Saunders defeats Lee, wins WBO title

England’s Billy Joe Saunders (23-0, 12 KOs) won what some boxing fans are calling a robbery in beating WBO middleweight champion Andy Lee (34-3-1, 24 KOs) by a 12 round majority decision tonight in their mega-fight at the Manchester Arena in Manchester, UK. The win for Saunders boiled down to him knocking Lee down twice in the 3rd.

Saunders seemed to lose focus after the 3rd round, and I had him losing every round from then on. The judges scored the fight 113-113, 114-112 and 115-111. The last score by judge Dave Parris was an interesting one because he seemed to give Lee very little credit despite the fact that he totally controlled the fight after the 2nd round.

In the 3rd round, Lee missed a right hand and was countered by a hard shot from Saunders that put Lee down. After he got back to his feet, he was met with a flurry of shots that caused him to fall backwards with his glove touching the canvas for the second knockdown. Saunders was unable to finish the job, as he looked like he took a big right at some point in his last flurry and that put him off from wanting to finish.

The real surprise was how Saunders lacked the initiative to try and finish Lee in the 4th round. As hurt as Lee was in the 2nd, it would seem like the logical thing for Saunders to do would have been to pounce on Lee to try and get him out of there. Saunders didn’t do that though. He looked both tired and extremely cautious, as if that right hand that Lee nailed him with in the last flurry of the second had taken all the motivation had out of his body. It was pretty sad to see.

I couldn’t give the win to Saunders tonight because he lost last 10 rounds on my scorecards for lack of action. Lee boxed Saunders silly from the 4th to the 12th, and won the fight going away.

“He’s been in with Peter Quillin and Pete Quillin couldn’t beat him,” Saunders said after the fight. “He’s been in with Matt Korobov. They’ve all had him hurt. I know he threatened me with his power. I’ve got a good chin. I’m a world champion. I wouldn’t say no to no fight, but Andy Lee is a great fighter. I beat a good champion and a good sturdy champion. I used his power against him. When I was boxing him, he got a little careless. I stopped and rolled one and caught him. It was a good shot. I made him miss. With someone as fast as me, you’ve got to keep your hands up. I’m not the biggest puncher in the world, but it shows you can punch. Andy Lee showed that he can be dangerous. He actually caught me with a shot when I tried to finish him. He didn’t hit me, but I learned from Korobov. I don’t need to rush and I got back to my boxing and recuperated. If you take away that lead hand from him and he’s been beaten three times,” Saunders said.

I figured that Lee would have a hard time getting a decision going into Manchester, and I was right. In hindsight, Lee should have opted to have the fight take place in Ireland. I think Lee would have won the fight if it had taken place over there.

The win for Saunders probably means no unification fight against Gennady Golovkin. Lee wanted that fight, but Saunders didn’t say a word about wanting to share the ring with the hard hitting Golovkin. As such, I’d say the chances of a Saunders vs. Golovkin fight are probably nil at this point. Saunders could wind up fighting a rematch against Chris Eubank Jr. in the near future if Eubank Jr. doesn’t face WBA regular champion Daniel Jacobs. I guess even if Eubank Jr does fight Jacobs and loses that fight like many boxing fans expect him to, I think could still wind up seeing Eubank Jr. fight Saunders again.

***

Other boxing results on tonight’s Manchester card:

Liam Smith TKO 7 Jimmy Kelly
Liam Williams KO 2 Kris Carslaw
Paul Butler TKO 6 Silvio Olteanu
Jack Catterall TKO 3 Noe Nunez
Thomas Stalker draw 10 Craig Evans
Vijender Singh TKO 2 Samet Hyuseinov
Joe Selkirk TKO 1 Zoltan Turai
Raza Hamza TKO 1 Michael Stupart
Anthony Yarde TKO 1 Curtis Gargano

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