Billy Joe Saunders is the new WBO middleweight champion after earning a majority decision (113-113, 114-112, 115-111) over his fellow United Kingdom counterpart Andy Lee at the Manchester Arena Saturday.
“I beat a good, sturdy champ,” Saunders said after the fight (h/t Boxingjunkie). “I used his power against him. When I was boxing him he got a little reckless. I caught him with the hook.
“I got very excited, but Andy Lee showed that he can be dangerous. He actually caught me when I tried to finish me. He didn’t hurt me … and I got back to my boxing. You take the lead hand away from him, he’s been beaten three times. Some fighters just got reckless with him.”
The contest started relatively even, with neither fighter doing much to separate himself on the scorecards. It wasn’t quite the back-and-forth war many expected it to be, but this matchup wasn’t without its share of drama.
It seemed the end was near for Lee in Round 3, who was caught with a staggering right hook that sent him crashing down to the canvas. Lee beat the 10 count, but not long before Saunders rushed forward to capitalize on his obviously staggered opponent. Another barrage of punches forced Lee back onto the canvas, but he — once again — beat the count. On unsteady legs, Lee survived the onslaught in Round 3 as the two men gave each other a smile and a nod after the chaos that just unfolded.
It would go down as the only round with a knockdown.
Lee seemingly regained his wits about him in the following round, as he continued to eat some heavy shots from Saunders without showing signs of distress. As the fight grew into the later rounds, the reigning champion started to open up more — due in part to the challenger’s reduced output.
The victory extends Saunders’ unbeaten career to 23-0. Considered a top-10 in boxing’s 160-pound division, Saunders could find himself closer to the top five with the win. He’s also a step closer to securing a fight with one of his fellow middleweight titleholders, Gennady Golovkin or Daniel Jacobs.