Manchester Arena, England, Dec. 19
By Peter Lim
Most championship-level fights are riddled with intangibles but given their respective styles, the only question mark in the outcome of this showdown is whether Lee will detonate one of his out-of-the blue, fight-ending bombs over the course of 36 minutes. As enigmatic as Lee is, there is no way the Irish Londoner can outpoint the younger, sprier Saunders, who fights like a B-minus, left-handed version of Sugar Ray Leonard in his heyday.
Experience prevails over youth in this battle of southpaws. Utilizing his superior hand and foot speed, Saunders boxes Lee's ears off for six rounds, flurrying with rapid combinations and darting away before Lee can return fire. He steps on the accelerator in the seventh round, sending Lee reeling on spaghetti legs with a volley of punches. But youthful exuberance gets the better of Saunders, and as he moves in for the kill, he leaves himself open to a short, explosive hook that abruptly ends the fight for a Knockout of the Year candidate.
Kudos to Saunders for not letting youthful exuberance get the better of him. Calculating and methodical, he maintained the lead he gained from the 10-7 third round and never let Lee erase that deficit with one of his explosive hooks.