By Jake Donovan
Billy Joe Saunders hoped his next fight would be for the middleweight title. Instead, he gets the next best thing: a chance to settle a score with a longtime rival.
The unbeaten middleweight contender has been confirmed to square off versus countryman Chris Eubank Jr. on November 29 at ExCel Arena in London, England. The grudge match will serve as the chief support to the rescheduled heavyweight rematch between Tyson Fury and Dereck Chisora.
"This is a fabulous fight between two undefeated British fighters and it has all the ingredients to be a thriller," promises promoter Frank Warren. "Both men have wanted the fight and I’m delighted that it’s going to be on the same show as another big domestic feud between Chisora v Fury.
"Their rivalry has been building up over the last few years and now it’s time for them to lay it all on the line and prove who is the best."
Saunders (20-0, 11KOs) has been on a steady climb since turning pro following a Gold medal winning effort for Great Britain in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The upcoming bout with Eubank Jr. (17-0, 12KOs) —son of famed former two-division champ Chris Eubank Sr.—will mark his fourth straight against an unbeaten foe, and fifth time in his past seven starts dating back to his 2nd round knockout win over Jarrod Fletcher two years ago.
An 8th round knockout win over Emmanuel Blandamura this past July was supposed to serve as the chief support to the Fury-Chisora sequel, only for Chisora to withdraw due to injury. Fury had a chance to remain on the card, but ultimately pulled out at the 11th hour, leaving Saunders as the makeshift headliner.
Eubank Jr. appeared on the same card, stopping Ivan Jukic in one round for his 9th straight knockout win.
Saunders was angling for a title fight soon thereafter, with one seemingly landing in his lap ealier this month. Peter Quillin vacated his portion of the middleweight crown, rather than face unbeaten mandatory contender Matt Korobov in what would have been by far the biggest payday of his career.
The decision made by Quillin—though widely speculated to have been ordered by adviser Al Haymon—was supposed to mean good news for Saunders, who is the number-two rated contender according to the World Boxing Organization (WBO). However, the sanctioning body instead granted the title fight opportunity versus Korobov to its recognized 154 lb. champ, Demetrius Andrade.
In stepping up in class versus Eubank Jr., it is hoped by the event handlers that the winner will be properly compensated in his next bout - specifically versus whoever is left holding a middleweight belt by that time.
"While it was unfortunate that Saunders missed out on a shot at the WBO World title recently, I’ll be applying to the WBO for this fight to be made an eliminator for the World title," Warren announced. "With Chisora v Fury and Saunders v Eubank Jnr. on the same show, and with even more title fights to be announced over the coming days, this is going to be one big night of boxing in the capital.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene.com, as well as a member of Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox