He’s wanted the fight for some time, and a couple of times it looked as though Billy Joe Saunders would get a shot at Canelo Alvarez. However, for more than a few reasons the fight never happened. But it could come off here in 2021. Eddie Hearn has confirmed “fresh talks” have taken place between himself and Eddy Reynoso, and that the plan is for Canelo to fight WBC mandatory Avni Yildrim next, in February, and then Saunders in May.
This is the way Hearn, and BJS, hope things turn out, anyway. Canelo obviously calls the shots, and the Mexican star will get what the Mexican star wants. But Saunders, unbeaten and when on top of his game a slick, clever and hard to hit southpaw, might just be the guy to give Canelo one of his career hardest fights. Canelo has made a habit of beating up British fighters – with no less than six Brits falling to him: Matthew Hatton, Ryan Rhodes, Amir Khan, Liam Smith, Rocky Fielding and, last time out, Callum Smith.
Could Saunders put an end to the trend?
Canelo looked nothing short of brilliant in dominating Smith to defeat in his one and only fight of 2019, and Canelo looks to be at his absolute best at 168 pounds. Strong, powerful, fast and showing zero signs of any tiredness when fighting at super-middleweight, Canelo seems to have found his ideal weight class. As such, Saunders will enter the ring with Canelo as a stiff underdog should he get the fight.
Still, Saunders has amazing self-belief, he has good experience and he is of course unbeaten. At times, Saunders has shone in fights (see his wins over David Lemieux, Andy Lee and Chris Eubank Jr), while at others he has looked ordinary (see his wins over Artur Akavov and Marcelo Esteban Coceres). Being sufficiently motivated has proven a problem for Saunders, and it was this that saw him labour to win in a couple of his fights. But rest assured, BJS will be super-motivated if he gets in there with Canelo, 54-1-2(36).
With his tricky moves, his defensive prowess and his sharp southpaw punching ability, Saunders just might present Canelo with his most hard to hit, frustrating target since his fight with Floyd Mayweather. That heavy decision loss was a long time ago, and Canelo was a mere kid compared to the superb fighting man he is today. And of course Saunders, 30-0(14) is no Mayweather. But what Saunders might be is the hardest 168-pound puzzle for Canelo to solve here in 2021, as great as Alvarez is.
If this fight does happen in May, over Cinco de Mayo weekend, Saunders will face an incredibly hostile welcome from the passionate Mexican fans. But don’t go expecting that to faze or intimidate Saunders. Fighting far from home, in front of his opponent’s crowd, is something this proud traveller does.