Andy Lee and Billy Joe Saunders finally met in the ring tonight in what might be described as an explosive but tentative chess match.
The fight was fought at range for the most part, and saw the man who was seen as the lesser puncher of the two shock the crowd by dropping the champion twice in one round.
The pre-fight tension could almost be cut with a knife, right from the initial ring walks of both fighters and Jimmy Lennon Jr’s announcement of both men on their way to the ring.
In a tentative first round, Billy Joe landed the only significant punch of the opening three minutes – with a sharp counter right hook as Lee slightly over extended.
The early rounds were tentative, with neither man looking to give an inch to the other, and very risk averse early on.
However the fight absolutely exploded into life in the third round, with Billy Joe Saunders sensationally dropping Andy Lee twice via brilliantly timed right hooks from the southpaw stance.
Lee did well to get up from the first knockdown, which was very heavy. After been knocked down again, he somehow managed to hang on until the end of the bell.
Lee came back well in the fourth and had clearly recovered from a torrid third round, but Saunders then responded himself in the fifth with a good three minutes, landing a big left hand on Lee, who took it well on this occasion.
The mid rounds were very close and it was proving very hard to separate the two. As the fight progressed down the stretch, this chess match theme of the contest continued, with some decent jabs landed by both men at times, but the rounds were very hard to score in truth.
Lee landed his best punch of the fight in round 11 with a beautifully crisp left hand that Saunders took well.
The final round saw Andy Lee finish strong and up the pressure on Saunders, who didn’t do a whole lot in the last round. When the bell rang, it could have been one of the hardest fights to split two professional fighters in a long, long time.
The final scorecards read out: 113-113 (draw), 114-112 and 115-111 in favour of the winner by majority decision Billy Joe Saunders, who became the new WBO middleweight champion of the world.
(Image source: Behindthegloves.com)
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