BRITAIN has yet another world champion. Billy Joe Saunders became the 12th man from the United Kingdom to hold a world title when he beat Andy Lee on Saturday. It sets up a 2016 to be savoured for British boxing. Billy Joe is one of only three middleweight champion. The other two are two of the biggest names in the sport, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and the fearsome Gennady Golovkin.
But Saunders doesn’t necessarily need to look overseas for a big fight. In Chris Eubank Jnr he has a ready made British rival, with the growing animosity between the two fuelling interest in the fight. Billy Joe sounds unwilling to gift him a shot but if the public demands it, well, I’m sure it will be lucrative enough to make it worth their while.
Meanwhile the heavyweight division is suddenly getting interesting. Luis Ortiz battered Bryant Jennings on Saturday night after Saunders’ victory and the Cuban looks a threat to anyone in the division. Plotting his next move will be intriguing. Tyson Fury is currently the best big man in the world. It’s a shame the IBF saw fit to remove one of Tyson’s three titles but while he is preoccupied with a rematch with Wladimir Klitschko next year, a leading contender will look to emerge in America. Currently the head of the pack is Deontay Wilder. He holds the WBC strap and should dispose of Artur Szpilka on January 16. On that same bill in New York Vyacheslav Glazkov is fighting Charles Martin for the newly vacant IBF title. The two victors of those world title fights would be nicely set up for a Stateside heavyweight unification battle.
That would be rough on Alexander Povetkin, the Russian who has been forced to wait patiently for his mandatory shot at Wilder. If a unification trumps that, then Luis Ortiz would be a better opponent than most for Povetkin. (I think we can all happily forget about Lucas Browne fighting Ruslan Chagaev in Grozny for a WBA regular title, which is pointless since Fury is the WBA’s heavyweight champion. (And whatever Ortiz’s Interim WBA strap is supposed to mean is anyone’s guess.))
A lot could play out in the heavyweight division next year. The only downside will be boxing’s perennial problem of chaos, with fragmented world titles being passed out along the fighters. But at least, in a division brimming with big punchers and big personalities, it’ll be an entertaining kind of madness.