Andy Lee-Billy Joe Saunders: Pre-Fight Report Card


By Cliff Rold

A flurry of top ten activity in the middleweight division in 2015 comes to a head on Saturday (Showtime Extreme, 5 PM EST/PST) in the last major title fight of the year. Defending the title is one of the better reclamation stories of recent years. One of the last notable mentees of the great Emanuel Steward, former Irish Olympian Andy Lee looked like he’d missed his shot until he started landing the right ones.

Consecutive knockouts of fellow former Olympians John Jackson and Matt Korobov saw Lee surge in 2014, the latter landing him the vacant WBO belt. A draw with Peter Quillin earlier this year had Lee coming off the floor twice early, an exhibition of the seasoning he’s picked up in a roller coaster career. Now Lee heads to the UK to face yet another former Olympian, undefeated Billy Joe Saunders.

Saunders earned his crack with four wins over undefeated battlers culminating in a defeat of Chris Eubank Jr. in late 2014. Saunders kept active with a single fight this year against modest opposition and makes the biggest step of his professional career.

Is the younger man ready to ascend? Or is the seasoned veteran set to continue his roll?

Let’s go the report card.

>>The Ledgers<<

Andy Lee

Age: 31
Title: WBO Middleweight (2014-Present, 1st Defense)
Previous Titles: None
Height: 6’2
Weight: 159 ¾ lbs.

Hails from: London, United Kingdom
Record: 34-2-1, 24 KO, 2 KOBY
Rankings: #3 (BoxingScene, TBRB, Ring), #4 (BoxRec), #5 (ESPN)
Record in Major Title Fights: 1-1, 1 KO, 1 KOBY
Current/Former World Champions Faced: 3 (Carl Daniels KO3; Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. TKO by 7; Peter Quillin D12)


Billy Joe Saunders

Age: 26

Title/Previous Titles: None

Height: 5’11
Weight: 160 lbs.

Hails from: Hatfield, Hertfordshire, United Kingdom
Record: 22-0, 12 KO
Rankings: #4 (Ring), #6 (ESPN), #8 (BoxingScene), #9 (TBRB)
Record in Major Title Fights: 1st Title Opportunity
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: 0


Pre-Fight: Speed – Lee B; Saunders B
Pre-Fight: Power – Lee A; Saunders C+
Pre-Fight: Defense – Lee B-; Saunders B
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Lee B; Saunders B

For Lee, a better trip to the scale from Quillin earlier this year would make this his second defense. Quillin missed the limit so his reign officially begins here. Does it end here?

This is one of those fun fights between a fighter we know a lot about, for better and worse, and one who is just reaching the world level. Picking Saunders guesses that the potential he’s shown is enough. Picking Lee guesses that Saunders doesn’t have the right tools to exploit his weaknesses.

There are reasons to lean both ways.

Lee is the sort of fighter Steward always did wonders with. He’s long limbed, has amateur pedigree, and can crack. Lee’s length is always a struggle for foes. He’s not the quickest handed man, but he gets to target with some accuracy when he doesn’t give up that advantage. He has power in both hands, able to whip the right hand from the southpaw side or throw a wicked short left at close range.

Lee’s biggest struggles have been with fighters who could wear on him physically. Brian Vera, Chavez, and for stretches Quillin, all wore on Lee with greater physicality. He was more schooled than any of them but his durability meant needing two cracks at Vera and a full fight to pull even with Quillin. He was ahead on the judge’s cards when Chavez broke him down.

Saunders doesn’t have any of that going for him. He’s more the boxer than any of those men. He appears on film to be a hair quicker than Lee, something that served Jackson well until a single punch rendered it all moot. Unlike Jackson, Saunders hasn’t shown similar single punch explosiveness.

For Saunders to win, he’ll have to use what has worked for him well so far. He’s got good head movement, works at angles, and gets in and out well. Saunders can’t stay in the trenches and exchange and will have to use smart clinching in spots to keep Lee off balance.

Without a clear knockout threat (though anything can happen), Saunders will have to be disciplined from start to finish. What happens if Lee lands a bomb? It’s the great unknown here. Lee’s intangibles sit where they do because of previous struggles, though he gets credit for weathering some storms for wins and continuing to plug away through dark days. Saunders has shown gumption in victories to date. This is another level up.

>>The Pick<<

Perhaps the ghosts of defeats past has Lee underrated here but he just always looks so vulnerable. He’s a tough, talented guy but, like a Jorge Linares, it always feels like a loss could come at any time. Saunders will likely be the crowd favorite and he’s got enough size and skill to keep Lee off balance. Lee may have some big moments early, maybe even a knockdown, but the guess here is Saunders can get up and has enough wrinkles in his game to steal rounds with activity and hustle. It’s going to be messy in spots but should be crowd pleasing enough. Saunders avoids the felling blow and wins enough rounds to keep his undefeated record intact and add a belt to the mantle.  

Report Card and Staff Picks 2015: 90-25 (Including staff picks for Joshua-Whyte, Figueroa-DeMarco, Arreola-Kaufmann, and Barrera-Murat)

Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America.  He can be reached at [email protected]

User Comments and Feedback (Register For Free To Comment) Comment by MagikLair on 12-19-2015

Lee has to back him up and have him on the ropes to win. He can't stay in the middle of the ring and try to box him. He simply can't outbox Saunders. What is Saunders reach? Anyone know.. I…

Comment by Eastcoast on 12-19-2015

I see BJS as a high level boxer and he's been tested well in fights with Ryder, Eubank, and Blackwell. If Andy has one glaring weakness, it's that he can fall in love with his power. That's how he was…

Comment by Clegg on 12-19-2015

How Saunders ever been down or visibly hurt? 50/50 fight but Lee that bit more experienced and has the fight-changing power that BJS lacks. Could end up a bit like Lee-McEwan.

Comment by SteveM on 12-19-2015

I'm going with Lee here and here's why. I admit it is a close toss-up kind of fight but certain things stand out here. Lee has vastly more experience as Cliff Rold points out. That might not be a factor…

Comment by Progrssive_Jedi on 12-19-2015

I actually think Lee's length is gonna be an issue for Suanders, and I'm not sure the young'n can negate it without getting hit with that right cross. I see Lee either wearing him down or stunning him and then…

Post a Comment - View More User Comments (5)
Top Headlines Sanchez Rejects Claims That Golovkin Faded in Canelo Rematch Sampson: Sergio Martinez Taking Dangerous Risk With Chavez Jr. Victor Ortiz, Days Before Fight, Charged With Sexual Assault Photos: Jorge Linares, Romero Duno Hold Open Workouts Gennady Golovkin Meets With Promoter, Discusses Future Plans Dogboe, Teofimo Lopez in Line For Lomachenko-Pedraza Card Wilder's Manager Doubts Joshua Fight Will Happen in 2019 Canelo-Golovkin - No Robbery, Embrace The Fight For What It Is George Groves Warns Smith: I'm in The Form of My Life Saul Rodriguez To Return on Berchelt-Roman ESPN+ Card Photo: Carl Frampton, Josh Warrington - Face To Face at Presser Canelo-GGG Rematch Earned Less $$$ From Tickets Than 1st Fight Claressa Shields-Christina Hammer Set For 11/17 In Atlantic City Wilder's Team Have 'No Desire' For New Meeting on Joshua Deal Matchroom Inks Eight Year Content Deal With DAZN Canada Lomachenko vs. Pedraza Official For December 8, MSG Theater Angel Acosta vs. Abraham Rodriguez Tops Golden Boy Card News: Zhang Zhilei, Junior Younan, Kai Robin Havnaa, More Billy Joe Saunders Hit With £100,000 Fine By The BBBoC Jessie Vargas vs. Thomas Dulorme To Have WBC Silver at Stake Cunningham: I'll Resurrect Lubin, Guarantee He Will Rule at 154 Hearn: If Fury Beats Wilder, Rematch Will Prevent Joshua-Fury WBC Prez on Porter-Spence Unification, Thurman's Direct Shot Tony Bellew: I Know I'll Find A Way To Beat Usyk; I Always Do JJ McDonagh Blasts Eubanks as "Fakes" Nicola Adams Aims To Blast Out Millan For WBO Crown Usyk: One Reason We Agreed To Face Bellew - Is To Get Joshua! Michael Conlan: Vladimir Nikitin Will Be My First Step Up Golovkin's Coach Doubts Age Will Be a Factor in Canelo Trilogy Brian Rose Vows To Make His Comeback in Top Form Incessant Sanctioning Silliness Prompts Alternative Crusade Canelo Has No Issue Working Out New Deal With HBO Anthony Joshua: Dillian Whyte Deserves it More Than Tyson Fury Gamboa Views Juanma as Springboard To Lomachenko Fight Anthony Joshua Asks Tyson Fury: Why Am I a Sh*thouse? Alantez Fox Picks Up Return Win, Beats Elvin Ayala Canelo Alvarez Receives Medical Clearance For December Fight Crolla: If I Win, A Good Chance The Lomachenko Fights Happens Bellew: If I Don't Stop After This, My Wife Will Divorce Me! Espinoza: Showtime Not Going Anywhere; Spending More $$$ In 2019

Latest Active Forum Threads