By Jake Donovan
At some point, Andy Lee and Billy Joe Saunders will meet in the ring.
For now, the middleweights are forced to endure yet another fight postponement. Barely a month after Lee fell ill and saw his planned September 19 hometown showcase in Limerick fall by the wayside, a cut suffered in training placed Saunders on the injured list and scratched from the rescheduled October 10 date at Manchester Arena in Manchester, England.
“First of all I’m sorry to Andy and all the fans that this fight has had to be postponed again,” Saunders (22-0, 12KOs) said in a statement released through Queensberry Promotions’ press office. “It’s completely unfortunate that I got a cut during a sparring session, but there’s nothing I can do now until the specialist advises me on when I can resume training and fight again.”
The show will still go on with the rest of the bill intact. Local favorite Terry Flanagan will face Las Vegas-based southpaw Diego Magdaleno in a dangerous mandatory defense of his newly won lightweight crown, while Liverpool’s Liam Smith and American contender John Thompson collide in a vacant super welterweight title fight.
As for what fight will now fill the marquee—well that depends on whether or not Lee can still fight on the card, or whether another major fight is added to the show.
“We're trying to figuring it out,” promoter Frank Warren said of the restructuring of the card during a recent media conference call. “We still have two great title fights, a world title eliminator and a loaded undercard. We’re still working on adding one more big fight.
“Unfortunately, we won't know until late tonight or early tomorrow when we can reschedule the middleweight fight and what fight will lead the October 10 show. It all depends on Billy Joe Saunders and when the doctors say he is cleared to fight.”
Preliminary plans call for a rescheduled date somewhere in late November or early December. A possible move back to Ireland has been ruled out, as Warren insisted it was now-or-never for the previously scheduled September date, with “never” eventually winning the race.
Pending medical confirmation, Lee could either take a stay busy fight while waiting for Saunders to recover, or just take an extended break ahead of the second defense of his middleweight title.
“We're not sure what we're doing yet for the fight,” Warren explained of the circumstances that make it difficult to simply announce a new date. “We don't want to get into a situation where there's an eight-week gap, and then Andy won't be available to fight with Billy Joe once he’s ready to return.”
Saunders earned the right to fight for the title with a 12-round win over bitter rival Chris Eubank Jr. in their final eliminator matchup of unbeaten middleweight last November. His lone piece of ring action since then came in late July, stopping sub .500 journeyman Yoann Bloyer in a rust-shaker.
Lee claimed the vacant title with a come-from-behind knockout win over Matt Korobov last December. The 31-year old southpaw has made just one defense, climbing off the deck to fight to a 12-round draw with unbeaten Peter Quillin this past April in Brooklyn, New York.
Tickets for World War III are priced at £40, £75, £125, £200, £300 and £500 and available now from www.frankwarren.com and Manchester Arena on 0844 847 8000.
Jake Donovan is the managing editor of BoxingScene.com.
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