By Shaun Brown
It’s been a long time coming but tonight at the Manchester Arena, live on Boxnation, Andy Lee and Billy Joe Saunders will finally lock horns for the Irishman’s WBO World middleweight title.
Despite the two frustrating postponements 2015 is going to go out with a bang in the UK. A contest that needs no hype, no trash talk and one that has many a fan chopping and changing.
With that in mind Boxing Scene decided to canvas the opinions of 23 British boxing personalities (not a planned number) to see if this fight has some of the trade split down the middle.
Billy Nelson (Trainer) – Billy Joe Saunders on points. I feel Andy tends to struggle with southpaws, especially skilful ones such as Saunders.
Lee Selby (IBF Featherweight champion) – If the fight goes to the scorecards I would have to go with Billy Joe with his boxing ability and speed but I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Andy Lee pulls off another KO!
Arnie Farnell (Trainer) – I think Lee wins. It will be close early on but with Andy’s size and power I think he will take over late on.
Kal Yafai (World Super Flyweight contender) – It’s a tough one as both are world class operators and quality southpaws. Andy Lee has height and reach advantages and knowing Billy Joe he has great ability to adapt very quickly. It’s a hard one to call but I have a feeling Billy Joe wins in a very tough fight by decision.
Carl Greaves (Promoter) – As much I’d like Billy Joe to win I don’t think he’s got the power to hurt Lee. Andy has improved since becoming champion and hits hard so I’m going with Lee late stoppage or points.
Steve Wood (Promoter) – Billy Joe Saunders [on] points. Think he’s too slippery to let Andy land one of his bombs.
Stephen Smith (World Super Featherweight contender) – I think Billy Joe will start fast, get a lead and Andy Lee will come back in the second half of the fight. I see it being a good fight to watch with Billy Joe just holding on for a points win after a few rocky moments.
Kell Brook (IBF World Welterweight champion) – I’ve got Lee winning the fight but it’s a really close fight. I just think he’s boxed at the better level but I give them both high credit. Both can fight and mix it with the best in the game!
Mark Heffron (British Super Middleweight) – I’ve always liked Billy Joe, he’s been a special talent. Andy Lee has experience. Billy Joe has youth and superior technical ability. Andy Lee has a puncher’s chance but really fancy Billy Joe for this.
Tony Bellew (European Cruiserweight champion) – I think Billy Joe Saunders based on a fast start and a consistent output. Lee will be dangerous though and I can see Billy Joe maybe having to survive a knockdown to win.
Martin Murray (World Super Middleweight contender) – Think Billy Joe Saunders will win on points and outbox him.
Marco McCullough (Irish Featherweight) – I think Billy Joe will make it tough for the first half of the fight but Andy Lee’s power breaking him down in the second half. KO maybe 8.
Tommy Coyle (British Lightweight) – I think Billy Joe will win. I think it’s an even match-up but will come down to who wants it the most.
Scott Quigg (WBA World Super Bantamweight champion) – I think this fight is a great way to end the year! I think Andy Lee will win in a very close back and forth battle but I think him fighting at the higher level with the likes of Chavez Jr., Quillin and Korobov will give him the edge. I think he takes control from rounds 9-12 for a points’ decision. The first four rounds will be a battle to settle the jabs as I think the key to this fight is the jab especially with them both being southpaws. We know Andy Lee being known as the puncher but I think people are forgetting about his boxing skills.
Jordan Cooke (British Lightweight) – Billy Joe to win on points. Although Lee has come off some good wins and the draw with Quillin I just Billy Joe is a bit more fresh with quicker hands. A very cagey fight with Billy Joe winning close on points.
Jim McDonnell (Trainer) – Genuine 50-50. Emotional involvement of a football derby. Mindset crucial in such an even matched contest. Hard one to call. At a push maybe even, controversially, Billy Joe Saunders on points.
Dennis Hobson (Promoter) – I think Billy is a bit fresher than Andy. I take him on points.
John Ryder (British middleweight) – Really finding it hard to pick a winner. Andy Lee’s got the punch power, Saunders has proved every time he can box and nick rounds. Whoever gets their tactics right on the night but an entertaining fight.
Jamie Moore (Trainer/Pundit) – It’s a really tough pick. You give legitimate cases for both guys winning. Andy Lee seems to always be able to find a way lately, and Billy Joe is improving all the time and it seems to be coming at the right time for him. I really don’t know, that’s why it’s such a great fight. Lee pulls it out from behind, or Billy Joe points. Can’t decide.
Iain Butcher (British Flyweight) – I think the fight is a good match but I fancy Andy to win. I think he’s boxed at a higher level than Billy Joe for some time, also he can pull a big punch at any time. If Billy Joe had faced a better calibre of opponents before this fight it would be different I think.
Scotty Cardle (British Lightweight) – I have swapped and changed my prediction since the fight was made but I think Lee will get it in the late rounds. It will be good to see Billy Joe win a world title but I think Andy will step up a gear after round six.
Herol Graham (Former World Middleweight title challenger) – Both tough guys. Billy Joe Saunders to win. He’s tough and likes a fight!
Nathan Cleverly (World Light Heavyweight contender) – Very hard fight to call. Saunders busier with more movement. Lee the bigger puncher with very disciplined boxing. Saunders to press and let his hands go. Lee to box smart and counter. I’m edging Lee to come through on a razor tight decision.
Andy Lee – 8 votes
Billy Joe Saunders – 13 votes
Undecided – 2 Votes
Shaun Brown is Boxing Scene’s UK News Editor. Follow him on Twitter @sbrownwpt0. Contact him at [email protected]