Billy Joe Saunders will take to the ring on December 16 in Canada as the reigning and defending WBO middleweight champion, being the proud owner of a belt which he won way back in December 2015 when defeating fellow traveller Andy Lee.
But since outpointing Irishman Lee with a majority decision success to become world champion at the Manchester Arena, Saunders has only defended it on two occasions, with unanimous decision triumphs over Artur Akavov and Willie Monroe Jr., more recently.
Against game Russian Akavov, the undefeated world title holder was far from impressive and perhaps even lucky to get such a comfortable decision in the end at the Lagoon Leisure Centre on Scottish soil. The win over American challenger Monroe Jr was a lot better, having then undertaken Dominic Ingle as his newest coach.
But the latter bout was still a drab affair and did nothing to further or boost Saunders’ appeal to a broader audience, as he outworked the New York-born southpaw quite comfortably. For most of the title defence, he was barely made to work at all, with Monroe having come in with a bizarrely inefficient gameplan.
However, the 28-year-old will next face undoubtedly his toughest career test to date against former 160lbs champion David Lemieux, a far more serious challenge than an inexperienced and youthful Chris Eubank Jr, an indifferent Andy Lee and the far from threatening Willy Monroe Junior.
Hard-hitting Canadian Lemieux will enter the ring ropes as the evens outsider in the latest boxing odds to prevail on home territory, a promising price for a fighter on a strong surge of victories of late. Since being viciously stopped in a gallant showing against the division kingpin Gennady Golovkin in October 2015, the 28-year-old has earned four consecutive wins, including two big knockouts of Glen Tapia and Curtis Stevens.
Of all the opponents Saunders has gone toe to toe with to date, none have possessed the punching power of Lemieux, and that could be a decisive factor come fight night. The latter home hope is promoted by Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy, who are seemingly keen to match the Canadian up with main cash cow Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez next year, rather than throw him in with ‘GGG’ once again in a highly awaited rematch.
Despite being the favourite to prevail and maintain his unbeaten record on what will be his maiden venture outside of the UK in his professional career, it seems the odds are actually stacked against Saunders for this latest encounter.
It has been evident, too, that Saunders doesn’t boast the massive power capable of keeping a fleet-footed Lemieux away from the danger areas throughout their match-up. Knockout artist Lemieux produced what could eventually be voted stoppage of the year back in March when he brutally put Stevens’ lights out in New York City.
Could another vicious stoppage success be on the cards on home soil? It’s up to Saunders and Ingle to execute their upcoming gameplan perfectly to secure what would be a highly impressive victory on the road, but it looks likely of being a truly testing night in Quebec.
NEW YORK (Dec. 19, 2015) – Billy Joe Saunders dethroned WBO Middleweight World Champion Andy Lee with a 12-round majority decision Saturday on SHOWTIME BOXING INTERNATIONAL from Manchester, England.
The fight, which was scored 115-111, 114-112 and 113-113, will re-air tonight at 9 p.m. ET/PT on SHO EXTREME.
In a matchup of tactical southpaws, an explosive third round from Saunders (23-0, 12 KOs) was the difference. The British challenger floored Lee twice – first with a big right hook and again with a counter right just 30 seconds later – and a dazed Lee somehow survived the 10-7 round. VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS: http://s.sho.com/1OfibYe
The Irish Lee (34-3-1, 24 KOs) fought his way back and was the more aggressive fighter in the championship rounds, but it wasn’t enough to make up for a slow start and the two knockdowns.
With the win, Saunders became the 12th current British world champion.
“I’m world champion,” Saunders said. “I beat a good champion today, a good sturdy champion. I used his power against him. When I was boxing he got a little bit careless and dropped his lead hand and I caught him with the hook.
“I’m not going to start running my mouth, but it was a good shot. With someone as fast as me you have to keep your hands up. I’m not the biggest puncher in the world, but I showed you there that I can punch.”
WBA Middleweight World Champion Daniel Jacobs, fresh off a first round knockout of Peter Quillin two weeks ago on SHOWTIME, was a guest analyst on Saturday from New York.
“I thought he was going to be a big brawler, I thought he had better assets,” Jacobs said of Lee. “He didn’t do enough for me. He was too complacent and after the knockdown you didn’t see that sense of urgency that a fighter has to have on the comeback trail.
“All credit due to Billy Joe, but it wasn’t an impressive victory.”
After watching the fight, Jacobs wasn’t ready to commit to a unification showdown in 2016 with the winner.
“We’ll do whatever makes sense,” Jacobs said. “I think it’s time to sit-down and figure what makes sense. Obviously it’s a good time to be a middleweight champion.”
THIS SATURDAY LIVE ON SHO EXTREME®
SHOWTIME BOXING INTERNATIONAL® Lee vs. Saunders
Airs Live at 5 p.m. ET/PT on SHO EXTREME; Encore Presentation at 9 p.m. ET/PT
“He’s not good enough to beat me.” – Andy Lee
“I’m not going to leave that ring without the title.” – Billy Joe Saunders
SHO VIDEO: http://s.sho.com/1ROfSkF
NEW YORK (Dec. 15, 2015) – WBO Middleweight World Champion Andy Lee and undefeated challenger Billy Joe Saunders held separate media workouts in Manchester, England, as they conclude preparations for their eagerly awaited showdown this Saturday, Dec. 19, live on SHO EXTREME (5 p.m. ET/PT)from Manchester Arena.
Ireland’s Lee (34-2-1, 24 KOs) will make the first defense of his 160-pound title against England’s Saunders (22-0, 12 KOs), the WBO’s No. 1 middleweight contender.
The SHOWTIME BOXING INTERNATIONAL offering of theBoxNation telecast will feature analysis from SHOWTIME boxing experts Brian Custer, Al Bernstein and Paulie Malignaggibefore and after the world championship showdown. An encore presentation of the bout will air on SHO EXTREME later that evening at 9 p.m. ET/PT.
Here’s what Lee and Saunders had to say at their media workouts on Tuesday and Monday, respectively:
“I have a punch that can end a fight, lights out, in any given second.
“I won’t rely on the punch. I will look to dominate from the start with educated pressure.
“I’m feeling very dangerous at the moment.
“Saunders’ unbeaten record is a disadvantage. He’s always been in fights he’s expected to win and has been well managed by(Frank) Warren.
“I’ve never lost a fight on points and I never will on points. If I’m down on the cards I will go out swinging in the last round.
“Saunders being a fellow traveler does add another layer, but at the end the day it’s about how good you are and he’s not good enough to beat me.”
BILLY JOE SAUNDERS:
“I’m ready to go for Saturday night. This is the best camp that I’ve ever had. I’m prepared for the toughest test of my career, but I know that I’m in excellent shape to win this fight and become world champion.
“Andy Lee is a tough fighter – he’s proved that by becoming world champion and having the type of career he has had. But I’m undefeated and hungry and know that I’m on the brink of fulfilling a childhood dream. I’m not going to leave that ring without the title.
“Training in Spain allows me to lock myself away from all distractions and focus solely on the fight. It’s hard being away from home, but it’s all part of boxing. It’s been a long camp, a tough camp, but after that I know that I’m ready to go through hell to make sure that I’m successful come fight night.
“The middleweight division is one of the hottest around and I’m prepared to fight any of the other champions in there once I win the title.
“Danny Jacobs had a great win against Peter Quillin, and then there is Canelo (Alvarez) and (Gennady) Golovkin. I know the importance of this fight for the division and I want my name to be among the very best. I’m taking it one step at a time, but I’m open to fight anyone.
“There has been no trash talk with Andy because we know what each person is about. We share a similar background and neither of us is going to take a back step.
“This is going to be a very exciting all-action fight because we’re going to leave it all in the ring. I know I have the skills to beat him and I intend to show the world why I’m among the best around.”
Saunders on fellow Brit Chris Eubank Jr.:
“The truth of the matter is that Eubank Jr. does not belong at the world level – he’s a phony. It’s as simple as that. I wasn’t impressed with his win over Gary O’Sullivan, who I’ve already beat. He thinks he can fool the public with a win like that, but he can’t.
“His aim now is to move up and fight the best guys in the world, but we saw what happened the last time he stepped up a notch and faced me: he was badly exposed. The same thing will happen with him if he fights someone like Danny Jacobs for the WBA title.
“You’re not the best middleweight in your own country and you want to fight a world champion and say you’re going to beat him? I think it’s a delusion and he thinks he’s greater than he actually is.
“Sooner rather than later he’s going to get exposed again as the fraud that he is. You can keep talking, but eventually you have to back it up in the ring against top-level fighters. He’s won his last fight and now he’s back talking (expletive) again like he’s the best fighter in history.
“If he has the balls to fight again, which I doubt, I would happily hand him another beating, this time in even more convincing fashion.”
SHOWTIME BOXING INTERNATIONAL® Lee vs. Saunders
Airs Live At 5 p.m. ET/PT on SHO EXTEME
NEW YORK (Dec. 1, 2015) – SHOWTIME Sports® will present the WBO Middleweight World Championship between defending titlist Andy Lee and unbeaten challenger Billy Joe Saunders on Saturday, Dec. 19, live on SHO EXTREME (5 p.m. ET/PT) from Manchester, England.
The SHOWTIME BOXING INTERNATIONAL offering of the Box Nation telecast will feature analysis from SHOWTIME boxing experts Brian Custer, Al Bernstein and Paulie Malignaggi before and after the world championship showdown. An encore presentation of the bout will air on SHO EXTREME later that evening at 9 p.m. ET/PT.
“We’re excited to deliver this important matchup of top middleweights to the U.S. audience,” said Stephen Espinoza, Executive Vice President and General Manager of SHOWTIME Sports. “The 160-pound class is one of boxing’s hottest and deepest divisions right now, and the winner of this fight should position himself for a major showdown or unification in 2016.”
Ireland’s Lee (34-2-1, 24 KOs) won the vacant WBO title with a sixth-round TKO of then-undefeated Matt Korbov in December 2014. The 6-foot-2, 31-year old was on a six-fight win streak before boxing a split 12-round draw with undefeated former champion Peter Quillin on April 11, 2015, in Brooklyn. Both fighters went down in a highly competitive scrap that was scored 113-112 for Quillin, 113-112 for Lee and 113-113.
Before turning pro Lee was a top amateur and represented Ireland in the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.
“It’s great that my fans in the U.S. will get to see the fight between me and Saunders and I guarantee it’s going to be exciting,” Lee said.
Saunders (22-0, 12 KOs), of Hatfield, Hertfordshire, United Kingdom, is the WBO’s No. 1 middleweight contender. The 26-year-old is coming off a fourth-round TKO over Yoannan Bloyer last July 24 in London.
Two starts ago, in the most note-worth victory of his career, the 5-foot-11, Saunders took a 12-round split decision over Chris Eubank Jr. on Nov. 29, 2014, in London. All but one of Saunders’ fights have taken place in England; the other was Northern Ireland.
Saunders was also an accomplished amateur; he represented England in the 2008 Olympic Games as a welterweight at the age of 18. Saunders is the great-grandson of one of Britain’s most famous gypsy bare-knuckle champions, Absolom Beeney.
“This is a massive night for me and I’m excited that it’s going out live to America,” Saunders said. “The U.S. viewers will get to see just what I can do when I face Lee and become world champion. It’s a big boost for me and takes the fight to another level when American TV comes on board and then you know it’s a big fight on the world stage. I hope that (Gennady) Golovkin and (Miguel) Cotto will be both watching because I’m fast approaching their level and they’ll get to see what I’m all about.”
Promoter Frank Warren said, “I’m delighted that SHOWTIME will now be televising Lee vs. Saunders live in the U.S. as it confirms the importance of this fight on the world scene. My relationship with the network goes back many years with fights like Joe Calzaghe vs. Jeff Lacy, Ricky Hatton vs. Kostya Tszyu, Frank Bruno vs. Oliver McCall, plus Naseem Hamed and Nigel Benn fights. I believe that Lee vs. Saunders will be another great fight to add to that list because of what’s at stake for both fighters. What lies ahead for the winner will make them fight to their very best.”