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Saunders defeats Lee by controversial decision

By Scott Gilfoid: In what has to be seen as a controversial decision, Billy Joe Saunders (23-0, 12 KOs) beat WBO middleweight champion Andy Lee (34-3-1, 24 KOs) by a 12 round majority decision tonight in a fight where Lee was knocked down twice at the Manchester Arena in Manchester, England.

I personally scored the fight a win for Lee. At worst, I had the fight scored a draw. Saunders knocked Lee down twice in the 3rd round. Lee was playing catch-up from that point on, and I think he did more than enough to deserve the win.

What was interesting about Saunders is how he failed to go after a hurt Lee in the 3rd round after having dropped him twice in the 3rd. Instead of pouncing on Lee, who had to still be hurt, Saunders stayed on the outside and fought like he was walking on eggshells. It was pretty timid stuff from Saunders, I must say. I think the reason for this is because while he was trying to finish Lee off in the 3rd round, Lee connected with a couple of hurtful punches that got Saunders’ attention. I think after that round, Saunders went on permanent shutdown for the remainder of the fight and was no longer willing to take any chances by landing his left hand power shots.

Andy Lee has himself to blame for losing the fight though. He should have known that after getting knocked down twice in the 3rd round, he was going to need to do something dramatic to get the win. He was fighting on Saunders’ turf in England, and you can’t expect to win a fight by only jabbing after you’ve been knocked down twice. If I had been in Lee’s corner, I would have lit a fire under his backside after the 3rd and forced him to fight hard or else I would walk out. Lee’s trainer Adam Booth didn’t seem to show the urgency that he needed to in order to have Lee go after Saunders. If Lee’s old trainer, the last Emanuel Steward was in his corner, I think Steward would have been all over Lee in reading him the riot act to force him to after Saunders. There wouldn’t have been the pecking away with the jab that Lee was doing in the last eight rounds of the contest. I think Steward wouldn’t have gotten in Lee’s face and forced him to go after Saunders.

“I used his power against him,” Saunders bragged afterwards. “Lee got a little careless.”

This win has to be seen as a real negative for boxing, because Saunders has made it clear in the past that he wants no part of a fight against IBF/WBA middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin. If Lee had won, we might be seeing a unification fight between him and Golovkin. But with Saunders winning the fight, I have a feeling that we’re not going to see a big fight between Saunders and Golovkin. You’ve got to feel for Golovkin, because he’s probably not too happy about Saunders winning the WBO title tonight.

I’d like to think that I was wrong about Saunders having zero interest in fighting Golovkin, but I don’t think I am. The BoxNation interviewers lobbed some questions to Saunders about who he wants to fight next, and Golovkin’s name wasn’t mentioned at all. That’s too bad for Golovkin, because it means he’s probably never going to get a chance to unify all the titles, even if he wins the WBC title off of Saul “Canelo” Alvarez.

I think Golovkin would have made easy work of Saunders tonight. It would have been easy for him with the way that Saunders stopped throwing punches after getting winded in the 2nd. Some fighters aren’t able to get their second wind for some reason, and I think Saunders is one of them. He ran out of gas in the same way in the second half of his fight against Chris Eubank Jr. last year and never got his second wind.

After the fight, Saunders said nothing about wanting to fight Golovkin, which is a pretty good sign that we won’t be seeing a fight between them. Saunders promoter talked about wanting to match Saunders against Chris Eubank Jr. in a rematch. I don’t see the point in that fight taking place because Eubank Jr. has a fight guaranteed against WBA regular middleweight champion Daniel Jacobs.

This article wouldn’t be complete without me addressing Saunders’ stamina issues. As I mentioned previously in other articles, Saunders is basically just as six-round fighter because of his stamina problems. Tonight we saw that Saunders wasn’t even a six round fighter. I had Saunders running out of gas after the 3rd round. I gave him only the 5th and 7th rounds after round 3. Saunders totally hit the wall in terms of his stamina. He looked tired and wasn’t trying to initiate anything anymore after the 2nd round.

In the 12th, Saunders was just holding on each time Lee would belt him with some power shots. Saunders wasn’t even trying to fight back, as he was tired and had nothing left in the tank. I guess it must have taken something out of Saunders in him having to drain down to make the 160lb weight limit.

I was not impressed at all with what I saw from Saunders tonight. I think he and Liam Smith really looked unimpressive tonight. What’s interesting is that both of those guys share titles. Smith is the WBO 154lb champion and Saunders is now the WBO 160lb champ. I’m hoping that Saunders doesn’t choose to milk his new WBO title the way that Smith did in taking on an obscure opponent for his first defense.

The defeat for Andy Lee is a big disappointment. At 31, he might be at the end of his rope unless he can get a rematch with Saunders before he loses the WBO title against one of the challengers. I don’t see Saunders taking any risky fights outside of the WBO’s top 15, so there’s a chance that Lee could get a rematch with him at some point if he can get a high enough ranking. I don’t think Saunders is going to give Lee a rematch unless he gets to the No.1 spot, because he’s too dangerous. There are a lot of easy marks for Saunders to milk his title with in the WBO’s top 15, and that’s exactly what I see Saunders doing. I see him being matched softly so that he can keep his WBO title.

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