Don’t Sleep On Billy Joe Saunders

Ed Mulholland/Matchroom, Michelle Farsi/Matchroom or Michael Owens/Matchroom
First face off

Canelo Alvarez has a real problem.

The reigning pound-for-pound king faces his biggest test in WBO super middleweight champ Billy Joe Saunders this Saturday, and of course, boxing’s faithful have their money on “Cinnamon.”

However, on the road to supremacy, Canelo’s recent spate of continuous success can be traced back to his lone loss to Floyd “Money” Mayweather on September 14th, 2013.

The majority decision loss sent Albatez back to the drawing board while Mayweather continued to ascend into the stratosphere.

However, a loss is a loss, and Alvarez’s opponent has none to his professional name.

Unbeaten Briton Saunders (30-0 18 KOs) puts his WBO strap on the line for the third time against the Mexican star and aims to add the WBC and WBA Super belts held by the Mexican sensation.

Saunders has the ring IQ to be the man to hand Canelo a first defeat in eight years. He also could take away Canelo’s dream to be undisputed at 168lbs – and the 31-year old says fighting Canelo on Cinco de Mayo weekend holds no fear.

“This fight is all about the brain,” said Saunders. “Not about power, muscle, or skill, it’s the brain and the game plan, and being able to execute that game plan.

“I brush opinions off because I know what goes through my head and my mind, and what I have done in my career is through the will and want to win, and the day I lose that, I won’t put a pair of gloves on again.”

Billy Joe Saunders is almost Briton’s best-kept secret with a defensive IQ rivaling Mayweather and footwork akin to his fellow countryman in Tyson Fury. However, the pair will dance in Texas during Cinco de Mayo weekend, making for Canelo country.

“I can only control what I am in control of and that myself, not what is outside the ring. It’s going to be a great fight; it’s one I’ve wanted for years, and it’s finally landed. There’s a lot at stake for both of us. Would I like my fans there? Yes. Would I like UK media there? Yes. If the fight was moved to the Mexican border, I wouldn’t care.

“I have my own way of approaching the fight and Canelo will have too, he’s done this nearly 60 times. I’ll get in there as the best that I can be and that’s all I can control.

“I’ve been the underdog before, I’ve been the away fighter before, it’s not a new position, but I’m just in with a better opponent this time.”

With wins over David Lemieux, Willie Monroe, Jr. and Chris Eubank, Jr., Saunders is seasoned and ready for the challenge.

“If I go in there and I win, I’m not going to run and say never again, I’ll fight him again, I’ll fight anyone, anywhere, it doesn’t bother me. It’s good for boxing sometimes when the underdogs come through, and I don’t just mean me here, because it puts the sport on a higher platform to be watched.

“I’m at the top of the tree where I’ve done it all as an amateur, I’ve had 30 fights, I’m unbeaten, won every title coming through, two-weight World champion – I can sit back at night and say I’m top of the pile fighting the pound-for-pound king.”

Rhett Butler is a Boxing Writer Association of America Journalist, Play-By-Play Commentator, Combat Sports Insider, and Former Mixed Martial Arts and Boxing Promoter. The New York City native honed his skills at various news outlets including but not limited to: TIME Magazine, Money Magazine, CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports, and more. Rhett hosts the PRITTY Left Hook podcast, a polarizing combat sports insider's take featuring the world's biggest names.