By Chris Glover
Manchester Arena, Manchester - Billy Joe Saunders (23-0, 12KOs) scored two knockdowns and boxed his way to a twelve round majority decision over Andy Lee (34-3-1, 24KOs) to capture the WBO middleweight championship. The scores were 113-113 a draw, 114-112 and 115-111.
The fight started cagey with both fighters felt each other out. Billy Joe landed a good hook on Lee in the first which probably won him the round. Both fighters looked to establish their jabs as they both traded a few good counter punches.
It exploded into life as Saunders caught Lee with a massive right hand flooring Lee in the third. He then followed up with a straight left hand putting the Champion down him again. Both men touch gloves at the end of the round, classy stuff.
The contest continued with both men pawing with jabs as Lee looked to recover from his disastrous third round. The challenger landed another quality left hand in the fifth but the Champion showed resolve and returned quality work of his own during the mid rounds.
The Englishman controlled the action in the mid rounds but 'Irish' remained in the fight as he tried to control the range. It was Saunders' speed which was the key during the midway point in both his defence and offence. The Champion looked to press the fight at moments however his power punches were missing the illusive challenger. All of the mid rounds were very close as both fighters punches cancelled the other ones out.
The fight's paced slowed down into the latter stages with both men not committing when coming forward. The tempo rose in the twelfth as both fighters began to take a few risks. Lee came on stronger arguably down the stretch winning the last round. Both fighters believed they had done enough to win at the final bell.
Billy Joe Saunders wins a majority decision victory against a great champion in Andy Lee. Two great fighters and a credit to Britain and Ireland.