Andy Lee surrenders world title to Billy Joe Saunders

Andy Lee surrenders world title to Billy Joe Saunders

Andy Lee against Billy Joe Saunders for the WBO middleweight title in Manchester on Saturday night was a chess match. But intriguing all the same.

Saunders (23-0) outpointed Lee (34-3-1) in a bout the judges could have awarded to either man.

As the first bell sounded the packed crowd readied themselves for an explosive encounter. Instead they witnessed a tentative opening with both fighters displaying respect for one another’s ability.

However, in round three, the contest sparked to life with two knockdowns. Surprisingly, it was Saunders who executed them with clean, crisp right hooks to Lee’s head.

After surviving the onslaught, round four, along with every round after that, was uneventful with little quality being showcased in terms of power punches.

Saunders showed a maturity that was maybe absent in his fight last November against Chris Eubank Jr, despite him still winning on that occasion. He was elusive with his foot work and refused to engage into a slug fest with Lee.

Ex-champion Andy Lee ended the title bout more impressively by out-jabbing his opponent in the last three rounds.

But having lost a 10-7 round in the third it was not enough to claw the decision his way.

Two judges had Saunders victorious, one by two rounds and the other by four. The first judge had it a draw.

The Irishman landed the occasional left hand and used his jab effectively at times. But his infamous right hook was unseen and he didn’t look like an assertive world champion boxer.

It’s hard to see where Lee goes from here. Gennady Golovkin may offer him an opportunity to compete for the WBA and IBF title, but realistically that would be a one sided demolition.

As for Billy Joe Saunders, 2016 will see him in some fascinating match-ups. Will he have a rematch against his rival Chris Eubank jr? Or could WBA regular champion Daniel Jacobs be the one to try and upset his unbeaten record?

The middleweight division is thriving.

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