WBO super middleweight Billy Joe Saunders is in the dark about where the rumors about him fighting Canelo Alvarez next originated from. Thus far, Saunders (24-0, 14 KOs) and his promoters haven’t heard anything from Canelo about a match between them for May 2.
Saunders says he’ll be ready and willing to grab the Canelo fight with both hands when or if it’s offered to him, but so far it hasn’t. It’s still early yet, and Saunders could be the guy that gets the golden ticket for the Canelo fight.
Saunders in a holding pattern waiting for Canelo
“We’ve all been talking about certain fights, but it’s news to myself,” Saunders told IFL TV on a fight with Canelo. “With my management with MTK, when I hear rumors like that, those are the first people I contact, but obviously it’s coming from Canelo’s side. We’re willing to and happy to sit down and sort a deal out,” said Saunders.
Canelo and his management are likely taking their time, making sure they select the right opponent to maximize interest from U.S and global boxing fans. Moreover, it’s not just Canelo, his trainer Eddy Reynoso and Golden Boy Promotions that need to decide on his next opponent. DAZN has input as well.
They’re the ones that are paying Canelo $365 millon for an 11-fight deal, and he’s done well with 2 of the 3 fights since signing. Canelo’s first fight of his DAZN contract was unquestionably a throwaway against Rocky Fielding in 2018. But since then, Canelo has hit it out of the park with his fights against Daniel Jacobs and Sergey Kovalev.
If Canelo chooses Saunders or Callum Smith, he’s basically going backwards in the direction of Fielding in terms of name recognition. Although Saunders and Callum are clearly better fighters than Fielding, they’re not household names in the United States.
Charlo brothers or Golovkin = better options for Canelo than Saunders or Callum
Given that DAZN’s subscribers are coming from American boxing fans, it’s important that Canelo chooses opponents that the U.S public has heard about and care to see him fight. Unfortunately, Saunders and Callum don’t push the buttons for the U.S fans. So it’ll be interesting to see if either of them get the fight with Canelo.
For the sake of DAZN, a smarter choice for Canelo’s May 2 fight would be someone like Gennadiy Golovkin, Jermall Charlo or Jaime Munguia. Any of those three would be huge for a fight with Canelo, especially GGG and Jermall. Even a fight with WBO middleweight champion Demetrius Andrade would arguably be preferable for U.S fans as an opponent for Canelo than Saunders or Callum.
Canelo expected to pick Saunders or Callum Smith
“I think anyone could be a front runner in this situation [to get Canelo fight],” said Saunders. “Callum Smith has a good chance. It’s me or Callum, I would say. TV companies can’t afford to bring in old bodies now. They’ve got to bring in someone [well known]. Look at when Joshua boxed. The rematch [with Andy Ruiz Jr.] made the TV company the most money in the last God knows how long,” said Saunders.
Billy Joe is giving himself and Callum too much credit believing that they’re the front-runners for the Canelo fight. They’re overlooking the fact that it’s not just Canelo that is making the decision in selecting his next opponent. This is a business decision that is being done by the higher ups with Golden Boy and DAZN. If this was just about the sport, then it would make sense for Canelo to take on the other super middleweight champions in the division like Callum or Saunders.
This is business. Canelo needs opponents that interest U.S boxing fans, and will make them want to subscribe to DAZN in large numbers. Is Saunder and Callum popular enough to bring in the U.S subscribers? That’s the magic question. For this writer, I don’t think they’re any more popular than Rocky Fielding, which is why Canelo should steer clear of either of them.