THE once-flourishing relationship between former WBO middleweight champion Billy Joe Saunders and trainer Dominic Ingle has come to an end, reports Chris McKenna of the Daily Star.
Saunders joined Ingle and his Sheffield gym back in June 2017 after severing ties with Adam Booth, with whom he trained only briefly, and long-time coach Jimmy Tibbs, and all seemed rosy at first. With Ingle by his side, Saunders delivered perhaps the best performance of his career – a December 2017 drubbing of David Lemieux – and appeared to have fixed discipline issues of old. He was in better physical condition than usual and, what’s more, appeared a perfect fit for the unorthodox teachings of the Wincobank gym. There was talk of him fighting Gennady Golovkin and Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez and all of it seemed plausible.
However, where there was an upside, there was also a downside, and Saunders, while in Sheffield, soon became as well-known for his out-of-ring antics – some of them captured on video – as his brilliant performances inside the ring. He also saw a payday against WBO mandatory challenger Demetrius Andrade fall by the wayside following a failed voluntary drug test and then gave up his belt altogether as the debris settled. In short, it wasn’t the best of years for the 29-year-old.
Now eager for a career reboot, Saunders is expected to move up to super-middleweight and join forces with Ben Davison, the young trainer best known for his work with former world heavyweight champion Tyson Fury.
Saunders and Davison are no strangers, of course. As well as recently training together at Ricky Hatton’s gym in Manchester, the two spent time in the same corner during Saunders’ uninspiring win against Artur Akavov in 2016. That night, Davison, 26, received criticism for his work as Saunders’ makeshift coach, but has since bounced back in fine style and was showered with praise for getting Fury into fighting shape and then helping orchestrate his December draw with Deontay Wilder.
There is a decent amount of momentum around Team Fury at the moment – this latest incarnation of Team Fury, anyway – and it could be beneficial for Saunders to start afresh with a group who are somewhat new yet mostly familiar. Sometimes a change is good and Saunders, an undoubted talent in danger of wasting his best years, needs all the good he can get right now.
We were once led to believe 2018 was going to be the year of Anthony Joshua vs. Deontay Wilder, but now it seems 2019 will be the year of the heavyweight-fight-the-world-needs-to-see – if we’re lucky, that is.
According to Joshua’s promoter, Eddie Hearn, there are encouraging signs, despite the pair’s history of squabbling and delaying, that Joshua vs. Wilder is edging closer to becoming a reality for November or December time.
Speaking to Sky Sports, he said: “It’s very encouraging. I’m not going to say too much on it, because I don’t want to jinx anything, but I think there’s an opportunity there for someone to be a mediator to get the fight done.
“Clearly, the relationship between Team Wilder and Team Joshua is not the best. I think this is a route that is going to be very beneficial to the making of that undisputed fight.
“It’s not just about doing a deal with Wilder; it’s about doing a deal with Joshua.
“They’ve got their work cut out, but the pieces are coming together. There’s a long way to go but we’ll see where it goes.
“Now I think there’s a strategy in place that could lead us to the undisputed fight. There’s a clear desire from both sides to make the fight.
“If an undisputed fight gets made, it will be November or December 2019. But (there are) still a couple of hurdles.”
As well as the ever-present negotiation hurdles to which Hearn alludes, there is the small matter of Joshua beating Jarrell Miller on June 1 in New York and Wilder beating WBC mandatory challenger Dominic Breazeale around the same sort of time. But Hearn’s comments are certainly encouraging and now, in the cold light of day, one could argue Wilder’s iffy showing against Tyson Fury in December ended up being the ‘mediator’ Joshua vs. Wilder required all along.
In other heavyweight news, American upset king Michael ‘The Bounty’ Hunter is being lined up for a fight against former world champion Alexander Povetkin.
The skilful 30-year-old recently did the dirty on both Martin Bakole and Alexander Ustinov, winning fights he was expected to lose, and was believed to be on course to fight Carlos Takam next. However, Takam is seemingly now wanted elsewhere, and Hunter, as a result, has shifted his attention to Povetkin.
“Yes, that’s a very good possibility,” he told Sky Sports when asked about a potential Povetkin clash.
“That’s the latest on me as far as fights. We’re going to see about that. But yeah that’s what I’m getting at right now, that it will be Povetkin, no longer Takam. That got took off the table.
“I love it, especially because the main idea of the [Oleksandr] Usyk-Povetkin fight, and I like to throw a little wrench in plans, so I’m excited about that.”
Hunter doesn’t just throw wrenches in plans. Based on recent form, he is the wrench.