Andy Lee on world title defence in Thomond Park: "It will be a world class fight"
Published 20/06/2015 | 02:30
Thomond Park, the home of Munster rugby, will host Andy Lee's world title blockbuster against England's Billy Joe Saunders.
The fight was unofficially listed to go ahead on September 5 in England, with Upton Park cited as a possible venue.
However, Lee's camp pushed strongly for the Limerick southpaw to defend his WBO middleweight title in his home city on September 19 and the deal has been done.
Speaking on Saturday Sport on RTE Radio One, Lee said: "My coach Adam Booth has been working with Frank Warren and the father of Billy Joe Saunders to arrange this fight.
"I was always pushing for the fight in Thomond and they've put together a deal and the fight will go ahead on September 19.
"It will be the first outdoor fight in Ireland since Muhammad Ali fought Al 'Blue' Lewis at Croke Park in 1972. It's great for me, it's great for Limerick and it will be great for Ireland.
"It's a serious fight, on paper it's a 50-50 fight. This is a big event. I don't want a mis-match of a fight. This will be a world class fight."
Mel Christle, president of the Boxing Union of Ireland (BUI) and a former Irish elite champion, had indicated that Thomond Park will get the nod.
"It is not cast in stone that the fight will go ahead at Upton Park. Hopefully, the fight can be held in Andy's home county," said Christle.
Christle, a senior barrister, was understandably circumspect about naming the venue for what would be the biggest fight ever staged on Irish soil.
However, the BUI tweeted yesterday: "Fantastic News just emailed to us. Andy Lee will defend his world title against Billy Joe Saunders in Thomond Park on September 19th."
Frank Warren, Saunders' promoter, night confirmed that the fight will take place in September, with open-air venues in London and Ireland under consideration.
"The main thing is that the fight is on. I think it deserves to be in an outdoor venue. It is a big fight, it's a great fight," said Warren.
Lee, a former Olympian who served his apprenticeship as a professional with the legendary Manny Steward in the Kronk Gym in Detroit, claimed the vacant world title with a sixth-round destruction of the hotly-tipped formerly unbeaten Russian Matt Korobov last December .
Saunders, the mandatory challenger, accepted a substantial fee - believed to be a six-figure sum - to step aside and allow Lee defend his crown against Peter Quillin in New York in April.
However, the eagerly-awaited decider was downgraded to the status of a non-title fight when 'Kid Chocolate' failed to make the weight.
Lee was on the canvas twice before staging a heroic fightback and decking his opponent in the seventh. The fight ended as a draw.
It was the first time Lee (31) drew a match. His record is 34 wins in 37 fights, 24 of which he finished by way of knock-out.
Unbeaten 25-year old Saunders is relishing a scrap with Lee.
"Look what he's done, " said the 2008 Olympian. "He's gone into every fight as the underdog and the old equaliser has taken everybody out."
Lee's style has changed since he switched to coach Adam Booth. The pair have worked on Lee's survival tactics under pressure.
That Lee can now fight in the trenches has been evidenced by the thrilling nature of his recent bouts when he's appeared to rescue the situation his things looked perilous.
A shoulder injury that Lee picked up in the fight with Quillin won't present a problem for taking what promises to be the most exciting fight on Irish soil since the heyday of Steve Collins.