Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Andy Lee vs. Billy Joe Saunders Preview

By Peter Silkov

The middleweight division is coming alive at the moment, with the recent showdowns between Miguel Cotto and Canelo Alvarez, and last week’s Daniel Jacobs vs. Peter Quillin.  This Saturday will be Andy Lee and Billy Joe Saunders’s turn to contribute to a very competitive middleweight division. Lee defends his WBO middleweight title at the Manchester Arena. It is a fight that holds a lot of promise, due to the fact that both men are so evenly matched.

This is also a fight where there is a lot on the line for both men, aside from the ‘world’ title, this will be the first time that two travellers have fought each other for a genuinely recognized world title. In many ways, the ability to hold the bragging rights of victory over a fellow traveller in this match will be the most important aspect of this clash for each man.

Recently both fighters have talked about the public perception of travellers. In an interview with The Independent, Saunders said:

“Whatever anybody says, travellers don’t get the recognition for the things they do. There’s plenty of publicity about the bad things, but never the good things. I feel targeted  myself, and I feel for Tyson Fury.

Also, victory for the winner will be the possibility of a number of lucrative fights with the likes of Daniel Jacobs, Chris Eubank Jr., Gennady Golovkin, or even Canelo Alvarez, if they are willing to drag themselves down to the Mexican’s ridiculous 155-pound weight limit.

The bout was originally scheduled for September 19th in Limerick, but Andy Lee had contracted a virus and it was cancelled and rescheduled for October 10th. Unfortunately, Saunders was injured and the October 10th date was also rescheduled.

Despite Lee and Saunders being so well matched, in many ways this is a fight that seems to have slipped under the radar for many people. This might be partly due to the fact that both men have shown the utmost respect for each other during the fights build up, there has been no derogatory comments, or trash talking outbursts. Such a placid build up doesn’t tend to garner much publicity in today’s era.  Andy Lee believes the fight has sold itself, so the trash talk is a waste of time. That said, those who know their boxing, have been looking forward to this showdown. Despite the lack of ‘needle’ between both boxers, this is a contest, which seems sure to catch fire.

Both men were talented amateurs before turning professional, but Saunders looks to have the edge in boxing skill. He is a fast and mobile boxer, with good hand speed, and a useful jab. Saunders also has shown in his fight with Chris Eubank Jr., that he has grit and a good chin. When Eubank came back in the latter rounds of their contest, last November, and managed to hurt him, Saunders showed that he had the fortitude to grit his teeth, and ride out the storm. It was a tough fight for Saunders, and although he gained the victory, some weaknesses in his armory were exposed.  Eubank showed that Saunders is not so good when he is put under heavy pressure.

Andy Lee does not have quite the superior boxing technique or mobility of Saunders, yet he still has a good technique, and can make good use of his southpaw jab when he wants too. However, Lee has lately become much more of a boxer-puncher and certainly looks to be the bigger puncher of the two men, having displayed some sensational one-punch knockout power in his recent wins over John Jackson, and Matt Korobov.  In his most recent fight, when he was hurt and trailing against Peter Quillin, Lee pulled out his big punch to floor Quillin and turn the fight around, eventually salvaging a draw.

Of the two men, Lee, at 31, the oldest by 5 years, is by far the more experienced boxer. Lee has been fighting at world level for much of his career, and has had to come back from some debilitating defeats, most especially his 2012 stoppage defeat to Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.  Also, Lee had to come back from the loss of his trainer, mentor, and father figure, Emanuel Steward. He has literally rebuilt himself and his career over the past 3 years, after many people in boxing had written him off.

The result of this is that, despite his nice guy image and affable nature outside the ring, inside it, Lee is a mature and hardened fighter, who has shown in recent fights that he is at his most dangerous when he is hurt or behind in a fight.

This is a contest where both men need to perform at their peak in order to emerge with the win. Lee’s Achilles heel is that he often seems to need to make fights hard for himself in order to perform at his best. He is a notorious slow starter in fights, and can look awkward and slow, before finding himself in a contest. Against Saunders this could be a fatal flaw, as Saunders likes to take charge of fights early and start quickly. Saunders’s boxing skills and dependable chin do not bode well for Lee if he makes a slow start on December 19th.  Against someone of Saunders’s durability, Lee can not reply on winning the fight or turning the fight around with one punch.

If he is to retain his WBO world title, Andy Lee will have to make a good start in this contest. He needs to start fast and fight at a high pace, rather than allowing Saunders to try and out-box him at his own pace. One thing that Lee has in his favour is his wealth of experience, having been in many tough fights where he has had to dig deep in order to secure victory. Saunders has only experienced such a fight against Chris Eubank Jr. On the other hand, it could be said that Saunders’s boxing skills have made many of his fights easier for him than they might have been otherwise.

With so much at stake, we can expect both boxers to bring out their best form in this clash. This is a difficult fight to call, but the suspicion must be that at 26 years of age, Saunders has reached his peak and has enough maturity and experience to handle the best that Andy Lee can throw at him. Saunders has the boxing skills to out-speed and out-maneuver Andy Lee, as long as he is not dragged into the kind of toe-to-toe confrontation, which would favour the defending champion.

With the stakes high, look for Billy Joe Saunders to capture a point’s decision, after a close and hard fought fight, which may well be a contender for fight of the year.

Copyright © 2015 The Boxing Glove, Inc. Peter Silkov Art. All Rights Reserved. Peter Silkov contributes to

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1 comment:

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