Saturday 21 April 2018

Exclusive: Andy Lee set to defend world title at Thomond Park in September

Andy Lee
Andy Lee

Eamonn Carr

The biggest fight in Irish boxing history is set for Thomond Park on September 19.

Reports have been circulating that Ireland's WBO middleweight champion Andy Lee is due to defend his world title against unbeaten mandatory challenger Billy Joe Saunders (21-0, 11KOs) in London in the autumn.

But now sources in Limerick have confirmed that Thomond Park will be the venue for the clash between two giants of the what is arguably the most exciting division in boxing.

Lee's coach Adam Booth, has convinced London promoter Frank Warren that Limerick should be the venue for the Irishman's first title defence. But he admits that some of the finer details have yet to be fully agreed.

The former Irish 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 emphatic sixth round destruction of the hotly-tipped formerly unbeaten Russian Matt Korobov in December last year.

Lee had agreed to defend against unbeaten former champion Peter Quillin in Brooklyn in April but the eagerly-awaited decider was downgraded to the status of a non-title fight when Kid Chocolate failed to make the weight. The bout went ahead, with Lee 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 currently 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, " says the English traveller. "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. Between them 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 more 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.

Andy Lee is punched by Peter Quillin during their middleweight fight at Barclays Center. Photo: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

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