Ciarán Gallagher reports from Manchester.
ANDY LEE HAS dismissed concerns surrounding his world title defence in Manchester this weekend, insisting he expects to get a ‘fair shake’ from the judges.
Limerick native Lee defends his WBO world middleweight crown against England’s Billy Joe Saunders at the Manchester Arena tomorrow night after giving up home advantage for the bout.
Both fighters weighed in on Friday afternoon for the contest, with Lee coming in at 11st 5lbs 12oz, while Saunders was bang on the middleweight limit as he hit 11st 6lbs on the scales.
While the champion holds a three-inch height advantage, Lee appeared even taller than Saunders during their head-to-head face-off after the weigh-in as the Limerick native, wearing footwear, towered over the shoe-less Saunders.
The fight was originally set to take place in Thomond Park last September but promotional issues and a virus picked up by the champion led to the fight being moved to the UK indoor arena for a winter date.
A rescheduled date in October was also abandoned after Saunders picked up a cut in sparring, but the bout will finally go ahead in Manchester tomorrow night.
Even the bookmakers are finding it a tough one to call as both rivals are priced around even money to win, but many pundits believe that the fresher and younger Saunders has the ability to out-work the veteran champion.
Saunders is undefeated in 22 fights and, at 26 years old, he is five years younger than Lee, who has earned a reputation as a knockout artist.
Subscription channel BoxNation, who will screen the fight live, asked a panel of experts to pick their winner for the fight with eight going for undefeated 26-year-old Saunders and only two going for 31-year-old champion Lee, and many claimed the Irishman is unlikely to get the nod from the judges on UK soil against a former British champion.
Lee, however, insists that he isn’t worried about the integrity of the judges, although the champion is keen to win in definitive fashion.
“I always expect to win by knockout, knocking somebody out shows that you’re way better than them,” said Lee. “Winning on a decision is good but I always expect to knock them out and I’m not really too worried about the judges, I think I’ll get a fair shake here.
“The British board are one of the strictest and most well-established boards or commissions in the world. They won’t rob me, but it mightn’t even go that long,” added the champion.
Saunders, a slick hit-and-move fighter who has rarely been troubled in his pro career since turning over after the Beijing Olympics, hit back at Lee’s knockout prediction.
“That gives me confidence if anything,” said Saunders. “I will be switched on from when that bell rings in round one to whenever long it lasts,” added Saunders.
Lee v Saunders is live on BoxNation. Go to boxnation.com to subscribe.