By Liam McInerney.
HE wouldn’t win a popularity contest against UFC fighter Conor McGregor but Irishman Andy Lee will win in Thomond Park on September 19th to regain his WBO middleweight title.
Billy Joe Saunders is his young opponent. The 25 year-old Englishman will see this as his best chance of becoming a world champion boxer. The other title holders in the division are Miguel Cotto and Gennady Golovkin and there is little hope of Saunders or Lee beating either of them.
Saunders will play his part but this will be a night dedicated to the homecoming of Andy Lee who can proudly return to Limerick as a world champion.
The late Emanual Steward said in 2008 that he has never rated a fighter higher than Andy Lee. Steward also trained Lennox Lewis, Tommy Hearns and Wladimir Klitschko so his compliment of Lee was probably over the top but outstanding all the same.
How does Lee win this fight? Execute the same game plan that awarded him his WBO belt which was when he beat fellow southpaw Matvey Korobov. Like Saunders, Korobov was also undefeated entering the ring with Lee. Early in the bout he perfected the art of making his opponent miss with good foot work. He feinted well and began asserting his control and introduced his jab effectively. The fight ended in the sixth when Korobov swung wildly and got caught with a right hook. Eventually the ref called an ending to proceedings.
Lee is technically better than Saunders and that should see him through. But if not, his heart will get him over the line. In his last fight against Peter Quillin he was knocked down in rounds one and three. Lee showed his courage by bouncing back to drop Quillin in round seven and the fight ended a draw.
The Limerickman also got floored in round one against John Jackson. But Lee stunned Jackson in the fifth with a devastating right hand to knock him out.
If Saunders throws wildly he will be punished with a right hook. Andy Lee calls himself a knock out artist which is justified by his 24 KOs to date.
Billy Joe Saunders will be confident after defeating Chris Eubank Jr. after 12 rounds. But he slowed during the second half of the fight. That would be perilous against Lee, who with new trainer Adam Booth, work on growing into a fight and being patient.
Judging Lee’s previous clashes, this fight won’t be dull and a noisy crowd will await Andy Lee on his return home to Thomond Park.
I think Andy Lee will retain his WBO middleweight crown in Limerick by stopping his opponent and will cement his place in Irish boxing history as one of the greatest fighters this country has produced.