Updated: Friday, 6th December 2019 @ 8:37pm

'I'll repay loyal Irish legions' says Lee ahead of WBO Manchester title defence

'I'll repay loyal Irish legions' says Lee ahead of WBO Manchester title defence

| By Gareth Llewellyn

Irish boxer Andy Lee has promised fans a very special night when he takes on Billy Joe Saunders on the “World War III” bill at the Manchester Arena in October.

The 31-year-old London-born champion puts his WBO middleweight title on the line for the first time against the Hatfield southpaw, who has been unbeaten since turning professional in February 2009 after representing Great Britain at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

The Ireland versus England fight was due to take place in Limerick next month, but an illness pushed the date back to 10 October and, with no suitable venue available at home, Lee’s promoter Frank Warren opted to take the world title fight to one of British boxing’s most iconic venues.

Despite the change of venue, Lee admits he is not surprised that tickets are being snapped up by keen Irish boxing fans for his first fight in the UK and Ireland for two years.

He said: “I’m humbled at the response for tickets – it just goes to show the loyalty of Irish fans and their love for sport.

“It’s going to be like fighting at home when I’m in Manchester because of all the Irish in the arena.

“I know they’re going to make it a very hostile atmosphere for Billy Joe and I intend to repay them by making it a night not to forget – it’s going to be very special.”

After three consecutive fights in the USA, including his sixth-round technical KO of Russian fighter Matt Korobov to land the WBO belt last December, Lee returns to the venue of his last UK fight in November 2013.

Despite his confidence in defending his title, Lee is fully aware of how dangerous Saunders can be and conceded he may need to bring out his best and rely on his knock-out power to make the difference.

He added: “Billy Joe is a very talented fighter and I know that he’s going to leave it all in the ring on October 10th so you’ll see the best of me that night.

“I’ve been on this stage before and know what it’s like to be in world championship fights so I have that advantage against Saunders but in no way will I be underestimating him.

“There’s things he does well and things he doesn’t do so well – my job is to exploit those flaws.

“I’m preparing for 12 rounds but my record shows that I’m one of the biggest punchers in the middleweight division so I have that in my locker if I need to use it.

"I really believe this fight will be one to remember, because both of us can box and fight, but I am the one with the world class knockout power, and that will be the difference.”

The Lee-Saunders clash headlines a triple world title fight card, with Mancunian WBO lightweight world champion Terry Flanagan defending his belt against number one contender Diego Magdaleno, and unbeaten Liverpudlian Liam Smith fighting American John Thompson for the vacant WBO super-welterweight title.

Image courtesy of SecondsOut via YouTube, with thanks.