FORMER WBO middleweight champion Billy Joe Saunders has announced a surprise move up to super-middleweight.

On April 13 he will box for the WBO super-middleweight title at Wembley Arena, to be screened by BT Sport. Gilberto Ramirez left the belt vacant after announcing that he in turn would move up to light-heavyweight. So now Saunders will fight Shefat Isufi for 168lbs world title.

Saunders was stripped of his middleweight crown after a VADA drug test revealed an adverse finding. Billy Joe insists he has rebuilt from there, pointing out that he had not violated British regulations. “For the drugs one I didn’t do anything wrong. From the British Boxing Board of Control’s eyes, I was fit to box anywhere in the world,” Saunders said. “That’s behind me now.”

“I want to get back bigger and better than ever. Super-middleweight is the way forward,” he continued. “The Golovkins and Canelos don’t want it. Maybe I can get a big one in the UK.

Billy Joe Saunders

“It’s a very good move to put me in position for the big names.”

Already he is eyeing WBA boss Callum Smith or the winner of James DeGale vs Chris Eubank Jnr.

“I will be super-middleweight world champion this year, sink or swim,” Saunders declared.