Andy Lee: Limerick title fight is ‘a once in a generation event’

Jerome O’Connell

Reporter:

Jerome O’Connell

WBO world champion Andy Lee and Billy Joe Saunders after a press conference ahead of 'The Showdown' at Thomond Park on September 19
LIMERICK hero Andy Lee and Billy Joe Saunders came face to face this Tuesday in Thomond Park to start the 10-week countdown to their WBO title fight.

LIMERICK hero Andy Lee and Billy Joe Saunders came face to face this Tuesday in Thomond Park to start the 10-week countdown to their WBO title fight.

“This will be warfare,” declared middleweight champion Andy Lee at Tuesday’s press conference to confirm details of the September 19 event in the home of Munster Rugby.

“This isn’t tiddlywinks, we will both be trying to take each other’s heads off when that bell rings,” warned Lee.

Thomond Park is to be transformed into a 34,000 capacity boxing arena for the event.

“I am fighting one of the best middleweights in the world - he will come here with a spirited challenge but I am going to do everything possible to hold onto my belt,” vowed Lee.

“This will be a global event that will be seen all over the world and I am very proud to be able to do that. To bring this to my city is an honour and in someways I will be repaying all the support that the people of Limerick have given me since I was an amateur,” outlined Lee.

“Fighting at home brings its own pressures - when you are away from home you can build up a bunker mentality. Here at home there will be expectation. I envisage a hard fight so a big crowd could be the difference, especially in the later rounds,” said Lee.

“This is a once in a generation event,” beamed Andy Lee as his WBO title defence was officially launched in Thomond Park.

“There was never a world title fight in Limerick before. The last time there was an outdoor fight in Ireland was 20 years ago and before that it was Muhammad Ali in 1972 - this is a once in a generation event,” outlined the 31 year old Castleconnell man.

“I drove past the stadium countless times and always dreamed of fighting there - as soon as I won the world title in December my thoughts immediately turned to defending it in Thomond Park. Since I turned pro I have said this - I always spoke of stepping off the plane in Shannon Airport with the belt and then this was the natural progression to fight here in Thomond Park, which is by far one of the best facilities in Ireland,” said the former St Francis Boxing Club Olympian.

Tickets for the September 19 world title fight went on sale yesterday through the Ticketmaster website and varying shop outlets.

The capacity for the Thomond Park event will be 34,000 with the regular rugby set-up of 26,500 and then just over 7,000 seats on the pitch surrounding the ring which will be based on the half way line.

Ticket prices range from €30 to €500.

North and South terrace tickets are €30, while terracing on the east and west sides will be €40.

The West and east stands will cost from €60-€125, while ringside are €500.

“The cheapest ticket is €30 and that is affordable to everybody and I wanted that. I wanted to make sure that people can come and bring their kids and families and hopefully inspire people. If I can become a world champion then any kid in Limerick can do it. That is a big part of this fight in Limerick. They are affordable for everyone. I ensured that so that hopefully it will ensure that every kid and everybody can go to it,” said Lee.

The Limerick world champion faces London’s undefeated Billy Joe Saunders.

“This is going to be a hard, hard fight - his strengths are his will to win and strength and passion and how much he wants to win the fight and that will take a lot of beating. This will be a global event that will be seen all over the world and I am very proud to be able to do that. To bring this to my city is an honour and in some ways I will be repaying all the support that the people of Limerick have given me since I was am amateur,” said Lee of the fight which will be televised exclusively on subscription boxing channel Box Nation.

“We are 10-weeks from the fight - I have a lot of respect for him, he is undefeated and a former Olympian as well. This is not a hand-picked fight - this is a real fight, he is the mandatory challenger for this world title,” said Lee, who is to train for the fight with trainer Adam Booth in Surrey, south of London.