ANDY Lee will not put his WBO middleweight World title on the line against Billy Joe Saunders this Summer.
The Limerick star was mandated to defend against the English puncher, who stepped aside to allow Lee to fight Peter Quillin in front of a substantial US TV audience, and had hoped to secure a massive Thomond Park defence.
The WBO sent out letters instructing the two sides begin a 30-day period of discussions about defence, if no agreement had been reached, purse bids were to be called.
Considering Lee and Saunders’ promoter had worked successfully in terms of the step aside, negotiations shouldn’t have proved problematic, although Warren was keen to host the bout in England.
However, the WBO’s president Francisco Valcarcel has revealed that the governing body have been notified that Lee, one of two reigning Irish World champs will not be able to defend this Summer due to a shoulder injury.
The WBO will now mandate a WBO Interim title for Saunders, which could play out with Spike O’Sullivan target Chris Eubank Jr this Summer, with Lee having to face the winner once his injury has healed.
Valcarcel said: ‘It’s unfortunate but Andy Lee has picked up an injury to his shoulder so he will not be able to fight Saunders, who has worked his way into our mandatory position.
‘But we want Saunders to fight this summer so we are thinking of making an interim belt for him to fight for before pressing ahead with the Lee challenge once he is fit and well again.
‘We are looking at opponents for that one but we do know that a fight with Eubank could make sense and they could contest an interim belt.’