ONCE upon a time it seemed Billy Joe Saunders and Chris Eubank Jnr were destined to become long-term rivals, the kind who would go on to share two or three fights and eventually win one another’s respect.
They had one fight, of course, back in November 2014, but that, as it turned out, is as far as the rivalry has gone. Since then Saunders, the victor, has used bragging rights to poke fun at Eubank Jnr, while Eubank Jnr has used his greater profile to fire back at Saunders from time to time.
In terms of achievements, Saunders remains undefeated and has won a second WBO belt in a second weight class (super-middleweight). But, annoyingly, his career has stalled in recent times and an issue with a failed performance-enhancing drug test in 2018 has hardly helped matters.
Eubank Jnr, meanwhile, suffered a frustrating defeat to George Groves last year but has, to his credit, rebounded with a decent win against James DeGale, probably the best of his career. He claims to have forgotten all about Saunders and says he has no need to pursue the rematch. But that’s hard to believe.
“We’ve been trying to make that fight for years,” Eubank Jnr told Sky Sports. “Whenever it happens, it happens.
“He’s not really a priority for me right now because there’s so many other big names out there. But when that fight happens, he’ll get what’s coming, and I’ll be able to move on.”
The sticking point seems to be money. Eubank Jnr will demand a lot based on his supposed star power and Saunders, too, won’t be sold short given he is the undefeated champion with a 2014 win to his name.
“He doesn’t want to fight unless he’s getting paid a crazy amount of money,” he said. “But at this stage, the fight can be made. It’s just when and where.”
It won’t be against Saunders, we know that much, but Eubank Jnr reckons he will be back in the ring again before the end of the year and that his opponent will be revealed in the next couple of weeks.
Although it always appeared unlikely, Andy Ruiz Jnr, the WBA, IBF and WBO world heavyweight champion, admits he would have considered fighting Anthony Joshua in London or Cardiff if – and it’s a big, Ruiz-sized if – the money had been right.
Alas, it wasn’t, and rather than Ruiz and Joshua doing their rematch in the UK, we have ended up with ‘Clash on the Dunes’, a December 7 title fight in Saudi Arabia of all places.
“I would’ve been there [in Britain],” Ruiz told BoxingScene.com following a press conference in Manhattan. “If the number would’ve been right, I would’ve been there and I would’ve given him the chance.
“There’s no reason to be hiding [from his] country. He came all the way over here [to New York]. I would’ve gone back over there, but they made it in Saudi Arabia. So, I think that was a fair choice.”
The assumption was that the rematch landed in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia because Ruiz and his team were insistent on it being held on neutral ground. More likely, though, given Ruiz’s recent claim, is that the reported $40 million site fee for hosting the fight in Diriyah was the determining factor.
“We were negotiating,” Ruiz said. “I would fight wherever. The fighter’s going to fight wherever.
“But it’s just the team, where they’re going to negotiate and whatnot. I don’t think that’s my business to be saying, ‘You know what? I want to fight here. I want to fight there.’
“It wasn’t me. But wherever it is, you know, I’m going to be there, I’m going to be ready, I’m going to train hard and I’m going to win.”
A ring’s a ring.
By now a cliché, all boxers have said it at some point, and most have said it to disguise their frustration regarding a venue or location.
On December 7 in Saudi Arabia, Ruiz and Joshua will meet again in a ring, just as they did on June 1, and what surrounds that ring will likely have no bearing on what happens inside it once the first bell rings and punches start to fly.