Friday 15 December 2017

This will be close to warfare vows Lee

WBO world middleweight champion Andy Lee will defend his title against Billy Joe Saunders
WBO world middleweight champion Andy Lee will defend his title against Billy Joe Saunders

Bernard O'Neill

Jim Rosenthal reckoned that yesterday's press conference at Thomond Park for September's WBO World middleweight title fight between Andy Lee and Billy Joe Saunders at the home of Munster rugby was a relatively sedate affair.

Considering that some pro boxing press conferences have a tendency to get "emotional," Rosenthal, the MC at yesterday's media briefing in Limerick, probably captured the mood better than most.

Then again, there's a lot of mutual respect between Lee and Saunders. Both southpaws have earned it the hard way.

They're both ex-Irish and British Olympians and both have fought their way through a notoriously competitive weight class to the top.

Saunders, unbeaten in 21 fights, is not yet at the summit, but that's something the mandatory challenger intends to rectify against Lee, the defending champion, at Thomond Park on September 19.

The promoters predict a 34,000 sell-out for what is probably the biggest fight ever to be staged on Irish soil and a top Olympic star could also be added to the undercard of a bill which is officially titled "The Showdown at Thomond Park."

Lee, who has won 34, drawn one and lost two of his 36 fights so far, livened up proceedings yesterday when he paraphrased Ricky Hatton's old saying about boxing not being a tickling competition.

"It ain't tiddlywinks," said the champion, at a venue less than 10 minutes drive from his old alma mater, the St Francis BC, the club from which he became the only Irish boxer to qualify for the 2004 Olympics.

"He's going to come to try and knock me out. When the bell rings we're going to try and take each other's heads off. Make no mistake about it this is as close as it gets to warfare.

"There are so many ingredients in this fight that the chemistry is good. This is a dream come true for me. After I stepped off the plane at Shannon after becoming world champion I said my first wish was to defend my title here."

Saunders hasn't fought since earning a split decision over Chris Eubank Junior in November last year but doesn't believe that will be a problem,

"There's a man out there to beat every man," he said. "Me and Andy are skilled fighters. We're both Olympians, that pedigree is grounded into us.

"So, your going to see one thing and that's definitely skill. This fight has lit up something inside of me."

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