BILLY JOE SAUNDERS is often controversial and often oversteps the mark but seems to be keeping things unusually sensible when commenting on Saturday’s middleweight super-fight between Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez and Gennady ‘GGG’ Golovkin.
The WBO world middleweight champion, linked to fights with both in recent years, has decided against meeting controversy decision with controversy statement and instead admits the fight, won by Alvarez via majority decision, could have gone either way.
“It was close,” Saunders told talkSPORT. “When you’re champion you can’t just get pipped at the post, you’ve really got to get it took off you, in my opinion.
“I personally think that, take the belts away, you could flip a coin and you couldn’t really argue. But with Golovkin being champion, you can say maybe that warranted a draw more than the first one.
“It is what it is. It’s boxing at the end of the day. It wasn’t a blatant robbery. It was a close fight and you can’t really cry over it, put it that way.”
Typically, it’s at this point Saunders would goad the two men, Alvarez and Golovkin, and perhaps chuck them some bait on social media. He’d demand a fight. He’d tell them it is him, not them, who rule the weight class.
Yet, interestingly, there have been no such antics from Saunders, and one suspects this has a lot to do with the fact his next title defence, set for October 20 against Demetrius Andrade, is a tough one.
A fight he could conceivably lose, Saunders has already described himself and his American opponent as the two most-avoided and best fighters in the 160-pound division. Which, if true, begs the question: who cares about Canelo and Triple G?
One man Billy Joe Saunders knows all too well is Chris Eubank Jr, the World Boxing Super Series semi-finalist not seen in a ring since George Groves eliminated him from the tournament in February.
Eubank Jr has been linked with fights in that time, of course, but so far kept an unusually low profile. He has been linked with a fight against James DeGale, for example, as well as a fight against Callum Smith, should Groves, injured in the twelfth round of their fight in February, not be able to fulfil his spot in the final.
Instead, it was announced today that Eubank Jr will fight JJ McDonagh on the Groves vs. Smith undercard on September 28 at The King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. It’s not Degale. It’s not Smith. It is, for all intents and purposes, a tune-up fight for Eubank; the kind of fight on which his reputation heading into the Saunders and Groves fights was built.
“I have been training hard in Vegas, and I am looking be a part of the event in Jeddah,” said Eubank Jr. “I am preparing for any scenario that may present itself.”
Irishman McDonagh, 16-4 (8), is a solid enough fighter at domestic level, and is best known for dramatically knocking out Jake Ball, then unbeaten, inside the first round of a fight at Wembley in 2016. Though it would be a surprise if he managed something similar to Eubank Jr in Jeddah, he’s at least saying all the right things.
“I’m surprised he did not retire after he embarrassed himself against Groves,” said McDonagh.
“Eubank is a fit man, but he does not know how to fight hard. I’m a fighting man from a fighting family of generations of fighters. I am going to knock him out!”
And finally… James DeGale has set a date for his first ring appearance since deciding to give up his IBF super-middleweight title.
The 2008 Olympic gold medallist will compete in an eight-rounder on September 30, as part of the undercard to Victor Ortiz vs. John Molina Jr, and teases something bigger and better for December.
I’m boxing in a 8 rounder September 30th in L.A on the #OrtizvsMolina bill… when I get through that iv got something nice and juicy for you in December 💪🏽👊🏽
— James DeGale (@jamesdegale1) September 17, 2018
In deciding to dump his old belt, DeGale has more or less made a rod for his own back. The fights from now on need to be big, they need to vindicate his decision to fight on without a belt, and they need to be stimulating enough to bring out the best in a man prone to concentration lapses. That puts him in a tough spot. It delivers its own type of pressure.
Let’s hope, once this September 30 tune-up is done and dusted, his December date delivers.