AFTER leaving long-term promoter Frank Warren, Billy Joe Saunders has signed a multi-fight deal with Matchroom.
His first fight of this new deal with be in late October or early November either in Britain or America.
Saunders, previously the WBO 160lbs champion, moved up to win the WBO’s vacant super-middleweight crown against Shefat Isufi in May. He is now angling for big name opponents and will hope to make the most of Eddie Hearn’s links to DAZN and Sky fighters. His primary targets are Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin, both popular fighters in the US locked into deals with streaming service DAZN. In the UK a unification with Callum Smith, the WBA 168lbs ruler who beat George Groves last year, would also be significant.
“We all worked very hard to make the deal,” Saunders said. “It’s about being the best, and seeing Golovkin and Canelo fight, seeing everybody raving about it and me thinking I know I can beat them.”
“It’s hard for me to get a fight 160lbs,” he added. “I’ve been trying to get those big fights for a reason, to test myself.”
New promoter Eddie Hearn, who has a long-term relationship with DAZN, maintains that Saunders is the “prime candidate” for the Canelo Alvarez fight.
Saunders warmed to the possibility. “Style makes fights. We see when he boxed [Erislandy] Lara he had all sorts of trouble,” he said. “I’m going in these fights knowing and believing what I can do.”
Hearn also revealed that Gennady Golovkin would be willing to move up to super-middle. “I’m very confident of beating Golovkin very clearly and very widely,” Saunders said. “I’d fight Golovkin at whatever weight he wants… [To] show people how easily I could beat him, outbox him and probably do a better job than Canelo.”
“I can fluctuate between two weights, 160 and 168lbs,” he continued. “You bring them to me and I’ll show you how to beat them.”
“Everybody in the sport of boxing knows just how good Billy Joe Saunders is,” Hearn said. “Here you have a world class pound-for-pound fighter that has the ability and the option to work in two weight divisions.
“Activity is the key. A plan, a strategy is key. Because he now sits on the verge of all those mega-fights.”
“The opportunities for BJS. Are endless. Callum Smith, Canelo, GGG, [WBO middleweight champion Demetrius] Andrade,” the promoter continued. “Another fight I’d like to make is a Chris Eubank fight. Because the build-up will be stupendous.
“He’s capable of boxing wherever he wants in all of these fights.”
Saunders has been scheduled to fight in the US before, but an anti-doping violation forced him out of a title fight with Demetrius Andrade and saw him ultimately vacate the WBO middleweight belt. That bout though could be re-made. “I looked at a lot of flaws in Andrade that I knew I could exploit,” Billy Joe said. “I feel that a good counter-puncher would beat him to the punch.
“At middleweight I was very confident of taking him out of the game.”
Danny Jacobs, who has lost comparatively close fights to both Canelo and Golovkin could also figure in his future. Certainly he’s big enough to move up a division and could be an appealing title defence for Saunders “I think Danny Jacobs is a brilliant fighter. I think he just got lost in the moment against Canelo. Against Golovkin he could have nicked that fight,” Billy Joe said.
There are ready made rivals for him in Britain, notably in the form Callum Smith or Chris Eubank Jnr. Saunders was far more effusive about the prospect of boxing the former. “I think Callum’s a brilliant fighter, a good fighter. He’s done very, very well in his career. A good puncher, a good boxer,” he said. “He would be favourite going into the fight … but I genuinely believe I’ve got the beating of Callum Smith and anyone else in the division.”
Eubank Junior is a big name, someone whom Saunders has already outpointed in a high-profile fight. But Billy Joe dismissed him as “a world class bum”.
“If I couldn’t beat him I would never put on a pair of gloves again,” he added. “It’s a fight I would entertain. The only benefit I’d gain is financial. I’d beat him with my eyes closed.”
Saunders has had disciplinary problems previously but he wants to move into a new phase in his career. “In the past what I’ve done is a few bits and bobs here and there,” he admits. “It’s not been great for the public.” But he adds, “I’ve been boxing since I’ve been five. Everything I’ve ever wanted is on the platform where I’m at now.”
He can afford no more distractions. “If you want to win you have to stay focused,” he concluded. “That’s all I’m about, winning.
“I think it’s something that you’re born with. I know that from day one, as soon as I put a pair of gloves on, I was born to win.”
The super-fights he’s outlined might take a while to build. It’s thought that Canelo Alvarez wants to wait to see if Sergey Kovalev beats Anthony Yarde on August 24 in order to line up a shot at the WBO’s light-heavyweight title. Gennady Golovkin is expected to fight Sergey Derevyanchenko for the IBF middleweight stripped from Alvarez. Matchroom, it appears, want time to build up to a super-middleweight unification between Saunders and Smith in the UK. Billy Joe’s next fight therefore can reasonably be expected to be a title defence. But a little more patience should bring him to the high profile showdown he craves. Afterall he notes, “I was on the wrong side of the fence before but I’m not now and the big fights have to happen.”