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Andy Lee's dream Thomond Park world title defence is cancelled

WBO world champion Andy Lee and Billy Joe Saunders after a press conference ahead of 'The Showdown' at Thomond Park on September 19th. Thomond Park, Limerick.
WBO world champion Andy Lee and Billy Joe Saunders after a press conference ahead of 'The Showdown' at Thomond Park on September 19th. Thomond Park, Limerick.

Andy Lee's world title defence against Billy Joe Saunders at Thomond Park on September 19 is off.

Frank Warren has confirmed that the fight will now take place on October 10 in Manchester at the 21,000 capacity Manchester Arena.

Lee's promoter Lou DiBella confirmed that his trainer Andy Booth had been in contact to say that the Limerick man had been suffering from a virus and needed additional time to recover for the fight.

"I got a call from Adam Booth who told me that Andy has been battling a virus on and off for the last couple of weeks, they are moving the fight back to October 10th," DiBella told Boxingscene.com

Frank Warren said: “Adam contacted me and quite correctly let me know that Andy was ill. Whilst they were prepared to gamble on him recovering in time, there is so much at stake for so many people, common sense had to prevail.

"We simply cannot risk this fight not happening and therefore the decision was made that we should postpone the fight to ensure it does. With October being such a busy month in the boxing calendar and every Saturday having a show, we could not afford to wait until November and risk going outdoors.

"The only viable option available to us was to move the fight to the Manchester Arena on the 10th October alongside Terry Flanagan’s defence of his WBO Lightweight title in a show that is shaping up to be one of the best cards in years.”

“It’s a shame for Andy Lee that his dream of defending his world title in Limerick cannot be fulfilled now, but this being such a big fight neither boxer can risk going into the ring at anything less than 100%.

"Also, from Billy Joe Saunders’ point of view he is in training camp in Spain and to not have a firm date for the  fight would not be fair on him so Manchester is the best solution.

"This is a huge fight in whatever city it takes place and, as it has proved so many times in the past, the Manchester Arena is the ideal home and I’m sure it will sell-out with such a huge card taking shape. I’m proud to have staged the top three boxing events at the Arena and I think this one could certainly equal or surpass those.”

On Behalf of the Lee camp, co-promoter Adam Booth said: “Obviously, Andy and I are gutted that this won’t be taking place in Limerick. If  the virus had cleared, then maybe it could have. However, after speaking with Frank, my partner in the event, we decided that the risk was just too great on many fronts. We now move forward with a new date, a new venue, and like Frank, I have had many great nights at the Manchester Arena and we are looking forward to another. “

A press conference will now take place on Monday when details of the Manchester card will be revealed. Warren has said that the card will feature three World title bouts.

Lee had been slated to defend his WBO World middleweight title against Saunders at the Limerick venue, which was expected to sell 33,000 tickets.

The Thomond bill was dealt a blow last week when Olympic gold medallist Katie Taylor confirmed that she wouldn't be fighting on the night.

Cormac Byrne