WBO middleweight champion Billy Joe Saunders says the next time he steps on the pitch at Emirates Stadium in London, he wants to be fighting WBA/IBF/WBC (interim) middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin or Chris Eubank Jr.

“The next time I’m here I either want to be playing as Arsenal’s new signing or a more realistic option is to fight Golovkin or Eubank,” said Saunders. “Golovkin would be an tremendous fight for British boxing. Muhammad Ali fought Henry Cooper at Highbury so in this new millennium what better than a super-unification fight between me and Golovkin? I know he was at West Ham the other week, but the Emirates is the place it has to be at. As for Eubank Jr, he’s already had his backside kicked by me. What better than me kicking it again in front of 60,000 at Arsenal?”

Billy Joe Saunders (born 30 August 1989) is a British professional boxer. He is the current WBO middleweight champion, having previously held the British, Commonwealth and European middleweight titles. As an amateur he represented Great Britain at the 2008 Summer Olympics.

billy-joe-saunder-lee_3390374                                                                                 Andy Lee (right) and Billy Joe Saunders trade blows during their bout

By Rory O’Callaghan –

Billy Joe Saunders is the new WBO world middleweight champion after defeating Andy Lee at the Manchester Arena on Saturday.

Saunders, 26, was awarded a close points decision by the judges to extend his unbeaten record to 23-0-KO12.

Defending champion Lee, who won the title against Matt Korobov in Las Vegas last year, was knocked down twice by Saunders in the third round – a 10-7 round which proved pivotal.

One of the judges scored the fight level at 113-113 but was overruled by the other two, who scored it 114-112 and 115-111 in favour of Saunders, giving the British fighter a majority decision victory.

The pair began the bout in tentative fashion with the first two rounds passing off without major incident.

The fight burst into life in the third round after Lee connected with a solid straight left. Saunders then caught his Irish opponent with a powerful right hook which floored the 31-year-old.

Lee looked vulnerable when he returned to his feet and was soon on the canvas again after Saunders connected with another hook.


The defending champion took the majority of the count and held on to survive the round. He then recovered to take the next round after some good work with the jab.

Saunders and Lee continued to trade subdued rounds as the fight slipped back into a tense standoff between two evenly matched fighters.

Both boxers seemed wary of the other fighter’s punching power and neither was able to connect with any telling blows in the final rounds.

“Andy Lee is a good champion, I beat a good champion here,” Saunders told BoxNation after the fight.

“But I used his power against him. When I was boxing him he got a little bit careless – dropping his lead hand and I caught him with the hook.

“I’m not going to start running my mouth but it was a good shot. With someone as fast as me you’ve got to keep your hands up – I’m not the biggest puncher in the world but this shows you that I can punch.

“Lee showed that he can be dangerous. He actually caught me on a shot when I tried to finish him. I thought, ‘I won’t rush’ and I got back to my boxing and recuperated.

“When I put him down twice I knew he had to come and that’s when I had all the time in the world.”

Date: Saturday, December 19, 2015


Location: Manchester Arena (formerly M.E.N. Arena), Machester, Lancashire, United Kingdom

Promoter:  Queensberry Promotions / Frank Warren

Supervisor:  Francisco Valcarcel, Esq.

Referee:  Steve Gray

Judges:  Phil Edwards (112-114);  Dave Parris (111-115);  Marcus McDonnell (113-113)

Results:  Billy Joe Saunders is the new WBO middleweight champion by a 12 round majority decision over Andy Lee.



“He’s not good enough to beat me.” – Andy Lee

“I’m not going to leave that ring without the title.” – Billy Joe Saunders

NEW YORK (Dec. 15, 2015) – WBO Middleweight World Champion Andy Lee and undefeated challenger Billy Joe Saunders held separate media workouts in Manchester, England, as they conclude preparations for their eagerly awaited showdown this Saturday, Dec. 19, live on SHO EXTREME (5 p.m. ET/PT) from Manchester Arena.

Ireland’s Lee (34-2-1, 24 KOs) will make the first defense of his 160-pound title against England’s Saunders (22-0, 12 KOs), the WBO’s No. 1 middleweight contender.

The SHOWTIME BOXING INTERNATIONAL offering of the BoxNation telecast will feature analysis from SHOWTIME boxing experts Brian Custer, Al Bernstein and Paulie Malignaggi before and after the world championship showdown. An encore presentation of the bout will air on SHO EXTREME later that evening at 9 p.m. ET/PT.

Andy Lee.screen shot

Here’s what Lee and Saunders had to say at their media workouts on Tuesday and Monday, respectively:


“I have a punch that can end a fight, lights out, in any given second.

“I won’t rely on the punch. I will look to dominate from the start with educated pressure.

“I’m feeling very dangerous at the moment.

“Saunders’ unbeaten record is a disadvantage. He’s always been in fights he’s expected to win and has been well managed by (Frank) Warren.

“I’ve never lost a fight on points and I never will on points. If I’m down on the cards I will go out swinging in the last round.

“Saunders being a fellow traveler does add another layer, but at the end the day it’s about how good you are and he’s not good enough to beat me.”


“I’m ready to go for Saturday night. This is the best camp that I’ve ever had. I’m prepared for the toughest test of my career, but I know that I’m in excellent shape to win this fight and become world champion.

Billy Joe.screen shot

“Andy Lee is a tough fighter – he’s proved that by becoming world champion and having the type of career he has had. But I’m undefeated and hungry and know that I’m on the brink of fulfilling a childhood dream. I’m not going to leave that ring without the title.

“Training in Spain allows me to lock myself away from all distractions and focus solely on the fight. It’s hard being away from home, but it’s all part of boxing. It’s been a long camp, a tough camp, but after that I know that I’m ready to go through hell to make sure that I’m successful come fight night.

“The middleweight division is one of the hottest around and I’m prepared to fight any of the other champions in there once I win the title.

“Danny Jacobs had a great win against Peter Quillin, and then there is Canelo (Alvarez) and (Gennady) Golovkin. I know the importance of this fight for the division and I want my name to be among the very best. I’m taking it one step at a time, but I’m open to fight anyone.

“There has been no trash talk with Andy because we know what each person is about. We share a similar background and neither of us is going to take a back step.

“This is going to be a very exciting all-action fight because we’re going to leave it all in the ring. I know I have the skills to beat him and I intend to show the world why I’m among the best around.”

Saunders on fellow Brit Chris Eubank Jr.:

“The truth of the matter is that Eubank Jr. does not belong at the world level – he’s a phony. It’s as simple as that. I wasn’t impressed with his win over Gary O’Sullivan, who I’ve already beat. He thinks he can fool the public with a win like that, but he can’t.

“His aim now is to move up and fight the best guys in the world, but we saw what happened the last time he stepped up a notch and faced me: he was badly exposed. The same thing will happen with him if he fights someone like Danny Jacobs for the WBA title.

“You’re not the best middleweight in your own country and you want to fight a world champion and say you’re going to beat him? I think it’s a delusion and he thinks he’s greater than he actually is.

“Sooner rather than later he’s going to get exposed again as the fraud that he is. You can keep talking, but eventually you have to back it up in the ring against top-level fighters. He’s won his last fight and now he’s back talking (expletive) again like he’s the best fighter in history.

“If he has the balls to fight again, which I doubt, I would happily hand him another beating, this time in even more convincing fashion.”

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 22:  Andy Lee (L) and Billy Joe Saunders (R)  pose for a photo ahead of the Andy Lee and Billy Joe Saunders Press Conference at the Grosvenor House Hotel on July 22, 2015 in London, England.  (Photo by Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images)

LONDON, ENGLAND – JULY 22: Andy Lee (L) and Billy Joe Saunders (R) pose for a photo ahead of the Andy Lee and Billy Joe Saunders Press Conference at the Grosvenor House Hotel on July 22, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images)

Andy Lee looks to make the first defense of his WBO middleweight title against Billy Joe Saunders on Saturday. The evenly matched bout takes place at the Manchester Arena (Formerly M.E.N Arena) and airs live on BoxNation in the UK at 5:00 p.m. (including full supporting undercard) and on Showtime Extreme in America at 5:00 p.m. ET/PT.

Both fighters were very cordial towards each other in Box Nation’s “Head to Head.”

As Lee (34-2-1, 24 knockouts) touched upon, although both are southpaws they have very different styles. Lee the taller, rangier puncher while his mandatory challenger, Saunders (22-0, 12 KOs) is a smaller, more compact, busier fighter.

Lee, at 31, is five years older than Saunders who turned 26 back in August. Interestingly, Lee is also Tyson Fury’s cousin, though, unlike the heavyweight champion, is far more reserved and respectful of his opponents.

An interesting subplot appears to be that both are from travelling backgrounds, adding extra spice to an already well matched 50/50 bout.

The twice-postponed fight has given both men and their highly-respected corners, Adam Booth with Lee and Jimmy Tibbs with Saunders, further time to analyze each other.

Online gambling group lists Lee at Evens (+100), while Saunders is priced at 4/5 (-125). asked 17 boxing insiders for their picks:

Anthony Crolla, WBA lightweight titlist

A genuine 50/50 fight with two fantastic fighters. It’s so hard to pick a winner. Does Billy Joe build up a lead and hold on to it in the second half of the fight or does Andy Lee catch up to him in the second half of the fight? Either way, I see the first half of the fight being Billy Joe’s and the second half being Andy Lee’s. I can’t pick a winner; it’s such a close fight.

Stephen Edwards, trainer of junior middleweight Julian Williams

Billy Joe Saunders UD 12 Andy Lee: I like Saunders to outbox Lee and win a unanimous decision.

Norm Frauenheim, The Ring/

Andy Lee TKO 11 Billy Joe Saunders: Saunders has a chance to catch Lee early with a big shot. But the resilient Lee knows that. Look for Lee to give away a few early rounds in an attempt to stay out of range when Saunders figures to possess all of his energy and most of his power. After the fifth, the momentum figures to swing in favor Lee, who will capitalize with a punishing attack for a late stoppage.

Jeffrey Freeman, KODigest.TV

Billy Joe Saunders SD 12 Andy Lee: It would be easy to see Andy Lee getting his Irish socks boxed off by Billy Joe Saunders on Dec. 19 before relying on his superior reach and punching power to land a knockout blow, thereby saving himself from defeat yet again. Against lesser caliber opponents John Jackson and Matt Korobov, that comeback formula has suited Lee well. In Saunders, the defending WBO champion is facing a world-class middleweight upstart with superb southpaw skills and a sturdy chin. Saunders will box smartly and look to score a win on points. Lee will hunt for bombs but never squarely find the target. Firefights will be rare in this one but, when they do break out, Saunders will be more capable of imposing his will. The pick is Saunders by split decision in a title bout that looks closer to the judges than it does to the fans in Manchester pulling for their challenger.

Joe Gallagher, trainer of the Smith brothers, Crolla and Scott Quigg

Billy Joe Saunders PTS 12 Andy Lee: It can go one of two ways: Billy Joe was a very good amateur. He does well with southpaws; he beat Tony Hill very quickly (TKO 1). Andy Lee has grown into the role of world champion and a very good world champion, good wins away from home in America, got dropped, got up and knocked a good fighter out (Matt Korobov) and went the distance then with (Peter) Quillin. It’s a tough fight. I just think Billy Joe sets about Andy Lee early and really gets into a groove. I really think Andy Lee’s in trouble. I think Billy Joe can go through the gears. On the other hand, I do feel if Andy Lee keeps upsetting Billy Joe and doesn’t allow him in, I think Andy Lee can pull away on a points win. I can’t see it being a stoppage. I think it’s gonna be points, tight, either or, I don’t think it’s gonna be an exciting fight either. I think it’s gonna be a very tactical fight. Andy Lee’s a champion with power but Billy Joe obviously he’ll be on a high after beating (Chris) Eubank (Jr.), full of confidence, determined. I think if it goes to the scorecards, I think Saunders might nick it, it’s the toss of a coin.

Tom Gray,

Billy Joe Saunders SD12 Andy Lee: Truthfully, I have no idea who wins this fight. I can make a compelling case for both men and the only result that would surprise me is a stoppage win for Saunders. As it is, I’m going to pick the challenger via split decision. I think, as the fresher fighter, he can perform with more consistency through 12 rounds and his motivation will be sky high. Lee has a major edge in experience and he’ll have his moments but I see Saunders with a razor-thin edge at the final bell. This is a great fight between two excellent technicians.

Lee Groves,

Andy Lee W 12 Billy Joe Saunders: A tough fight to call. Lee is more experienced in terms of opposition faced and miles traveled, plus he is three inches taller and packs the far bigger punch. His left cross is among boxing’s most lethal weapons and it can strike at any moment whether he’s leading or behind. Saunders is younger, quicker and will probably have more crowd support in Manchester. Both are southpaws, so neither will have that advantage. Also, both will be somewhat rusty since this will be the second fight for both in more than a year. I’ll go with the bigger puncher and the more seasoned campaigner amidst an explosive and nerve-rattling atmosphere.

Daniel Jacobs, middleweight contender

Andy Lee to defeat Billy Joe Saunders: I’m rooting for Andy Lee because I think that’s a bigger fight for me. Doing something in the US between the two of us would make a lot of sense. He has a huge following here in New York, just like me obviously. It would be a classic showdown that Brooklyn would appreciate. May the best man win between the two of them but, if Andy wins, I think it would be very interesting for both of us.

Reggie Johnson, former middleweight and light heavyweight champion

Andy Lee KO Billy Joe Saunders: I like Lee in this fight. I think his makeup, skill set, height and range will have his hand raised at the end of this fight. Lee by early/mid-fight KO.

Tom Loeffler, managing director of K2 Promotions, which promotes IBF/WBA middleweight titlist Gennady Golovkin

Andy Lee PTS 12 Billy Joe Saunders: This looks to be a very competitive fight but I would lean toward Andy Lee because of his greater world title experience and power by decision.

Glenn McCrory, former cruiserweight champion and Sky Sports commentator/pundit

Andy Lee PTS 12 Billy Joe Saunders: I can see Andy Lee coming through on points in a very close, hard-fought fight. I think it’s an excellent fight. Billy Joe Saunders is a good talent. He’s young. It would not surprise me if he did beat Lee; it’s that sort of fight. I just think Andy Lee’s been there a bit more, the big KO to win the world title has obviously elevated him, so he’ll be on top of his game. He’s in the Adam Booth camp, which has helped him after (trainer) Emanuel (Steward’s passing). It’s been a lift to him. He’s flying high and I expect a close, hard-fought fight with Andy Lee coming out on points.

Jolene Mizzone, Main Events matchmaker

Billy Joe Saunders PTS 12 Andy Lee: I may be the only one picking Saunders but my feeling is that Saunders is the hungrier fighter. I also think Saunders’ southpaw style will benefit him in this fight. I take nothing away from Lee; he has the power. The question is: Does Saunders have the chin? I think it will be an interesting fight but, again, I’ll go with Saunders in a 12-round decision.

Marty Mulcahey, UCNLive.comBilly Joe Saunders PTS 12 Andy Lee: This match-up, to me, just has the signatures of a changing of the guard fight with an older champion who has endured many wars having his title usurped by a young challenger. Saunders is a little quicker of both feet and hand, as well as a little better boxer and, in boxing, a little means a lot. Saunders’ southpaw advantage is negated by Lee’s own but a tough, nip-and-tuck win over Chris Eubank Jr. is the type of preparatory victory needed for a challenger. I also think Saunders has the chin to ride out Lee’s often fight-saving power and the postponement from the original date works in Saunders’ favor, allowing him a keep-busy fight. All in all, the small things and intangibles line up in Saunders’ favor for a decision victory.

John J. Raspanti, Boxing Show

Billy Joe Saunders SD 12 Andy Lee: Boxing is all about styles. Billy Joe Saunders is a slick boxer. Andy Lee can slug. The question going into their bout is: Who has the advantage? Saunders is younger but Lee is taller. Saunders is the quicker man. Lee can end the fight with one punch. I have a feeling that Saunders will get off to a lead and hang on to win a razor-thin, split decision.

Lee Selby, IBF featherweight champion

Andy Lee KO Billy Joe Saunders: I’d say either Saunders points or Lee KO. If I had to pick, I’d say Lee.

Ronnie Shields, trainer of junior middleweights Erislandy Lara and Jermall Charlo

Andy Lee PTS 12 Billy Joe Saunders: Both guys are really good fighters and both guys are smart and really tough. The only reason I’m gonna give Andy Lee the edge is that he’s the champion. Andy Lee’s a different fighter now than he was, say, a year-and-a-half, two-years ago. Being champion has really molded well for him. He’s one of these guys, he’s always been a puncher but now he has confidence in his hands. He has confidence in his ability. You can’t take nothing away from Billy Joe Saunders because this guy can really, really fight but I would have to give the edge to Andy Lee because of the power and because of the confidence right now. I’m gonna say points because I think Saunders is gonna really put up a great fight. I think Andy Lee’s gonna outpoint him.

Paul Smith, former two-time world super middleweight title challenger

Andy Lee PTS 12 Billy Joe Saunders: I think it’s a really good 50/50; every time I’ve leaned away from Billy Joe, as in the [Chris] Eubank fight, he’s come out and proved everyone wrong and won well. I thought he done great against Eubank and really stamped his authority in the division. I think Andy Lee’s a very good fighter. I think he’s pretty vulnerable, at times, which makes him exciting but he’s a big puncher and awkward, strong southpaw, as is Billy Joe. It’s a close fight; if I had to toss a coin and put my money somewhere, I’d probably stick with the champion. Both nice lads, nothing would surprise me at all.

Final tally: 9-7 (and one undecided) in favor of Andy Lee to win Saturday’s middleweight title showdown with Billy Joe Saunders.


2015 has been a good year for the Middleweight division, as the rise of 2015 “Fighter of the Year” candidate Gennady Golovkin has given the weight class a ton of attention, going (3-0) in increasingly higher profile fights.

In November, Mexican superstar Saul “Canelo” Alvarez secured the WBC World Middleweight title with his win over Miguel Cotto.

And on December 5th of 2015, WBA World Middleweight Champion Daniel Jacobs entered his showdown with undefeated Peter Quillin a slight betting underdog, but his white wash of Quillin in less than 90 seconds established him as one of the top three talents in the weight class.

Before the end of 2015, two cards in England will present Middleweight fights that will add even more clarity to the WBO World Middleweight title picture.

On December 19th, veteran Andy Lee (34-2-1) faces the undefeated Billy Joe Saunders (22-0) in defense of his WBO Middleweight title at the Manchester Arena.

Lee won the belt back in December of 2014 when he defeated Matt Korobov to take the belt vacated by Peter Quillin.

Lee then fought Quillin in Brooklyn for his first title defense.

Quillin failed to make weight meaning the title was not on the line, but Lee fought Quillin to a respectable draw and retained his hold on the belt.

Saunders is from a traveler family and he represented Britain in the 2008 Olympic games, and the young southpaw has held a slew of regional titles while competing at a high level as a pro.

The books have Lee as slight (-130) favorite, with Saunders returning at (+110).

The December 12th event at the 02 Arena in London features a Middleweight fight that will also impact the WBO title seen as Chris Eubank Jr (20-1) takes on Gary OSullivan (22-1).

In this one, O’Sullivan is a wide (+650) underdog, with Eubank the favorite returning at (-1000).

The lone blemish on both men’s record is a loss to Billy Joe Saunders, and though it is not a perfect indicator, Saunders out-boxed O’Sullivan winning (120-109, 120-109 and 119-110) with the judges, while Eubank thoroughly tested Saunders in a match that saw a split set of judges 115-114 and 115-113 for Saunders while the third judge had it 116-113 for Eubank Jr.

Eubank has held an interim version of the WBA title he won after the loss to Saunders and he raised his stock further by destroying outclassed Tony Jeter in his US television debut on Showtime.

For O’Sullivan a win here would be a huge step up, but should Eubank Jr. win as expected he could be lined up to face the winner of Lee vs Saunders, with the re-match with Saunders with a world belt now in play perhaps the best financial option.

But it would be wrong to ignore Andy Lee in this fray, as he is the most seasoned of the group and is still in his prime at 31 years old.

With a win this Dec 19th and his experienced resume, Lee could be a candidate to face Daniel Jacobs in a truly international showdown at Middleweight.

With Triple G and “Canelo” waiting in the wings, we could be in for good times in the Middleweight division.

200540AE00000578-0-image-m-9_1449366892571(Credit:  Photos by: Getty Images; PA; Graham Chadwick; Reuters)

  • Billy Joe Saunders has returned to the ‘big stage’ as a professional boxer
  • His early exit at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing was a great disappointment
  • Saunders fights Andy Lee for the WBO middleweight title on December 19
  • He said he’s learned from his mistakes as a highly-regarded 18-year-old

Billy Joe Saunders is still haunted by what he did in the summer of 2008.

At just 18 years old, he was considered one of the hottest prospects in all of world amateur boxing and had broken ground as the first ever member of the British Romany community to qualify for the Olympic Games.

But it all turned sour that August in Beijing and, seven years on, what happened in China still keeps him up at night.

He had reached the pinnacle of his sport only to come crashing down to earth with an early exit. He’s back at the peak again, now as a professional, and insists there will be no tumble this time around.

Saunders faces Andy Lee for the Irish southpaw’s WBO middleweight title at Manchester Arena on December 19 in his first crack at world honours after racking up a perfect 22-0 record in the paid ranks. He insists he’s ready this time.

Billy Joe Saunders is ready for the big time this time as he fights Andy Lee for the WBO middleweight belt

‘I know I can’t come out of that ring a failure,’ he said, leaning back from a table at the Slainte restaurant above Marbella’s MGM gym. ‘I failed on the big stage, at the Olympic Games, and I think about it all the time.

‘I’m at that stage again now and I’m not prepared to do that. I’m not prepared to fail on this big stage again.

‘What happened then was a blessing in disguise because now I know what I lost there.’ Saunders, the teenage welterweight, had cruised past Turkey’s Adem Kilicci 14-3 in the first round to set up a showdown with gifted Cuban Carlos Banteaux in the Last 16.

That’s where it all went wrong for the Hatfield youngster, who initially blamed the judges’ scoring on his exit and resulting failure to medal.

But, reflecting on the trip to the far east, the 26-year-old knows the damage was done long before he stepped through the ropes that day. He said: ‘I did that when I was 18 through my own stupidity.

‘I was in the Olympic Village, running up and down, partying, I was 17, 18 and I didn’t know what stage I was on.

‘The Cuban, I would have beaten eight times out 10 and he went on to win silver. Think what I could have done at that age.

‘But it’s the reason why I’m here, at the MGM Gym in Marbella, in these surroundings, away from everyone on my own training and everything is going perfectly.

‘So now there is nothing I can look back on and say, ‘I didn’t do this right, I didn’t do that right, that was my excuse’. There aren’t any excuses.’ Jimmy Tibbs’, Saunders’ fabled east-end trainer, has worked with British world champions such as Nigel Benn, Barry McGuigan, Charlie Magri and Chris Pyatt. He has often said that Saunders is better than any of them.

 239AC64A00000578-0-image-m-13_1449367058241  Saunders won the Commonwealth               and European belts when he beat Chris Eubank Jr last year

2409F5EE00000578-0-On_December_19_at_the_Manchester_Arena_Saunders_and_Andy_Lee_con-m-15_1449367260660Saunders will fight Andy Lee (above) for the WBO middleweight title he won from Russian Matt Korobov

Tibbs has, however, always insisted that his unbeaten charge would only attempt to join that clutch of esteemed fighters by claiming the world title once he was completely ready.

Now, seven years since he turned over, Saunders’ run to 22-0 has been punctuated by the British, Commonwealth and European middleweight titles. He also became the first traveller to win the British title outright when he successfully defended the Lonsdale belt for the third and final time in his high-profile money fight with Chris Eubank Jr last year.

Tibbs, his promoter Frank Warren and Saunders himself are now all confident that everything is in place to add a world title to his collection.

Saunders said: ‘I never really did say I want to be world champion in another ‘X’ years. I always said I want to fight for a world title when I am 26, 27, that’s what I said. Now I am 26.

‘I wanted to be that little bit more mature. I didn’t want to just go in there, win it and then get beaten. I want to keep it and I’m not scared of anybody at middleweight.’

Despite his heartbreak in China, Saunders has turned it around to become one of the most successful members of that talented seven-man squad which eventually represented Team GB in 2008 after Frankie Gavin missed the weight.

Light-welterweight Bradley Saunders has had bad trouble with his hands and was disqualified in a stay-busy eight-rounder in September while light-heavyweight Tony Jeffries had such terrible hand injuries he was forced to retire after just 10 professional fights. He now runs two successful boxing gyms in Los Angeles.

The career of Beijing bantamweight Joe Murray, currently 15-2, has stagnated and he has not boxed since February when he was stopped inside five rounds by Liam Walsh in his challenge for the British and Commonwealth super-featherweight titles.

0246065000000578-0-image-m-18_1449367441150  Saunders says, as a teenager, he brought the defeat on himself but now he’s a more mature competitor 

Super heavyweight, and captain of the team in China, David Price was tipped as a potential long-term king of the heavyweight division but he has considered retirement after being badly knocked out by Erkan Teper in July.

The flyweight, Khalid Yafai, since turning professional has captured the British super-flyweight champion and is widely expected to go on to challenge for world honours.

But so far the only man from that team to become champion of the world is James DeGale, the middleweight gold medalist in Beijing, who is now the IBF king up in the 168lb super-middleweight division.

And Saunders, who is bidding to join him at boxing’s top table later this month, thinks his old friend from Harlesden will unify the titles to become the undisputed champion following his successful first defence against Lucian Bute.

Saunders added: ‘I think people have forgotten about his performance a bit because unfortunately for him, he boxed on the same night as Tyson Fury.

Saunders beli2EEB4B1500000578-0-image-a-30_1449367711695eves his friend James DeGale didn’t get the recognition he deserved for beating Lucian Bute

‘But I think DeGale is a very very good fighter and is a very good friend of mine as well.

‘He loves pressure. To go to Canada and do that to Bute, you have to take your hat off to him. He’s a really good fighter and he won’t be a flash in the pan, he’s going to keep it going.

‘All the tools are there for DeGale, as long as he turns up he’s going to be a tough cookie to beat. I think he’s going to unify the division now.

‘Given Andre Ward has moved up, the champions at his weight are Badou Jack, Arthur Abraham and Fedor Chudinov. In my personal opinion, DeGale beats all of them within a month.

‘He was always talented, now he’s showing it. He’s come a long way since the Olympics and so have I. Now it’s my time to win that world title.’ Suddenly, seven years in boxing seems like a very long.

 WBO middleweight belt at stake in Limerick on 19 September
 Fight will be first between Travellers for a legitimate world title


Andy Lee, left, and Billy Joe Saunders will fight for the WBO middleweight title in Limerick on 19 September in front of an expected crowd of 33,000. Photograph: Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images –

Andy “Irish” Lee is a travelling man in every sense, a proud member of his widespread roaming community and a fighter who has had to seek work in big and little towns all across the US and Europe, in near-empty halls and packed casinos, ballrooms and bars, in front of mugs and millionaires.

Now he is coming home, to Limerick, in front of an expected audience of 33,000 – an overwhelming majority of whom he will claim as allies – to defend his world middleweight title against fellow Traveller Billy Joe Saunders on 19 September.

“It’s a small community,” Lee says of the world that he and Saunders inhabit, “and everyone knows everyone. He’d know a lot of people I know and I’d know a lot of people he’d know. But the crowd will probably be 85 to 90% in favour of me.”

This is the first fight between two Travellers for a legitimate world title and, when they shared a podium in London on Wednesday, the mutual respect and bonhomie was in stark contrast to the bogus trash-talking that characterises many of these face-offs.

It is, they agreed, for a real world title, with the unbeaten Saunders from a site in Hatfield the mandated No1 challenger and Lee the acclaimed 31-year-old champion who has been given no favours in a career of several ups and a few significant downs.

“We’re both in love with the game,” Saunders said. “For me it’s about walking away with that belt. But it is a huge fight for the Travelling community. Andy’s the first Traveller to win a world title. I’m the first to win a British title outright. There’s a lot of talk about this fight in our community. But it’s for the rest of the fans as well. But, yeah, it’s for bragging rights. It adds spice to it.”

Lee said: “I’d agree with that. And I’d say our upbringing and our background is the reason we’ve both been so successful. The pride we will bring to this fight is the pride we bring to every fight. As long as we both shall live we will have to face up [to the outcome] of this fight. Whoever wins will be hailed as hero. We’re both good men and the loser won’t be shamed but the loser will be known as the loser. There’s a lot on the line for us both.”

Until a year ago, when Lee found a finisher when getting battered on the ropes to level the knockout artist John Jackson in front of a stunned crowd at Madison Square Garden, Saunders had the higher profile, notably for his win over Chris Eubank. But Lee is the man with the belt that matters.

His journey has taken in Mannheim and Cologne in Germany, Esbjerg in Denmark, Detroit, Memphis, Las Vegas, New York, Michigan, Illinois, Connecticut, Indiana, Oklahoma, New Jersey, his adopted city of Dublin, Belfast – and now the rugby headquarters of Munster, Thomond Park, where he will walk to the ring with the blessing of the Ireland rugby captain, Paul O’Connell, a Limerick man, and the club’s “Stand Up And Fight” as his anthem.

“I’ve paid the price,” he says. “I’ve been all over. I’ve fought in I don’t know how many different countries.”

Lee has spent much of his career picking up the crumbs of others. “I only got the [Julio César Chávez Jr] fight because Martin Murray wasn’t allowed to travel to America,” he said, referring to a bout that was cancelled because Murray had been convicted of various offences in his youth.

“And I only got the [Matt] Korobov fight [when he stopped the Russian in six rounds to win the vacant WBO belt] because Billy Joe had signed to fight Eubank. But there here have been a lot of fights I should have got that other guys got.

“I’ve got to thank Adam Booth [his trainer and business partner] because, when we got together, we started to work on the contracts that I already had in place, with Lou DiBella and the management company I was working with then in America.

“I’m now in a position where I’m champion of the world and a partner in this fight with Adam. So I’m promoting my own world title fight in a huge stadium in my home town. I’ve come a long way.”


Andy Lee and Billy Joe Saunders were full of respect for each other at the press conference for their WBO middleweight title clash at Thomond Park on September 19.


Champion Lee (34-2-1-KO24), 31, defends the belt he won from Matt Korobov in December for the first time – but was in action in New York back in April as he fought back to draw with Peter Quillin, who had failed to make the championship weight.

The unbeaten Saunders is the reigning British, European and Commonwealth champion and was last seen in November in outpointing bitter rival Chris Eubank Jr, having snatched headlines with some fierce insults in the lead-up to the fight.

There was no such bad blood this time, though, with Lee and Saunders – who are both from travelling backgrounds – dignified in their answers to journalists.

Lee said: “I would have driven past this stadium countless times and I always dreamed of fighting here. As soon as I won the title in December, my thoughts turned to defending here. It’ll be seen all over the world and I’m proud to put Limerick on that stage.

“It’s an honour really and it goes some way to repaying the support from the people of Limerick.

“I’m fighting one of the best middleweights in the world. He’s British champion, European champion and undefeated. He’ll come with a spirited challenge and I’ll be trying to keep hold of my belt. We’re going to put on a great show.

“The dream was to step off the plane at Shannon with the belt and people put on a great welcome for me. This is the natural progression.

“I’d like to thank Billy Joe because it takes a lot. I’ve been doing it all my career, going in to other people’s hometowns. I’ve said it all along. This is going to be a massive event and I’m delighted to be part of it.

“How can I not respect him? He’s undefeated and he was an Olympian. He’s going to take a lot of beating. His strength is his will and passion, how much he wants to win a fight. That’s going to take a lot of beating. This is a real fight.

“I know how much it hurts to lose and I never want to taste that again. I’ve been armoured by my defeats.”

Saunders (21-0-0-KO11) was equally excited by the prospect of fighting in front of 34,000 – even though the vast majority of those in attendance will be cheering on the home fighter.

The Hatfield fighter said: “As soon as I pulled up to the place, I looked at it and it was a dream come true. Everyone wants home advantage but he’s the champion and he deserves it.

“A lot of fights need building up and talking about with trash talk but this doesn’t need it. I’ve got a lot of respect for Andy. I just want his belt. You’ve got two proud travelling fighters going out there. There’ll be mixed fans coming from everywhere.

“I guarantee that both me and Andy will leave everything in there. All his support’s here but when you pull up to a place, as soon I walked in there I got a homely feeling straight away. I’ve boxed in Ireland seven times and have seven wins.

“In boxing, you have to do what’s financially right for you and your family. I stepped aside for the Korobov fight and Andy grabbed it with both hands. Fair play to him. I think he deserves to be champion and it’ll take a lot for the belt to change hands but I’m going to give it my all.”


UK promoter Frank Warren has revealed that plans have been set in motion for the WBO World middleweight champion Andy Lee (34-2-1, 24 KO’s) to defend against his mandatory challenger Billy Joe Saunders (21-0, 11 KO’s) on September 5th in London, UK.

Speaking to iFL TV Warren said the proposed date should be confirmed soon and that he will be looking for a suitable outdoor arena in which to stage the bout.

“Yeah I think it deserves that, it’s a big fight. It’s a great fight. I mean, you look at Andy Lee and what he has done over the last few years. It’s marvellous what he’s done when you think he’s gone into every fight as the underdog and the old equaliser has taken everybody out.”

Lee’s last three fights have seen him claw back from severe deficits and emerge with the upper hand. He went down heavily in the first round against John Jackson in June last year and was under intense pressure in the fifth round when he pulled out a counter right hook that left his pursuer face down inhaling the canvas.

Six months later he was matched against the undefeated Russian Matt Korobov for the vacant WBO belt and was behind on points in a close contest until another right hook turned the tide for him.

He followed up with a sustained barrage that forced the referee to step between them, ending the contest in his favour.

His last fight finished in a draw against Peter Quillin, who vacated the belt Lee claimed against Korobov.

Again, he was down in the first and made the trip again in the third, but rallied back in a very tetchy affair to score his own knockdown in the seventh; a crucial contributor to being able to hold on to his belt as the judges could not separate them at the final bell.

Lee is on the best run of his career and looks to continue in the same vein against a young, undefeated southpaw who has been out of action since handing Chris Eubank Jr. his first pro defeat last November.

Saunders obtained the mandatory spot for Lee’s belt with that win but was given step aside money by Quillin’s representatives to allow the American ahead in the queue.

Now, his time has finally come around and instead of traveling to the States as the away fighter, he will likely get to fight close to home in front of a packed stadium of fans.

It looks like he made the right decision, and he will prepare for his first world title shot with a warm-up against an as yet unnamed opponent at the Velodrome in Manchester on July 11th( The plan is to shake off the cobwebs as well as a calf injury Warren says he picked up six weeks ago.

Lee is from Limerick in Ireland but spent a good chunk of his childhood in London, and Saunders’ accent indicates he is based somewhere near the capital

It will build into a significant enough event to warrant the hiring and booking of a huge venue. Then it is all up to the fighters to put on a good show.


47-year-old passed away on Tuesday

The boxing world has expressed its shock and sadness at the death of Dean Powell.

Powell, who died aged 47 on Tuesday, had been in the sport for 25 years, as trainer, cornerman and matchmaker. His death is not believed to be suspicious.

“All of us are deeply saddened and shocked by the loss of our very close friend and colleague, Dean Powell,” read a statement from Frank Warren promotions, who he most recently worked for.

“Dean was a valued and popular member of our team and within the sport of boxing.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and loved ones for their tragic loss.”

British boxers past and present, many of whom worked with Powell, have paid tribute.

Amir Khan

Sorry to hear the loss of Dean Powell. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family. He was close to team khan and trained me for 2 fights. You will be missed.

Ricky Burns

Cant believe what I heard bout @DeanPowell66 was speaking 2 him yesterday.some great nites with him in my corner. Thoughts r with his family

Lennox Lewis

RIP Dean Powell! #GoneTooSoon

Joe Calzaghe

Shocked and saddened to hear the news of Dean Powell. Was in my corner for many of my big fights. RIP Dean x

Ricky Hatton

Just found out the tragic news that Dean Powell sadly passed away. My thoughts are with his family.a great man & boxing will miss him.

Billy Joe Saunders

Sad times for the boxing world lost a true Professional and hard working man in @DeanPowell66 will be missed #rip x

Anthony Ogogo

Shocked and saddened to hear about the death of Dean Powell. Boxing has lost a great guy. RIP my friend.

Dereck Chisora

Rest in peace Dean Boxing will miss you

James DeGale

Shocked and devastated to hear about the passing of Dean Powell. A sad loss to British boxing. RIP x