Andy Lee concentrating on Billy Joe Saunders as Gennady Golovkin looms

Kazakh made 14th successful defence of his title last weekend

When fighters say they are not looking beyond their next opponent – as the WBO middleweight champion Andy Lee was obliged to do on Thursday when asked if he were chasing a payday against Gennady Golovkin – it is as well to reach for large pinches of salt.

There is no way the Irishman would turn down a chance to test himself against Golovkin, the hottest ticket in the division and becoming one of the biggest draws in the whole sport. While Lee has some serious business to attend to just before Christmas, against the unbeaten Billy Joe Saunders in Manchester, Golovkin is the ultimate prize, and both of them would relish the challenge.

The main reason for the speculation is that Lee is guided by the astute Adam Booth, in and out of the ring, and David Haye's former mentor will recognise that a Golovkin fight would represent the high point of his fighter's career, win or lose.

The California-based Kazakh, was as ruthless and clinical in dismantling the doomed challenge of Canadian knockout artist David Limieux at Madison Square Garden last Saturday as he has been in his previous 14 defences, all of them ending early.


Lee conceded: “Golovkin is the golden carrot for everyone in the middleweight division but I have to deal with Saunders first. It would be stupid of me or Adam Booth to look past Saunders as he’s the next man I’m facing in the ring, and he’s a dangerous fighter who could take my title. There’s no way I’d be overlooking him.”

Saunders said: “I do hope that Lee is concentrating on this fight because I’m going all out to take his title. He’s a clever man and I know he wouldn’t be looking past me, so I was surprised to hear that today.

“Golovkin is the main man in the division at the moment but, when I win the title, then he’s going to be calling me out for the WBO belt if he wants to unify them.”

There is a third British middleweight who is not only looking past his next opponent at Golovkin but has already declared he would beat him right now: Chris Eubank Jr.

Eubank lost to Saunders over 12 exciting rounds on BoxNation last November, then took his wares to the rival Matchroom stable, and declared after watching the eighth-round stoppage of Lemieux at the weekend: “Golovkin has got weaknesses that I feel I can exploit, so the goal is to work towards that fight. It’s a huge fight down the line.”

Eubank’s father, never short of confidence when reigning as WBO super-middleweight champion, went one declaration further: “Christopher beats him now. We’re working with Matchroom and Sky Sports. All of these possibilities can be realised.”

Saunders and Lee, in partnership with the more cautious Frank Warren, will not be rushed, though.

Saunders, who struggles to hide his contempt for Eubank, observed: "I'm not going to shoot my mouth off like old Johnny English [Eubank Sr] and Junior, who are living on another planet if they think they can destroy Golovkin.

“Self-confidence is good, but that is just plain stupidity. The old man reckoned his son would beat me, but I handed Junior back to him broken. And now he’s got to fight the man that I also beat, Spike O’Sullivan, to try to rebuild his career.

“This is a real fight for the world title between me and Lee. This is the real thing. I guarantee there’s going to be someone going down at some point in the fight but one thing’s for sure: I’m coming away with the belt.”

That was nearest to bombast either fighter has come in their two pre-fight meetings.

(Guardian service)