By David Hennessy
WBO Middleweight Champion of the World Andy Lee wants Katie Taylor, Ireland’s female world and Olympic champion, to appear on the undercard, when he defends his world title against Billy Joe Saunders at Thomond Park in Limerick on September 19.
Speaking at a press conference in London on July 22, Andy said: “I would like to have Katie Taylor (for the undercard). I’m very proud of what she’s done, the whole country is very proud of what she has done. It would be a good chance for me to give back to the boxing fans and her really for all she’s done, the Olympics, five times world champion, European champion and an unbelievable sportsperson from Ireland.”
Taylor has fought on a bill in Ireland that also included male fighters. She fought on a Bernard Dunne undercard but this was before all of her more recent success: “This is a one off special fight in my home town, just a one off special event and it would be nice to have her as part of it, it would be nice to celebrate her in Ireland because she’s always fighting abroad.”
Lee went on to proclaim: “I’m fighting for women’s rights. I’m championing women’s boxing. I’m championing women’s equal rights.”
This came after some statements from his opponent on female boxing, that he wouldn’t like to see a “good looking woman getting punched” and a joke that women could stick to ‘Cooking, cleaning, breeding’.
Billed as the showdown of Thomond Park, the clash will be the first world title fight between two boxers of traveller heritage. Andy Lee was born in East London and moved to Limerick as a teenager while Saunders’ has Romani traveller heritage. Lee is the first traveller boxer to win a world title. When he took the title from Matt Korobov last year, Lee became the first Irishman to win a world title on American soil since 1934.
Looking ahead to the fight, Andy said: “I would say that our upbringing and our background is probably a key ingredient in why we have both been so successful.
“We are very much men’s men and we can’t let any man beat us. But, both being travellers and both being from our backgrounds, it will mean more. As long as we live we will have to face this fight in our community, win or lose. Whoever wins will be hailed a hero. The loser… we’re both good men, the loser won’t be shamed but will be known as the loser. There is a lot on the line for us both, personally.”
Both have fought for their countries in the Olympics which is something else they have in common: “There’s a few subplots but the main thing is it is a middleweight title fight. I have worked very long and hard to get here and I don’t intend to give it up,” said 31-year-old Lee.
“He’s going to have to do a lot to take this title from me and I’m going to have to do a lot to beat him and you’ll see one of the best fights in a long time.”
Lee has been a special guest at a Munster match with his famous belt and revealed at the press conference that he may walk on to Munster’s famous song, Stand up and Fight.
Billy Joe Saunders is undefeated and won numerous amateur titles and is the current Commonwealth Champion of the Middleweight division.
Of the mutual respect between them, Billy Joe said: “It helps to not be fighting a pr**k, sorry about the language.
“He’s the first traveller to win a world title, I’m the first to win a British title outright.
“There’s a lot of talk about this in our community. But it isn’t just for our community; it is for the rest of the fans as well. The belt is on the line. How much bigger does it get in boxing than being the world champion?
“Every fight you want to win for bragging rights, but it (both fighters being travellers) adds more spice to it – it is another ingredient to the fight.”
Andy Lee defends his title against Billy Joe Saunders at Thomond Park on September 19. Tickets are available from the Box Office on 08442491000 and online at www.eventim.co.uk.