GIVEN the low key status of Shefat Isufi, his weigh in, ahead of challenging Billy Joe Saunders for the vacant WBO super-middleweight title in Stevenage on Saturday, was a surprisingly venomous affair.
Saunders is stepping up to the 168lbs division for the first time. He looked in perfect condition as he came in exactly on the weight limit, at 12st, at Friday’s weigh in. Isufi scaled 11st 13lbs 6oz.
The two went forehead to forehead in their faceoff, with Saunders leaning in dangerously close. Billy Joe raised his hand to press Isufi away by the chin as minders pulled him back.
Isufi as not boxed anyone of the calibre of Billy Joe Saunders. But the pressure is on the former. Saunders must win this fight, and do so in style, to make sure he can eventually snare a title fight with one of the sport’s stars, whether it be at super-middleweight or middleweight.
“I jumped at this fight when it was offered and I will become a two-weight world champion,” Saunders said at their press conference this week. “I’m not looking past Isufi, but I am looking for the big names. I am 29, I know I have got it inside me and nobody has seen my best.”
“With the backing of BT Sport we can make the big fights. It is all fine saying I look good hitting the pads, but I have to be on my A game and send a message to the other super-middleweights,” he continued. “If I do bring it, I should box his head off. Whatever he brings I will fetch ten-fold more.”
Isufi declared, “I am doing this for me, but to become Albania’s first world boxing champion is big for them and also Germany as I box under their flag.”
“Billy Joe will be trying everything to win and so will I,” he added. “Billy Joe is quick, fast and a hard puncher. I can also punch and one punch could make the difference.”