Briton Billy Joe Saunders will return to the ring on May 8th to take on WBA, WBC and Ring Magazine super-middleweight champion Canelo Álvarez in a unification bout at the AT&T Stadium in Texas.
Saunders, who currently holds the WBO super-middleweight belt, will certainly have his work cut out if he wants to cause an upset stateside, as the Mexican, who boasts a record of 55-1-2, is currently considered the best boxer in the world and that is reflected in the Canelo Álvarez odds.
Despite being a two-weight world champion and boasting an unblemished record of 30-0, it is fair to say that Saunders is yet to reach his true potential and prove his worth on the world stage. His fights have often left a lot to be desired, including his most recent behind closed doors victory over nearly man Martin Murray at the SSE Arena, London back in December, where he beat the 38-year-old via a unanimous decision.
Murray, however, was just another victory for Saunders that meant little in terms of adding any real clout to his name. It was also his only fight of 2020. Of course, the coronavirus pandemic didn’t help Saunders in his pursuit of making the sport of boxing sit up and take notice of him, but neither have any of his recent opponents.
He beat Charles Adamu on the undercard of Carl Frampton vs Josh Warrington at the Manchester Arena in December 2018 before getting the better of Shefat Isufi in Stevenage to win the vacant WBO belt and defending it for the first time against Marcelo Esteban Cocerers on the undercard of KSI vs Logan Paul II at the Staples Centre in Los Angles in November 2019.
Even with winning the WBO super-middleweight title in the process, there is a feeling that Saunders’ career hasn’t really taken a step up in that time and perhaps that is down to the opponents he has faced. The fight against Canelo is the first time in years that Saunders will enter the ring as the so-called underdog in the boxing tips on Betfair’s blog and he will really have his work cut out if he wants to become the first man to beat the Mexican since Floyd Mayweather’s victory in 2013.
The good news for those rooting for Saunders is that he often steps his game up a notch against the better opponents. It’s almost as though he struggles to get in the right mindset when he is the heavy favourite and it would take a miracle for his opponent to beat him. That has been clear in most of the aforementioned fights.
However, Canelo is a man that the Hertfordshire native has had his eyes on for some time and a fight of this magnitude is exactly what Saunders needs to kick a new lease of life into his career, especially at this stage. After the Murray fight, Saunders admitted that his next bout must be a big one, or else he might not find the motivation to portray his true skill once again.
“It’s very important for me to stay in the gym now because I’m not getting any younger,” said the 31-year-old. “Let’s get the big names out there. I need a big fight to get up for it, I don’t want to sit in the dressing room, singing and dancing.”
There’s no doubt that an opponent like Canelo can bring the best out of Saunders. He has no choice but to show up to the AT&T Stadium in his best form or else he will be punished by the quality of the Mexican. It will be interesting to see how he adapts to the challenge having fought much lower quality fighters than Canelo in the past few years, but he has said himself he needs big fights, so he can’t go out on a whimper now!