Thursday 21 September 2017

Lee promises fans a great fight night

Andy Lee’S WBO middleweight world title meeting with Billy Joe Saunders at Thomond Park on September 19 could be one of the great boxing nights on Irish soil.
Andy Lee’S WBO middleweight world title meeting with Billy Joe Saunders at Thomond Park on September 19 could be one of the great boxing nights on Irish soil.

Eamonn Sweeney

Andy Lee's WBO middleweight world title meeting with Billy Joe Saunders at Thomond Park on September 19 could be one of the great boxing nights on Irish soil, up there with Bernard Dunne's victory over Ricardo Cordoba in 2011 and Steve Collins' dethroning of Chris Eubank in 1995.

In fact it has the potential to be the best of the lot. Lee will be going in as defending champion and the fight will take place in perhaps the most atmospheric of Irish sporting venues which also happens to be in his home town.

There's also the little matter of the bout being a renewal of the old Ireland-England rivalry which never fails to set the pulse racing, no matter how often we're counselled that this is a bad thing. The quality of opponent matters too, Saunders is the golden boy of British boxing, unbeaten in 21 bouts, a putative heir apparent to Carl Froch who retired last week.

In an era of multiple world champions there's sometimes justified scepticism about the stature of certain titles, but these are two of the very best in their division with The Ring ranking Lee number three and Saunders number six. The two fighters above Lee, Miguel Cotto and Gennady Golovkin, will surely be in the sights of the Thomond Park victor.

But perhaps the biggest thing this fight has going for it is Andy Lee himself. Who doesn't love Andy Lee? Intelligent, articulate and courteous, the guy is so gentlemanly it's easy to forget the toughness which lies beneath. He needed every bit of that toughness when storming back to draw, he was behind on all three cards with five rounds left, against the unbeaten Peter Quillin in April. Quillin was an extremely dangerous opponent, the kind most new champions would have avoided, yet Lee's gamble just about paid off.

You'd imagine that his comeback in that fight, after being floored twice early on, was partly fuelled by the dream of the big day to come in Thomond Park. Should he win on September 19 it'll probably be the most popular Irish victory of the year.

Bring it on.

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