Billy Joe Saunders will be facing his toughest opponent for his 12-year professional career tonight when he faces superstar Canelo Alvarez in his dream fight at the AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Action for the main portion of the card begins at 8:00 p.m. ET on DAZN.
Saunders (30-0, 14 KOs) is only getting this fight because of his WBO super middleweight title, a belt that Alvarez (55-1-2, 37 KOs) covets.
The Mexican star wants to add Billy Joe’s WBO title to his other two belts [WBA and WBC] before moving forward to face IBF champion Caleb Plant in September for the undisputed championship.
It’s difficult to say whether Saunders has any more of a chance against Canelo than his last two terribly over-matched opponents Avni Yildirim and Callum Smith.
What we can say is Saunders is a better trash talker than those two were, but that’s not going to help him when he gets in the ring with Canelo tonight.
Saunders has an impeccable amateur background in fighting in the 2008 Olympics for Great Britain. As a pro, Saunders has captured world titles in two divisions.
The only criticism you can level at Billy Joe is the careful manner in which his promoters have steered his career, keeping him away from the talented fighters like Gennadiy Golovkin, Demetrius Andrade, Jermall Charlo, and many other fighters that could have potentially beaten him many years ago.
Saunders must start fast
“One thing going for Billy Joe Saunders is his defense. He doesn’t get hit that much, so dealing with the power can offset that somewhat,” said Chris Algieri to Matchroom Boxing.
“I think he needs to start fast. He needs to go out there and set the tone. Billy Joe can punch. He’s a boxer with a great jab, but he’s a physically strong guy, and he’s a larger man than the past opponents of Canelo.
“He’s got to go out there, look to make it a tactical fight, and assert his physicality as well. I really think it’s going to come down to the last four rounds to decide who’s going to win this fight,” said Algieri in sitting on the fence.
Saunders must start fast in the first quarter of the fight because that’s his best chance to bank important rounds for him to win a decision.
Canelo often fades in the second half of his fights, so Saunders needs to win the majority of the first six rounds.
Gennadiy Golovkin and Daniel Jacobs are two examples of fighters that failed to press Canelo hard in the first six rounds of their fights with him, and that ultimately led to both losing decisions.
Even though they both got the better of Canelo in the second half of their fights, they’d given away too many early rounds against him by fighting passively.
Billy Joe isn’t a walk in the park
“I think it’s a really good match-up. They say styles make fights, and this is one of those,” said Mikey Garcia in talking about the Canelo vs Saunders fight.
“Saunders is a great boxer, he is undefeated. I like his confidence and his attitude and energy that he’s bringing in. That shows he’s ready, he feels he’s going to win this fight, he’s confident.
At the same time, I look at Canelo, he’s very straight face, he’s been here before. He’s here to get his work done, his job done. It’s just another day at the office.
Both fighters are at the peak of their careers, and they want to show it. I think Canelo will win. His experience, being that he’s been in there many times.
He’s improved so much in his last five or six fights than what I have seen in the past. All that is going to help him, but it’s going to be a complicated fight for Canelo also.
Canelo sees all this from Billy Joe Saunders as an opportunity to show who the better man is and try and punish him a little bit more. But he does have to be patient.
Billy Joe is no walk in the park, he’s not just another opponent. Other opponents have come into the fight [with Canelo] already beaten, thankful for getting the opportunity.
Billy Joe isn’t an opponent. He’s an undefeated world champion, who sees a huge opportunity in front of him.
“I feel that Canelo will start taking his time, working his way mid-fight in the fifth or sixth round, start picking up the pace a little bit, and as the rounds go, he’ll start to dominate more and more the fight,” said Mikey.
The movement by Saunders could give Canelo some problems if he makes the mistake of chasing him.
That’s obviously what Saunders is hoping Canelo will do because it’ll give him opportunities to catch him with shots as he comes forward.
But if Canelo stays patient and waits for Saunders to come at him to land, he’ll be able to nail him with shots.
Alvarez on another level
“I feel that at this stage in his career, Canelo is fighting at such another level compared to these other fighters at middleweight, super middleweight, and most of the light heavyweights,” said Dan Rafael.
“I’ll never say unbeatable, but it’s hard for me legitimately in my mind to pick Saunders to win the fight because I don’t think he has enough weapons to overcome the tremendous number of weapons that Canelo Alvarez has.
“This is Canelo’s house, not to say that the judges are going to do anything untoward, but they’re human beings and they’re going to be swayed in certain situations.
“He’s [Billy Joe] has got everything against him, but if he can turn in a masterclass, you never know,” said Rafael.
Dan has got it right by saying that Canelo is on another level than Saunders, and that’s why tonight’s fight shapes up to be a mismatch.
While it might not be as bad as Alvarez’s last fight against Avni Yildirim, it could be every bit as bad as his match with Callum Smith.
If Saunders elects to run and stink up the joint tonight by going in survival mode right away, he’ll be booed out of the AT&T Stadium by the 70,000 fans.
That’s why Saunders should go out on his shield rather than running for the hills from the opening bell.
The last four rounds will decide the winner
“I think any other super middleweight would be rattled by what Billy Joe brings to the table,” said Algieri. “But I don’t see Canelo being rattled by any of this.
“I see him as 100% a professional, ready to go. He’s focused. You see him this week, he looks like he’s ready to fight. I do think he’s going to put a little bit more hurt in his shots on Billy Joe.
“He’s got to get to him early, and he’s got to show that defensive wizardry that he has isn’t going to hold up against the counter punching of Canelo,” said Algieri about Saunders needing to go after Canelo early to solve his puzzle.
“He’s [Alvarez] done such a great job of making his movement and his punch selection so efficient. Canelo used to move a lot more than he does now.
“Now he’s more of a stalker, making the ring very, very small, and when he has the opportunity to do it, he lets his hands go in combination.
“It makes him a very, very difficult guy to deal with. He’s got to get to him early and break Saunders down.
“The last four rounds will be indicative of who’s going to take the fight,” said Algieri.
It’s improbable that the last four rounds of the Canelo-Saunders fight will decide the winner.
Algieri is giving Billy Joe too much credit, perhaps not being familiar with his past fights.
Saunders isn’t in the class of past Canelo opponents like Gennadiy Golovkin, Callum Smith, Sergey Kovalev, Miguel Cotto, or Erislandy Lara.
Canelo vs. Saunders prediction
Saunders will fall behind quickly tonight and wind up losing a one-sided 12 round unanimous decision. Prediction: Canelo wins 11 rounds to 1.
He won’t fight aggressively in the way that he needs for him to win the fight, and it’ll hurt him with the judges likely scoring it for Canelo.