Andy Lee and Billy Joe Saunders will soon face off in one of the most hyped bouts in Britain this year. Can they live up to expectations come Saturday night?
This could be one of those nights where Boxnation’s subscribers really get their money’s world with a generous helping of undercard fights. Granted, Robert Swierzbinski, Noe Nunez, and George Jupp will each have a steep hill to climb against some of Britain’s best prospects in Tommy Langford, Jack Catterall, and Mitchell Smith. Showcase fights, like these, only prop up a solid main portion of the bill. The first of the four main bouts is Paul Butler, returning to the ring for a third time since losing his super flyweight title to Zolani Tete, against Romanian Silvio Olteanu.
Silvio Olteanu, a 37-year-old Romanian, is a resilient fighter who is most definitely past his prime. He hasn’t boxed too frequently in recent years, and has lost two of his past three bouts. This will probably be one of the last fights he has internationally, and I expect he’ll put his all into it, but it probably won’t be enough against a motivated former world champion.
Olteanu hasn’t ever been stopped, and I personally cannot see Butler being the first to do him in, but that would be impressive. At only 5’2, Olteanu has been largely dependent on a high-energy, high-output style to win him close fights. He can’t lean back on that anymore, not at age 37, but could he make for a few rounds of competitive action? Absolutely, and since this is a tune-up bout for Butler, burrowed away thee fights beneath the main event, that’s enough to make this matchmaking passable.
Liam Williams will take on his biggest challenge against Kris Carslaw in the evening’s next bout. Welshman Williams has thudding power in both fists and is good at penetrating his opponent’s defense, but might leave himself open a bit too much. If he fails to establish his jab and make this a mid-range bout like he would want, Kris Carslaw has the tools to wear him down. Coming off of four straight wins since his latest loss, including a victory in a British title eliminator against John Thain, 31-year-old Carslaw might be in peak form. He’s been out of the ring since June, and should be as fresh and daisy as the younger fighter.
If he is right in his head, able to get in and away without having his guard broken, Carslaw can make this one interesting. He’s pushed much further developed pugilists such as Brian Rose and Matthew Hall far, but never looked like beating anyone he’s fought at this level. Perhaps being competitive against Europe’s best and beating up on minnows is his ceiling, but don’t write off the man from Paisley just yet.
The chief-support to Lee-Saunders represents a good chance for Liam Smith to make people take him seriously as a champion. Liam Smith is the best of the Smith fighting quartet in my opinion. Domestically, nobody has really troubled him, and his crushing win over American Boxcino tournament winner John Thompson proved he is world class. Jimmy Kilrain Kelly is coming in looking for a career-defining win. He’s shown improvement in recent fights, but doesn’t have the technical refinement of Liam Smith as of yet. He isn’t afraid to throw his best punches, though, and that’s what you like to see a long way into the evening, just before Saunders and Lee step into the ring. I think the bout will be close early with Smith taking over by the middle rounds and getting the knockout.
Finally, the main event. There are many factors to weigh in to this one. Can Andy Lee keep up with Billy Joe Saunders’ activity, and, if not, can he overwrite the rounds he’ll drop with a knockout?
Lee will have to box like he did against Quillin, where he picked his punches exceptionally well and ultimately demanded respect from the fresher fighter, and made him box at his pace. Since going under the wing of Adam Booth in 2013, Lee has had his difficulties. Most of them pertained to keeping up with conventional boxers who hold even an average workrate. Thankfully, he moved back to 160-lbs following a short and nearly disastrous stay at junior middleweight, one which saw him limp to the finish line against French journeyman Frank Haroche Horta and get utterly dominated by Julian Jackson’s son, John Jackson, before scoring the knockout of the year.
How he came out of those fights without at least one loss must be attributed to Irish luck. Saunders has been relatively lucky himself. He has had many close calls in his career. With a slight turn in events, maybe Chris Eubank Jr would be continuing his father’s championship legacy tomorrow night against Lee. It will be interesting to see whose luck runs out. If Saunders wins, it will probably be either a considerably wide points decision or a late TKO, while, with Lee, it’s almost certainly going to be a knockout.
Billy Joe Saunders UD 12 Andy Lee (118-110, 117-111 or so)
Liam Smith KO 5 Jimmy Kilrain Kelly
Liam Williams UD 12 Kris Carslaw (115-113-ish, Carslaw makes him work for it)
Paul Butler UD 10 Silvio Olteanu (99-91, 100-93 or some nonsense that indicates Olteanu gave it his all but lost most of the rounds)
Jack Catterall KO 2 Noe Nunez (No contest)
Tommy Langford UD 10 Robert Swierzbinski (100-90, maybe a knockdown somewhere)
Tom Stalker MD 10 Craig Evans (Another close one between these two)
Mitchell Smith UD 10 George Jupp (Smith outworks Jupp and pulls away in the later rounds)