First it was middleweight titleholder Andy Lee who got ill and had to postpone his mandatory defense against Billy Joe Saunders. Now it is Saunders who has had to postpone the fight.
It was delayed for a second time Tuesday after Saunders suffered a cut over his right eye during a sparring session, Saunders promoter Frank Warren announced.
They were originally scheduled to fight Sept. 19 at Thomond Park in Lee's hometown of Limerick, Ireland, but Lee came down with a virus and postponed the fight. It was rescheduled for Oct. 10 at Manchester Arena in Manchester, England, but now will have to wait until Saunders' cut is healed.
"First of all I'm sorry to Andy and all the fans that this fight has had to be postponed again," Saunders said. "It's completely unfortunate that I got a cut during a sparring session, but there's nothing I can do now until the specialist advises me on when I can resume training and fight again.
"I'm committed to this world title fight. I'm the WBO mandatory challenger, and the WBO have confirmed that I'll remain the mandatory challenger. It's just a very frustrating situation at the moment as myself and Andy just want to get in the ring and fight after all the delays."
Lee was also bummed out that the fight was delayed again but understands the situation.
"Hugely disappointed for myself and for the boxing public," Lee said. "These things happen. Me and Billy Joe Saunders will get it on when the new date is set."
Warren said the card still will go on with the two other world title bouts already on the show. Lightweight titleholder Terry Flanagan (28-0, 11 KOs), who is from Manchester, will move into the main event as he makes his first defense, a mandatory, against Las Vegas contender Diego Magdaleno (28-1, 12 KOs). Also, England's Liam Smith (20-0-1, 10 KOs) will face Newark, New Jersey's John Thompson (17-1, 6 KOs), a 2015 ESPN Boxcino tournament winner, for a vacant junior middleweight world title.
"It's a real shame that Billy has been forced out of the fight because of a cut and we await the report from the specialists so that we can look to reschedule the fight as soon as possible for the fans," Warren said. "Whilst Saunders versus Lee has fallen through, there are two thrilling world title fights on the show with Terry Flanagan facing a dangerous first defense against tough American Diego Magdaleno, and Liam Smith has a big test against American upsetter John Thompson.
"It's a disappointment, but I'm very optimistic that the show is still one of the best of the year, if not the best, with a top class lineup."
Lee, a 2004 Irish Olympian, knocked out Matt Korobov in the sixth round in December in Las Vegas in a fight he was losing on all three scorecards to win a vacant 160-pound world title. Lee (34-2-1, 24 KOs), a 31-year-old southpaw, made his first defense April 11 in Brooklyn, New York, on NBC in prime time, battling former titlist "Kid Chocolate" Peter Quillin to a split draw in a fight in which both men were knocked down twice.
Quillin was not eligible to win the belt because he failed to make weight the day before. Quillin had previously vacated the belt Lee won against Korobov. Saunders (22-0, 12 KOs), who turned 26 on Sunday, a 2008 British Olympian, scored his biggest win in November, getting the nod in a spirited split decision against bitter rival Chris Eubank Jr. in a European title defense that also served as the world title eliminator for the mandatory fight against Lee.
With the Lee fight set, Saunders took a tune-up fight July 24 and knocked out journeyman Yoann Bloyer in the fourth round.