Boxing

Andy Lee and Billy-Joe Saunders is boxer versus puncher

There has been no trash-talking between Billy Joe Saunders (left) and Andy Lee in the build up to Saturday night's WBO Middleweight world title showdown in Manchester
Andy Watters

WBO World Middleweight title: Andy Lee (34-2-1) v Billy-Joe Saunders (22-0) (Saturday, MEN Arena, Manchester, live on BoxNation from 5pm)

IS THIS the puncher versus the boxer? Yes and no. Lee is a fearsome banger, but he can box. Saunders is a stylish boxer, but he can hit too.

They’re both experienced southpaws from Traveller backgrounds, but the similarities end there because they have contrasting styles - Saunders is busy and fires off shows incessantly, while Lee relies on well-timed bombs to do serious damage.

Saunders has developed a reputation for starting quickly and then losing momentum in the second half of the fight. Meanwhile, Lee can look ordinary early on, but can always fall back on his show-stopping right hook.

So this well-balanced fight has all the ingredients to be a cracker and popular opinion says there are two likely outcomes: Lee by knockout or Saunders on points and Lee has predicted he’ll finish it after the fifth.

“The pressure is on me to retain my title and not be a flash in the pan champion, to be a great champion,” he said.

“That’s what I’ve always wanted to be.”

He added: “I would say Billy Joe is not as big a puncher as some of the guys I’ve fought, but I have to respect his power. He could easily knock me out.”

Saunders acknowledged Lee can out-punch him, but in the build up to the fight he wisely preferred to focus on his own strengths: “Andy’s gonna be one of the hardest punchers I’ve been in with - single punch,” he added.

“But there’s going to be a lot of boxing in this as well and I believe in my own heart that I’m a better boxer than Andy.”

Saunders likes to fight at a fast pace and Lee admits: Anything could happen.

“It could be an all-out war, it could be a chess match, but what you’re going to see is top class boxing,” he said.

Lee is related to world heavyweight champion Tyson Fury and Fury has backed his fellow Travellers - two men “bred to fight” he says - to bring down the curtain on 2015 with a memorable rumble.

“When two Travellers get into the ring, what you’re going to have is a real hard and tough fight,” he said.

“No one is going to be conned or fooled because both Andy Lee and Billy Joe have been bred to fight. They’ve been raised as real men and I expect them to go out there and produce a great fight. Billy Joe is the better technical boxer out of the two, but Andy has the punching power, so it’s a well-balanced fight.

“If Billy can box the right fight and make sure he concentrates throughout the whole 12 rounds, then he can win the fight. He can’t allow himself to switch off and let Andy back into the fight like he’s done a few times, like he did in the Eubank jnr fight. Andy is a superior and more experienced fighter than Eubank jnr, so he will definitely capitalise if he does switch off.”

Jimmy Tibbs-trained Saunders won £20,000 on Fury beating Wladimir Klitschko and will enjoy a colossal payday if he can win on Saturday night. You would expect him to look to make the early running and build up a lead on the scorecards.

He knows all about Lee’s right hook, but the Limerick man can deliver with both hands and if he comes through the testing first half he will catch up with Saunders at some stage. Lee has been in with better company and has a little more to his game and he should keep his title with the 25th stoppage win of his career.

Boxing

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