Saunders: Fury treatment unfair
Originally scheduled for Limerick's Thomond Park last September, the twice-postponed WBO World middleweight title fight between defending champion Andy Lee and unbeaten British boxer Billy Joe Saunders finally goes ahead in the 21,000 capacity Manchester Arena next Saturday night.
This is the first-ever World professional title fight between two members of the Travelling community and comes against the background of the fall-out from the sensational capture of the World heavyweight crown by Tyson Fury - who is also a member of the Travelling community and a cousin of Lee's .
Fury's sensational points win over long-time champion Wladimir Klitschko has been overshadowed by controversy over remarks he made in interviews prior to his famous win. Interestingly, in their final conference call before next weekend's showdown, Lee and Saunders - particularly the latter - expressed disappointment at the way Fury had been treated, particularly in the UK.
"It has been very, very unfair. I don't reckon it is right. Travellers never get the recognition they deserve," said Saunders, who suggested that Fury should declare himself an Irishman.
Interestingly, neither fighter engaged in the traditional trash-talk associated with professional boxing when discussing their long-awaited showdown. "We are finally getting into the ring and we will find out who the best man is. Being World champion is living my dream and there is no way I'm giving it up without a big fight," said Lee, while Saunders described Lee as the "best opponent I have faced".
Now 31, Lee has 37 professional fights under his belt, winning all but two. But he knows that the sands of time are running out on his career. "I don't know how much longer I will continue. This could be one of my last fights," he said.
The fight was to have been a triumphant homecoming for Lee in Thomond Park on the eve of the All-Ireland football final in September. Officially it was rescheduled because Lee was hit by a virus, though there was speculation at the time that the fight was pulled due to poor ticket sales.
Originally, Saunders' manager Frank Warren wanted the fight staged outdoors in Upton Park during the summer. After the Limerick debacle the fight was rescheduled for next Saturday's venue, the Manchester Arena. But it was postponed a second time when Saunders sustained a cut during sparring.
As a result of the two postponements both boxers have had extended breaks from the ring. Lee hasn't fought since April when he drew with Peter Quillan in a non-title fight in Brooklyn, New York. Saunders (26) last fought in July.
The fact that both boxers adopt a southpaw stance will ensure a tactical contest with a lot of counter-punching likely.
Tickets for the fight are available from frankwarren.com and the fight will be screened live on Box Nation. Go to boxnation.com to subscribe.
Sunday Indo Sport