Andy Lee loses world title in cagey encounter
Third round knockdown proves crucial as Billy Joe Saunders becomes new world champion
Andy Lee faces the count from the referee after being knocked down by Billy Joe Saunders (not pictured) during their WBO World Middleweight title match at Manchester Arena. Photograph: Richard Sellers/PA Wire.
Lee was on the canvas twice in third round and it proved crucial as he lost a majority decision. One judge scored the fight a draw - 113 to 113 - while the two other judges scored it 114-112, and 115-111.
Following the third round knockdowns the fight became a cagey, tactical affair.
Saunders resisted the temptation to follow the blistering third with a finisher in the fourth. Having seen Lee’s left hook finish off fighters who had him further behind on the cards, Saunders opted to take a more measured approach.
He said after the fight: “When I put him down twice I knew he had to come and then I knew I had all the time in the world.”
Saunders caught Lee with a ferocious right hook in the third - the Limerick man appeared not to see the blow as it came towards him. Lee tok an eight count before returning. Lee again took an eight count just seconds later as he stumbled backwards and touched the canvas with his glove, after Saunders had again caught him with a powerful right.
Lee responded well to the double jolt of the third and safely negotiated the fourth round although he was perhaps too cautious as the fight wore on, failing to assert himself to make up the lost ground.
The Limerick native, who was defending his world title for the first time since defeating Matt Korobov over one year ago, closed out the fight as arguably the better in each of the final four rounds and in the twelfth he firmly rejected caution and moved forward, opening up and hunting his opponent.
But Saunders was simply too far ahead at that point and was able to opt out of engaging within range of Lee’s powerful left hand more than was necessary. While Lee has enjoyed spectacular victories snatched from the jaws of defeat in the past - including his victory over Korobov to win this world title - there was to be no fireworks finale. Saunders weathered the closing flurry and retained his slender advantage.
Saunders remains undefeated at 23-0 while Lee moves to 34-3-1.