As most are aware, this weekend will see one of the biggest middleweight fights of all time as Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez takes on Gennady Golovkin.
The winner will take home all available middleweight honours, barring the WBO title. Interestingly, that strap will also be on the line this weekend as Billy Joe Saunders takes on Willie Monroe Jnr.
Billy Joe Saunders has had an intriguing career to date. He has represented Great Britain in the Olympics and has an unbeaten professional record. This includes impressive wins over Chris Eubank Jnr and Andy Lee. He’s a master of his trade and although not particularly heavy handed, he has a solid defence, tremendous speed and slick movement.
This allows him to outbox his opponents across 12 rounds. That’s the good for Billy Joe Saunders, now time for the bad.
His critically acclaimed performance against Andy Lee was almost two years ago. Saunders has only fought once since then in which he scraped a decision victory against a massive underdog, Artur Akavov. He came into this fight looking out of shape and his performance was nowhere near that of a world champion.
He admitted as much in his post-fight interview, labelling his performance as ‘terrible’. Saunders has also had two scheduled title fights cancelled since he fought Lee.
The most recent, against mandatory challenger Avtandil Khurtsidze, was cancelled a month from the fight date as Khurtsidze was arrested for alleged involvement with organised crime.
The GGG/ Canelo fight is one of the most anticipated fights in recent memory. The skill and style of both fighters has captured the imagination and sold this fight to the public with notably little trash talk required.
As long as this fight is competitive, both fighters will walk away with their stock intact and praise for making the fight happen. It is also likely we will see a rematch.
This is increasingly likely if Canelo is on the losing side as his contract has stipulated a rematch clause if he is defeated.
There is a lot more at stake for Saunders this weekend. A loss here and any real hope of fighting Golovkin/ Canelo in the foreseeable future will disappear along with his belt.
There would likely be a number of ‘tune up’ fights before he could get himself back into contention.
A win however, particularly if it’s a convincing performance, and he will be next in line for a showdown with the GGG/ Canelo victor.
Even if we do see a rematch, this would leave Billy Joe in a position to call out both fighters and build attention for the fight with taunts and threats, a task which should come easy for him.
It is rare to say that a 28-year-old is facing a career defining fight; however, this appears to be the case for Billy Joe. If he can manage to leave the controversies behind him on Saturday and put in a performance that so many people believe he can, it will be impossible for Golovkin or Canelo to look past him.
Cathal Geeney, Pundit Arena