As fans have perhaps read by now, former (he never lost the belt in the ring) WBO middleweight champ Billy Joe Saunders is moving up to 168 pounds and will face the little-known Shefat Isufi for the vacant WBO super-middleweight belt on April 13th, and the main reason for moving up, promoter Frank Warren says, is the fact that Saunders was “ducked” by stars Gennady Golovkin and Canelo Alvarez.
Speaking with talkSPORT this morning, Warren said he never heard back from GGG or his team, this after sending out two fight contracts to the former world middleweight king, and that a Saunders fight with Canelo is “a dead duck.”
“They have all been ducking Billy,” Warren stated. “We signed contracts to fight Golovkin on two occasions. They never signed it and sent it back so that never happened. I know 100 percent [Canelo] Alvarez doesn’t want to fight him at all so that is a dead duck, so he is going up in weight.”
There was a time when it seemed a Golovkin/Saunders fight was close to happening, as GGG wanted all the belts, but for whatever reason it didn’t come off. But did GGG really duck Saunders? Is Canelo ducking Saunders? Whatever you believe, the fact is Saunders, still unbeaten having lost his belt due to a failed drugs test, has said goodbye to the middleweight division – probably for good. Warren is now eyeing a potential big fight in the form of Saunders against the winner of this Saturday night’s James DeGale/Chris Eubank Jr. grudge-match.
Saunders has of course already beaten Eubank, but nonetheless, the southpaw against either Eubank in a rematch or against fellow southpaw DeGale would be big here in the UK.
“The winner of that will be a great domestic dust-up with Billy,” Warren said. “James lost his title to [Caleb] Truax, if that James DeGale shows up, I don’t see him winning the fight. But if James DeGale can get himself back to where he was, I believe he will win the fight. He has the better jab, he has better footwork than Eubank.”
So if Warren is correct and if the fight can be made, we could be seeing DeGale tackle Saunders in a big fight later this year; if DeGale wants it, that is – and providing Saunders can beat Germany’s Isufi, 27-3-2(20) at Wembley. We’ll never know if Saunders, 27-0(13) could have beaten the best of the best at middleweight, but he can perhaps get the defining fights at 168 pounds instead.