American Daniel Jacobs recently sent shockwaves through the middleweight ranks when he blasted out friend and countryman Peter Quillin in one round.

That result was no shock to Saunders.

“Quillin is a lazy fighter,” he said bluntly. “He’s happy to go in there and do enough to win and he doesn’t particularly like to box an opponent. If you want to slug, he’ll slug with you but he tried to put the pressure on Jacobs and got countered with a good shot.

“I wasn’t really surprised because anything can happen in boxing. At world level you have to be patient; Quillin wasn’t and paid the ultimate price.”

Billy Joe Saunders (R) on his way to winning a split decision over the previously undefeated Chris Eubank Jr. in November 2014. (Photo by Julian Finney - Getty Images)

Billy Joe Saunders (R) on his way to winning a split decision over the previously undefeated Chris Eubank Jr. in November 2014. (Photo by Julian Finney – Getty Images)

The most sought-after fight in the sport right now would pit THE RING and WBC middleweight champion Canelo Alvarez against WBA and IBF boss Gennady Golovkin. Saunders gave no opinion on the bout itself, focusing instead on the proposed catchweight caveat that continues to evoke controversy.

“Canelo has said he’s ready for Golovkin but that fight should happen at 160 pounds,” said Saunders, his voice rising. “Don’t sh_t yourself and start asking for catchweights because that’s a load of rubbish. If you’re demanding fights at 155 pounds then you’re a junior middleweight – period.

“Champions don’t say no to nothing. I would like to take on Golovkin down the line but I would do so at the middleweight limit. Canelo enters the ring as a light heavyweight, so why take off an extra five pounds to fight at a non-existent catchweight?

Saunders continued, “If you want to fight me when I’m champion then the limit is 160 pounds. I don’t care if you’re Canelo Alvarez or Miguel Cotto; we weigh in at 160 pounds or below because middleweight is the division I campaign in.”

Lee (34-2-1, 24 KOs) will weigh in at 160 pounds or below and will definitely be ready for action from the opening bell. The challenger has waited patiently to be in this position, however, and was completely resolute when asked for a prediction.

“I will win the WBO middleweight title,” said Saunders in earnest. “Andy Lee is a gentleman who hasn’t shown me anything but respect, and I feel that I’ve done the same for him, but I will find a way to win this fight.”

Tickets for Andy Lee vs. Billy Joe Saunders start at £40 and are available from frankwarren.com, ticketmaster.co.uk, eventim.co.uk and manchester-arena.co.uk. To watch live and exclusively on BoxNation please go to boxnation.com and subscribe.

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

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