For better or for worse, Billy Joe Saunders has a pathway to emerge as the winner of the Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez sweepstakes.
The unbeaten two-division and reigning World Boxing Organization (WBO) super middleweight titlist has been ordered to face his mandatory challenger for the next defense.
“Billy Joe Saunders just fought. He must make his mandatory for his next fight,” Francisco ‘Paco’ Valcarcel, president of the WBO declared Thursday morning during the ratings portion of the sanctioning body’s annual convention in Tokyo, Japan. “We gave a lot of breaks to Billy Joe Saunders. When is he going to fight next? We allowed him a voluntary.”
England’s Saunders (29-0, 14KOs) is coming off of an 11th round knockout of previously unbeaten Argentinean contender Marcelo Coceres this past November in Los Angeles, California. The stateside debut for the British southpaw came six months following his claiming the vacant title in a 12-round win over Shefat Isufi this past May in Stevenage, England, just outside of his Hatfield hometown.
His next order of business could come versus the winner of a title eliminator between England’s Zach Parker (18-0, 12KOs) and Australia’s Rohan Murdock (24-1, 17KOs). The pair of top-rated contenders are due to square off in mid-January, though with the understanding they could play second fiddle should Alvarez decide to exercise a special clause granted to WBO “Super” champions.
Alvarez is the current WBO light heavyweight titlist, having claimed the belt following an 11th round knockout of exiting three-time titlist Sergey Kovalev this past November in Las Vegas, Nevada. He is also the recognized World middleweight champion, although at some point will have to decide the division at which he chooses to campaign at least for his next fight.
The cryptic language offered by the WBO committee left the door open for his possibly next challenging Saunders in the first half of 2020.
“Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez is the Super champion,” Valcarcel noted. “If he decides to fight at 168, he can fight for the title. The elimination bout will be fought with the condition that the winner could be the number two contender.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox