Saunders edges Lee, wins WBO title

Lee vs Saunders

Billy Joe Saunders (23-0, 12 KOs) edged a victory against WBO middleweight champion Andy Lee (34-3-1, 24 KOs) via a majority decision in Manchester.

Such a bout could arguably have gone either way with plenty of close rounds and perhaps the fairest decision would have been a draw.

At the end of the bout the judges scored the fight 114-112 and 115-111 for Saunders, and 113-113 draw.

It was a tense fight that lacked any real action. In fact, there had been only a handful of punches thrown when Saunders caught Lee sending him to the canvas in the third. Lee recovered only to find himself back on the canvas moments later but he managed to survive the round.

In the following round Saunders was very cautious, fighting on the outside instead of trying to finish Lee off and with good reason. In a post fight interview with IFL TV, Saunders admitted he got caught by Lee trying to finish him in the third and that he didn’t want to end up on the receiving end of Lee’s devastating right hook whilst trying to finish him off.

Lee, however, really should have picked up the pace much earlier if he wanted to keep hold of his title. Especially considering the knockdowns, and the three English judges.

What makes Lee’s failure to step on the gas more surprising is that Saunders stamina seemed to drop very early on.

In the final two rounds you could see that Lee’s shots were hurting Saunders who was holding on and giving very little at all in return. Perhaps if Lee had been more aggressive earlier on the fight we would have seen a very different outcome.

A rematch is possible, however it seems unlikely. Lee is a dangerous fighter and although the Traveller aspect provides a nice backstory I don’t see Saunders giving him a shot as a voluntary defence.

Saunders did however say a rematch with Eubank Jr. is a possibility if he can win a world title.

Saunders vs. Eubank Jr. II would be a much bigger fight if Eubank Jr. could overcome WBA champion Daniel Jacobs first. Eubank Jr. became the mandatory challenger for Jacobs when he beat Gary O’Sullivan this month and if he can see off Jacobs a unification fight with Saunders would be a big event.

Of course a middleweight title fight wouldn’t be complete if Gennady Golovkin’s name didn’t creep up. Saunders is unfortunately not interested in such a fight at the moment telling IFL TV “Gennady Golovkin…f**k off — He’s the best in the world”.

Saunders has however said he would like to fight the likes of Cotto but will most likely make a voluntary defence against a comfortable opponent in the WBO top 15 before making a mandatory defence.

Before we can think of a British mega fight Saunders will want to secure some defences. Whilst Eubank Jr. will perhaps look to claim the British title from Nick Blackwell (as his mandatory challenger) before taking on Daniel Jacobs (as his mandatory challenger).

If both fighters are successful then a middleweight unification bout between the pair would seem very likely in the near future.

Liam Smith (22-0-1, 12 KO) was able to successfully defend his WBO junior middleweight title against Jimmy Kelly (16-1, 7 KO) via a seventh round stoppage.

Many had criticised Smith’s first title defence against Kelly, who although ranked in the top 15 by the WBO, is somewhat of an unknown quantity to many. However, Kelly exceeded expectations and fought well.

Kelly was able to catch Smith with a few choice uppercuts and enjoyed some success but Smith slowly drained the challenger. Eventually, Kelly was fustrated by the path the fight was taking lashing out with a blatant headbutt and he was docked two points.

By the seventh round it had all become too much for Kelly who after surviving a barrage of shots from Smith was so exhausted he simply bounced off the ropes and collapsed. The referee didn’t rule it as a knockdown and it didn’t really matter as within moments Kelly’s corner had thrown in the towel.

After the fight, Smith’s promoter Frank Warren said “The Cotto fight, if we could make that, I think we’d all be happy. But it’s about (Liam Smith). He’s still got a long way to go. I think he’s only going to get better and better.”

Mitchell Smith (13-1, 7 KOs) suffered the first defeat of his career losing his WBO Inter-Continental super featherweight title to George Jupp (13-2, 4 KOs) via unanimous decision. The judges scored the bout 98-94, 96-94 and 97-93.

Commonwealth junior middleweight champion Liam Williams (13-0-1, 8 KOs) made quick work of Kris Carslaw (22-6, 5 KOs) stopping him in the second round to secure the vacant British 154lb title.

Paul Butler (20-1, 11 KOs) won the WBO European super flyweight title with a sixth round TKO win against Silvio Olteanu (15-9-1, 6 KOs).

Jack Catterall (14-0, 9 KOs) retained his WBO Inter-Continental super lightweight title stopping Noe Nunez (15-3-1, 12 KOs) in the third round of their bout.

Thomas Stalker (10-1-3, 2 KOs) and Craig Evans (14-1-2, 3 KOs) once again fought to a draw over 10 rounds in their battle for the vacant WBO European lightweight title. The judges’ scorecards were 95-95, 95-95 and 96-94 for Evans.

Vijender Singh (3-0, 3 KOs) kept his unbeaten run alive by finishing off Samet Hyuseinov (7-8, 1 KOs) in the second round of their contest.

Joe Selkirk (14-0, 8 KOs) also kept his perfect record with a first round knockout against Zoltan Turai (6-9, 4 KOs).

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