WBO middleweight champion Billy Joe Saunders will now be trained by Sheffield-based Dominic Ingle after splitting with Adam Booth.
Saunders left original trainer Jimmy Tibbs last year before joining Booth’s London gym. In September, after leaving Tibbs but before joining Booth, he laboured past Artur Akavov to make the first defence of his title.
The Hatfield southpaw, who has not fought since, will now train out of Ingle’s famed Wincobank gym, which currently boasts the likes of Kell Brook and Kid Galahad.
“We’ve got him living in a house next to the gym, we’ve got the same team behind him who whip Kell into shape, including dietitian Greg Marriott. I train him. At some point we’ll take him up to Sheffield Hallam University,” Ingle told Boxing News.
“I got a call a couple of weeks back from [Saunders’ promoter] Frank Warren asking if I’d like to train him, and to be honest I don’t tend to train kids from other gyms who are ready-made, I just don’t do it, but Billy Joe I’ve known for many years, my kids have boxed him, I knew him when he was on the GB squad [as an amateur].”
Saunders was scheduled to box mandatory challenger Avtandil Khurtsidze on July 8, but the fight was scrapped after the Armenian was arrested in a New York crime syndicate crackdown.
He will make the next defence of his title on September 16 in London against an opponent yet to be determined, though it could be former IBF champion David Lemieux, who is next in line with the WBO.
While the 27-year-old got on well with Booth, he has decided to set up camp away from home in order to minimise distractions and get himself back into fighting shape.
“He’s an entertaining fella, he can fight, that’s not what you have to teach him. It’s his lifestyle, getting him into shape,” Ingle continued.
“He said to me ‘I couldn’t believe, looking at Kell Brook at the first Errol Spence press conference – we all had bets he wouldn’t make the weight – I couldn’t believe it when he made the weight. He looked fantastic.’ I said to him ‘it’s just hard work and determination. Getting rid of distractions in your life.’
“We had a chat, we set a date for him to come up so he arrived last Sunday night, he’s been in the gym for about five sessions, he gets on with everybody, he’s easy-going, he’s on the diet and he’s dropping weight quickly. Two weeks of that and we’ll see how he shapes up, he’s got 12 weeks until his fight. He’s only 27 and he said he’s got too many distractions where he lives. He needed to get away. All he does here is train, eat, sleep, rest and he’s back in the gym. I think he’s going to settle here.”
Since winning the WBO title from Andy Lee in December 2015, Saunders has only fought Akavov and admits he needs to be more active. He wants to fight the winner of Gennady Golovkin’s mouth-watering clash with Canelo Alvarez on September 16 and could still have a rematch with Chris Eubank Jnr, who he outpointed in 2011.
Ingle understands that Saunders’ head was turned by all the extra attention he received after becoming world champion but the esteemed trainer is encouraged by the sacrifices Billy Joe has already made.
“It’s difficult when you hit the heights of fame, everybody wants a piece of you, everybody’s telling you how good you are, ‘d’you wanna go out? D’you wanna do this, do that?’ There’s lots of distractions and it’s difficult to say to people ‘I’ve got to knuckle down’ and that’s what he’s got to do, he’ll be in a hard fight,” he said.
“He’s had a lot of time out, nine months since his last fight and a year before that after the Andy Lee fight, and this fight with Khurtsidze who got arrested fell through so it takes you out your stride a little. Then you don’t train and you’re back to square one. He’s from Hatfield, he’s taken himself away from his family, he’s got kids, a decent lifestyle, but he’s taken himself from that because he knows that’s what he’s got to do.”