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'Chocolate' fight on hold as WBO calls on Andy Lee to open defence against Saunders

The WBO today called for purse bids to take place for a bout between Lee and the mandatory challenger.

Image: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

IRELAND’S WBO MIDDLEWEIGHT champion Andy Lee looks set to open the defence of his crown against England’s mandatory challenger Billy Joe Saunders after the WBO called for purse bids for the bout.

A statement from the governing body today outlines that Saunders “stood aside” to allow the Limerick champion fight for the vacant title against Matt Korobov.

That move, the statement continues, was made “on the strict understanding that Saunders would be made the mandatory challenger if he defeated Chris Eubank Jnr., then the winner out of Lee and Korobov would have to defend against Saunders next.”

The purse bids will be held on Tuesday (27 January) and mean that Lee will not be able to take up a lucrative million-dollar [€870,000] opening defence against Peter ‘Kid Chocolate’ Quillin in New York in April.

Saunders’ manager Frank Warren has been lobbying for this outcome and, should his bid prove successful, it is likely that the fight will take place in London this spring.

“I’m within touching distance of fighting for the WBO world title now and I can’t wait,” says  Saunders in the same statement.

“I’ve done everything on my side, I’m the mandatory challenger, I stepped aside to allow Lee and Korobov to fight and I beat Eubank in the final eliminator to earn my shot.  All I want to do is fight for the title and win it,”

“Lee is a great fighter and he proved himself by winning the world title in Las Vegas, but now he’s got to fight me and he will not deny me my dream of becoming world champion.”

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