Plenty of pounds and horses will be wagered when Irish traveller Andy Lee and Romany Gypsy Billy Joe Saunders collide in their historic WBO Middleweight title clash at Manchester Arena this Saturday night.

Glynn Evans canvases industry experts for a ‘head’s up’ on where best to place your buck.

Richie Woodhall

 

(ex WBC Middleweight world champion)

There won’t be much in it, that’s for sure. Billy Joe’s really going to go for it and Andy certainly won’t give up his title without a tremendous fight. And despite it matching two southpaws, I think it’ll be a very good fight to watch. Both have excellent amateur pedigrees and are quality operators.

I expect it to go to points and, if he’s at his best, Billy Joe should edge it. He’s got the tools to handle any style. He’s very versatile. Andy’s a typically tough Irish fella who loves to stand and trade but, because of that, he often concedes his advantages in height and reach.

Location will play a big part. Had it gone ahead in Limerick, Andy would have been favourite. In Manchester, I see Saunders outboxing him.

VERDICT: SAUNDERS 

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Barry Jones

Barry Jones

(ex WBO Super-Featherweight world champion)

It’s potentially a great fight and a very hard one in which to pick the winner. Andy’s boxing skills are underrated but Billy Joe is the master boxer and I expect him to edge into an early lead.

He’ll no doubt start off following Jimmy Tibbs’ game plan but I fear his instincts to show everyone how tough he is could prove his downfall. 

I’ve a gut feeling that Andy’s greater size will play a decisive part and that, once again he’ll come from behind and stop Saunders in the middle rounds. He’s shown before he can battle through when he’s out on his feet. He always finds a way to win. He can only do it by stoppage, mind.

VERDICT: LEE

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Derry Mathews

 Derry Mathews

(World Title Challenger)

It’s a genuine 50-50 fight and it’ll come down to whoever wants it most. It’ll start out as a game of chess and I expect it’ll be decided in the last four rounds when they’ll have to go all guns blazing. I want Billy Joe to win cos he’s my pal and I think he’ll nick it on points.

VERDICT: SAUNDERS

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Terry Flanagan

Terry Flanagan

(WBO World Lightweight Champion)

It’s a real 50-50 fight. Billy Joe’s technically better; throws classy combinations and has an edge in fitness and workrate. Andy carries greater power but is more reliant on single shots. I expect it to start cagey but eventually a really good fight will break out. Moving the fight to Manchester slightly favours Billy Joe so I edge to him nicking it on points.....provided he doesn’t get knocked out!

VERDICT: SAUNDERS

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Tommy Langford

Tommy Langford

(World rated Middleweight)

Andy Lee is huge at the weight and is proven at top class but I’ll go with Billy Joe on points because he’s the faster, slicker boxer.

Andy’s power makes this a close call and his recent knockouts have been impressive but, prior to landing, he’s been hurt, outboxed and well behind on the cards. Billy Joe should be clever enough to find a way around his power. Though Saunders tends to tire in later rounds, he does take a good shot.

If Saunders decides to set a high pace and tries to unsettle Lee by throwing lots of punches it could be a very good fight to watch.

VERDICT: SAUNDERS

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Gary Lockett

Gary Lockett

(Trainer)

I’ve got to sit on the fence. It’ll go one of two ways. Billy Joe by points or Andy by stoppage. Billy’s the busier and the better boxer but Andy holds a big edge in power and if he catches anybody clean it’s ‘Good night’.

If Andy just looks for one punch, he’ll get outboxed. He was asleep for the first half against Peter Quillin. However, when he started to put some building blocks in place, score points with the jab, he did a lot better. It’s probably his fight to lose.

VERDICT: UNDECIDED

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Joe Gallagher

Joe Gallagher

(Trainer)

It’s a very hard fight to pick; two southpaws with good amateur pedigree and fantastic trainers. It’ll likely be a tactical chess match.

Andy’s really come into form of late with those wins over John Jackson and Matt Koborov plus the draw with ‘Kid Chocolate’ (Peter Quillin).

In all, he showed great steel, resolve and maturity to come through difficult patches. He’s fighting with a lot of belief now.

Billy Joe too has had great wins of late over the likes of Nick Blackwell, Spike O’Sullivan, John Ryder and Eubank Jr. Though people place Andy Lee as the puncher in this fight, if there’s a knockdown, I see Billy Joe inflicting it. Look what he did to Tony Hill, another tall southpaw.

But I’d be very surprised if there’s a stoppage. I expect it to go to a split decision and, as defending champion, Andy will probably get the nod.

VERDICT: LEE

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Liam Smith

Liam Smith

(WBO World Super-Welterweight Champion)

I’ve already changed my mind three times! I’m expecting a very, very high grade fight - plenty of class punches thrown - without it being an outright war; something similar to Andy’s fight with ‘Kid Chocolate’.

It’ll be a very close, very intense chess match. No result would surprise me but I’m not one of these shit bags who sits on the fence. It’s only an opinion so I’ll pick Billy Joe on points. I rate Andy Lee and he’s clearly the bigger puncher but I see Saunders nicking enough rounds as he did against (Chris) Eubank Jr. That fight will stand him in good stead here.

VERDICT: SAUNDERS

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Mitchell Smith

Mitchell Smith

(Boxing Writers Young Boxer of the Year)

I think it’ll be a draw.

There’s nothing to split them. I expect a very cagey but high quality affair. They’re both excellent stand up boxers with excellent tacticians in their corners so I expect it to be very tight. I expecting fans and judges will be split over every round.

Billy Joe possibly has the better skills whereas Andy probably carries a bit more power and is physically the stronger. I’ve trained around Andy and the guy’s so fit and strong; an absolute animal. That said, Joe can punch a bit and Andy’s a good boxer.

It’ll come down to who wants it most on the night. They’re both good guys so best of luck to the pair of ‘em.

VERDICT: DRAW

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Steve Collins

Steve Collins

(Ex two weight World Champion)

My prediction is that it’ll definitely go the distance.

Andy Lee is very experienced and a genuine puncher but he’s a very big guy and I worry about how well he makes the weight. Billy Joe Saunders showed he has a great chin when he traded against Spike O’Sullivan and Eubank Jr so I doubt Lee will stop him.

Both have the ability to win and I could certainly tell you how each should go about beating the other but as for picking the winner.....nah, you’re not paying me enough! The winner will be whoever executes the best game plan on the night. They’re both good enough to beat the other.

VERDICT: UNDECIDED

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Paul Butler

Paul Butler

(Ex IBF World Bantamweight Champion)

Normally two southpaws don’t make for a good fight but I expect this to be a cracker. It’s a real historic fight within the travelling community and both sets of fans will be right up for it. They’ll not allow it to be a cagey, messy affair.

A lot will depend on who can execute their game plan from the off and I expect that to be Billy Joe. He always starts quickly whereas Andy was well behind on the cards in each of his last three fights before getting himself out of jail with that huge right hook. I don’t expect Billy Joe to get caught like that.

Again I expect Andy’s best rounds to be down the straight. Saunders seems to have stamina problems. His physique is a bit loose; maybe his diet is bad. But I expect him to hold on and nick a very tight contest on points.

VERDICT: SAUNDERS

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Jim Rosenthal

Jim Rosenthal

(Legendary BoxNation presenter and pundit)

I have huge respect for Andy but go with Billy Joe because of his freshness, skills and ability to get the job done.

But he will have to be in the best shape of his life, otherwise Andy has the power to knock him and that prediction spark out.

VERDICT: SAUNDERS

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Liam Walsh

Liam Walsh

(World rated Lightweight)

It’s one of the hardest one’s to pick for a long time.

It should be a real cracker for the purists and I favour Billy Joe ever so slightly. He’s the better mover and I expect him to use ‘smash and grab’ raids, landing two or three shots then darting off, leaving Andy to chase his shadow.

The first four rounds will be huge. If either can get in front early, they’ll be hard to dislodge. Andy a wise guy who’ll come well prepared. He has the power but nobody has ever walked through Billy Joe’s punches and Andy’s already been on the canvas a few times. Saunders on points.

VERDICT: SAUNDERS

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FINAL SCORE: LEE 2 SAUNDERS 8, DRAW 1, (UNDECIDED 2)