Andy Lee vs Billy Joe Saunders
BY KID HERSH
Showtime Extreme boxing featuring action live from Manchester Arena. They were only featuring the main event from the Arena (good enough for me though - I will take anything from overseas! It featured Andy Lee (34-2-1, 24ko's) vs Billy Joe Saunders (22-0, 12ko's) with Lee defending his WBO title for the first time that he won from Korobov. His title wasn't at stake in his last fight due to Kid Chocolate not making the middleweight limit. The first round was very tense and both fighters looked extremely nervous and unwilling to fully engage. Saunders landed the only punch of the round - and it was a really good one - a right hook to the head that snapped Lee's head back violently near the end of the round. It did not appear to hurt him at all though. The second round was still fought at the super slow pace - but it's not so slow and uninteresting that it causes the fans to boo, instead we are hanging on every punch because we feel like someone is going to open up and something big is going to happen. This proved true the veery next round when Saunders landed a right hook to the chin of Lee midway through the round after slipping a left hand. The shot caught Lee completely off guard and dropped him to the canvas in a heap. He rose and remained composed like the veteran that he is but went down again from Saunder's onslaught to take his wounded man out. The second knockdown was not as brutal but Lee was very noticeably hurt still. He would buy some time and last through the remainder of the round with a game smile on his face - gotta love Lee - he just enjoys fighting like a real Irishman. Lee looked pretty good in the fourth round and won it off off limited activity, with it looking like Saunders took a round off to recoup for the long haul in the fight as he barely threw anything at all and kept his distance. Saunders tried to establish some control back in the fifth as he got a bit busier and landed a couple of powerful punches sporadically as he looked to just box his man and not get into any exchanges. Both fighters still have great respect for the others power, being nearly as tentative as they were in the first round. Lee was aiming for the body in the sixth round and trying to feint Saunders into position for a huge shot - looking to land a knockout punch as he has to bail him out so many times in his career. Saunders, on the other hand, is clearly staying away and ok with not just keeping his distance and pecking away but looking for the rounds to wind down and is not going to give Lee chances to land the shot to turn the fight, which he is always so great at. Lee was having a hard time finding the mark on Saunders, who was using his superior footwork and defense slip out of range or block shots. You can tell that Lee is really focusing and trying to land something of note but just cannot find the opening or method to do so. The chess match continued with Lee having some success in the ninth round as he got busier and more unpredictable with his shots - firing off straight lead lefts instead of trying so hard to set them up (and in turn never getting them off). Saunders just has far too good of footwork, defense, head movement, and everything else to allow the title to slip out of his grasp from walking into a bomb that Lee sets up or he himself gets careless and walks into. The final round was clearly all Lee as he pressed forward and loaded up on shots, trying to change the outcome of the fight that seems written in stone at this point. It's not that Saunders has been easily winning them, it's just that he got that large early lead and knew he could coast by using footwork and defense to blunt Lee's output and make him miss so frequently. He did this more in the final round - making Lee miss his big left hands that he was loading up on. Lots of the rounds were close though, and one had a feeling that perhaps Saunders was banking on too many of those early points in coasting down the stretch. He would end up winning a very close MD, nearly shooting himself in the foot for coasting so much!!