ALTHOUGH it was one of the worst-kept secrets in boxing, Billy Joe Saunders was today officially unveiled as Matchroom Boxing’s latest signing at a press conference in London.
The current WBO super-middleweight champion and former WBO middleweight champion said the move would benefit him “massively” and put him “right out on the branch” for big fights. Frankly, given the frustrating nature of Saunders’ stop-start career, it’s a move he will have considered necessary.
“I’m on (Gennady) Golovkin and Canelo’s (Alvarez) turf,” he said, alluding to the fact they all now box on the DAZN platform in America. “I’ve made this move to make them fights because I’m sick of hearing their bulls*** excuses. Those fights make financial sense and they make sense because we’re on the same network.
“I will go where the big fights are and I can fluctuate between middle and super-middle. If the big fights are at middleweight, then I’ll have them at middle. If they’re at super-middleweight, then I’ll have them at super. I’m a world champion at super-middle so if anyone wants to come and try to win a belt then I’ve got one of the most recognised belts out there and I’m open to big offers.”
In truth, the WBO belt Saunders owns was won in a farcical fight against Shefat Isufi in May and was available only because Gilberto Ramirez, the old champion, fancied a saunter up at light-heavyweight. It is, for this reason, far from “one of the most recognised belts out there”, but should nonetheless give Saunders some leverage, perhaps not with the likes of Golovkin and Canelo, but certainly for a fight against fellow Brit Callum Smith, the WBA champion.
“I’m going to bring a lot of excitement to Sky Sports and DAZN,” Saunders, 28-0 (13), added. “I’m a good talker but I can also walk the walk. Matchroom are going to give me more publicity and more exposure for these big fights and that’s what I need. Once people see me and they see what I’m about they’ll want to see me in those big fights.
“I can’t wait to be involved in those big nights that I’ve seen Matchroom put on over the years. If that means fighting at 168lbs or eight pounds lighter, that’s no problem. I’m ready to go and I’m hoping to be out at the end of October or early November.”
It will be interesting to see if Saunders, 29, now renews acquaintances with Demetrius Andrade, another Matchroom stablemate who picked up Saunders’ old WBO middleweight title when it was vacated after Saunders failed performance-enhancing drug test last year. The two of them have history, as well as some unfinished business, and Saunders will always seem far better suited to middleweight and super-middleweight despite the ease with which he outboxed Shefat Isufi in the middle of Stevenage Football Club’s pitch.
“Because of his style they look at him as a long, gangly southpaw, but I have seen a lot of flaws in Andrade I knew I could exploit,” said Saunders. “If you look at my previous southpaw opponents, I do well against them. I just think with Andrade he would cause somebody like Golovkin trouble, because he’s got good feet and hands, but a good counterpuncher would beat him to the punch.
“At middleweight I was very confident about taking him out of the game.”
First, Saunders needs to get back in the game.
Following yesterday’s announcement in London, we now know the world heavyweight title rematch between Andy Ruiz Jnr and Anthony Joshua is set to take place in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia on December 7.
We also know the decision to take it to Saudi Arabia has been quite badly received by the general public but presumably well-received by each of the accountants involved with the fight and the two fighters. The debate will rumble on for a while, no doubt, but once the drama blows over and the business of building the event begins, the next thing the promoters must create is a suitable arena and undercard.
One fight already mentioned as an undercard possibility is a heavyweight crossroads fight between Dereck Chisora and Joseph Parker, two men who have come up short in recent big fights but remain entertaining and popular fighters on the fringes of the top 10.
“With Chisora and Parker, there’s been lots of talk,” Hearn told Sky Sports. “I owe David Haye a call today to try and make that fight.
“Joseph Parker is up for that fight and so is Dereck. That could even be a fight for the undercard of Ruiz Jr-AJ II. We’re looking to build an incredible undercard in Diriyah on December 7 and Parker against Chisora would be a big fight for that undercard.”
Admittedly, the show will need a lot more than a decent heavyweight chief support fight to extinguish the backlash but Parker vs. Chisora is far from a bad start.