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FORMER WBO middleweight world champion Billy Joe Saunders will hope that an expected move up to 168lbs will open up new options for him.
“I need big challenges. The [Gennady] Golovkin fight I signed for but didn’t happen then Canelo [Alvarez] wasn’t interested. I was sort of moping around a little bit, looking for one of those big fights when I should have just sat down and said, ‘Who are you putting in front of me? Let’s get them out of the way.’ I think my mind wandered off from boxing a little bit and into the real world,” Saunders said.
Callum Smith, the WBA super-middleweight champion, has caught Saunders’ attention. “I think he’s a good fighter, a great fighter. He won the Super Series and proved himself by stopping George Groves and beating him well. But styles make fights and my style is not good for him. If I had an easy style I would’ve been in with Golovkin and Canelo by now. But my style is not suited to many and I think I have the style to beat him,” Billy Joe reflected.
An anti-doping violation in Massachusetts saw him miss out on a clash with Demetrius Andrade and opt to vacate his world title. He now wants to return to the top level. “I think to be elite and to be a world champion your mind just has to be focused on boxing and nothing else matters. As selfish as it seems, your own family and kids, I know they’re healthy and safe at home but when you’re that deep in training they don’t even enter your mind. You know they’re there and you know you’re a father but I’ve got a job to do. I’m doing it for them anyway,” he said. “Last year wasn’t the best but 2019 is here now and I know this is going to be my year.
“My team and myself have just opened a new door and started a new chapter. We can go back down to middleweight if the fights present themselves there. There’s [Chris] Eubank, and I’m sure Callum Smith is not afraid of fighting anyone. Maybe we could also tempt George Groves out of retirement.”
“I’ve got other options now. I’m not just going over the big fights with Canelo or Golovkin where they don’t really want us,” he continued. “I haven’t ever shown my best. People think [fighting David] Lemieux was good but I remember, I’ll never forget it, I walked to the ring that night thinking, ‘This ain’t Golovkin though,’” he continued. “I know there’s another 30 per cent left in me. The only time it will come out is when I’m physically at my best and when it’s put on me. Only then will you see what I’ve got and what I haven’t got.
“I always said the performance that night was good to get me noticed but it wasn’t good for business. Look at Canelo – the biggest problem he ever had in the ring was [Erislandy] Lara, who is a slick boxer. To be honest I think I’m slicker than Lara. I thought he nicked their fight.
“My style can be bad for business for them who want opponents who are all-action and want to stand in front of Canelo and get lumps knocked off them. But I’m not really about that, I’ve always had it drummed into me since I was a kid that it’s about hit and not get hit.
“If that doesn’t suit their Mexican style then I’m not going to change it for them. I’ll prove I’m the best if you give me the chance but I’m not going to stand there and let you knock lumps out of me.”