The fight which Billy Joe Saunders previously accepted very much remains the one he intends as his first ring adventure once boxing resumes at full strength.
The outspoken two-division and reigning unbeaten super middleweight titlist from Hatfield, England was days away from a formal announcement for a titanic showdown with boxing superstar Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez. Their bout was due to take place on May 2 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada but the big reveal never had a chance to make the rounds due to the ongoing coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
Efforts are being made by the sport’s biggest power players for some semblance of boxing to make its way back to the ring. A series of closed-doors events will take place in compliance with current social distancing and health standards, with full-scale shows to follow once everyone is given the all clear.
By that point, the British southpaw intends to pick up precisely where he left off.
“I know I can beat Canelo. I've never been beat and believe I'll end up unbeaten,” Saunders (29-0, 14KOs) insisted during an Instagram Live session on his social media channel. “The next thing I want to do is go out there and beat the invincible man. Canelo Alvarez, he’s the big one they’re going on about. That’s the one I want because to be the best, you have to beat the best.
“When I was coming through the rankings, I beat John Ryder when he still had his “0”, when he didn’t know what losing was. People need to look back. I beat Gary ‘Spike’ O’Sullivan. My boxing alone and the pedigree I’ve got from being a young amateur, it will take a lot to untangle me. So, why wouldn’t I want to fight the best? That’s what I’m gonna do.”
Saunders’ 168-pound title will be at stake should their fight get resurrected. The 30-year old recently celebrated his one-year anniversary as a super middleweight titlist, outpointing Shefat Isufi last May just outside his hometown in Stevenage, England. His first defense came six months later, pushing through an uneven performance to drop unbeaten Marcelo Esteban Coceres three times en route to an 1th round stoppage last November in Los Angeles for his United States debut.
A return trip onto this side of the Atlantic will be required to face Mexico’s Alvarez (53-1-2, 36KOs), a three-division titlist and pound-for-pound king who currently serves as by far the biggest current box office draw in North America. Landing such an assignment is the equivalent of hitting the jackpot for anyone from middleweight through light heavyweight.
Over-the-top (OTT) media service DAZN is craving a third fight between Alvarez and Kazakhstan’s Gennadiy Golovkin (40-1-1, 35KOs), a two-time and current middleweight titlist. The two fought to a disputed draw in September 2017, with Alvarez scoring a majority decision win in their September 2018 rematch.
Despite the push for part three, it appears they will have fights in the interim. Golovkin will proceed with a mandatory title defense versus Poland’s Kamil Szeremeta, while Saunders remains the front runner to next face Alvarez—the fight he’s always wanted to prove his worth.
“Golovkin, he’s been beat by Alvarez. If they said to me, ‘You’re going to fight Golovkin or Alvarez,’ I’ll choose Alvarez,” insists Saunders. “Those are the two fights I want, though. All these other big names, these big superstars, Danny Jacobs and other big fighters at the weight, they had their chance. They’ve all been beat.
“Let me have a chance. If I get beat, I get beat. I’m the fairest man in the world. If I get beat by someone who's better than me, I can only shake their hand. But my main goal is to get 'Ginger B-llocks' in the ring and see what I can do.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox