Billy Joe Saunders remains unfulfilled – the big fight eludes him

Billy Joe Saunders has taunted drug addicts and instructed husbands how to beat their wives… his career has lurched between controversy, farce and an occasional fight and now his threats to retire mean it will be the ultimate case of a talent wasted

  • Billy Joe Saunders will not defend WBO belt against Canelo Alvarez this autumn
  • The wait for his career-defining fight still goes on with so many false dawns  
  • Controversy stalks him and he says he trusts alleged criminal Daniel Kinahan
  • Whether Saunders can clean up his act and secure huge fight remains to be seen

And so still we wait. The road separating Billy Joe Saunders and a career-defining fight goes on; the list of reasons why now threatens to exceed even his own rap-sheet.

When, or if, he eventually reaches the Nevada desert, will anything more than an oasis await? After all the false dawns, you can forgive the sceptics.

The only certainty these days is that Saunders remains a talent unfulfilled. He has proven himself to be among this country’s finest fighters – an Olympian, a two-weight world champion and a gifted boxer whose performances have occasionally suggested he could mix it with the very best.

Billy Joe Saunders is still waiting for a career-defining fight and controversy stalks him

Instead ill-discipline and ill-thought-out decisions have seen his career lurch between controversy, farce and an occasional fight.

Among the speed bumps to hamper his progress in recent years? Apparent drug addicts, anti-doping tests, and a deadly pandemic. Now suspicions surrounding a suspected criminal could end it all.

This week Saunders pulled out of the super-fight he has long craved, claiming he would not be ready to face Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez in September.

He also suggested he could walk away from the sport if trusted advisor Daniel Kinahan is forced out of boxing over his alleged links to a €1billion criminal empire.

He will not be facing the biggest star in boxing, Canelo Alvarez, this September 

BILLY JOE SAUNDERS IN THE RING… 

Born: 1989

Debut: 2009

Stance: Southpaw

Division: Super Middleweight

Record: 29-0

Titles: WBO World Super Middle Title 

… AND OUT OF THE RING

– Fined £100,000 after a video emerged of him taunting a drug addict in 2018

– Failed a random Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (VADA) urine test In August 2018. A six month suspension was later lifted.

– Suspended licence pending a hearing after a video emerged of him ‘demonstrating’ to men how to hit their female partners in lockdown

– Alleged to have made a call to Delta Airlines in which he claimed three of his friends on the flight had coronavirus, resulting in them being removed from the plane. He insists he was serious in his concern. 

 – Caught on camera throwing a chicken at heavyweight Deontay Wilder in a Nandos in Belfast in 2018  

Even for the 30-year-old Saunders, it’s been an eventful few days. His next steps are anyone’s guess.

A possible ban still hangs over his head following a video which showed him providing ‘advice’ to men on how to hit their female partners during lockdown.

First, though, what we know: Saunders will not defend his WBO super-middleweight crown against Canelo this autumn.

The pair were due to meet earlier this year, in a fight which would have afford Saunders the belated chance to prove how high he can climb.

Tests don’t come much bigger than boxing’s biggest star but now, after Covid-19 threw boxing into disarray, that opportunity has passed him by.

Saunders says nothing is moving forward because he can only trust Daniel Kinahan (pictured), who is taking time away from boxing over alleged criminal links 

In a leaked WhatsApp video (pictured), Saunders blasted into the heavy bag hanging in his barn, while providing a running commentary for how men can hit their partners if they end up in a row during isolation

‘I’m not ready (in) September,’ he told The Athletic. ‘You can say to me, “Billy Joe, £1bn, but you’re not ready and you’re going to get beat.” I would say keep it. Let me get ready, let me win and I will fight for free.’

Even fighting again could be beyond him at this rate.

Kinahan is said to be taking time away from the sport shortly after Tyson Fury thanked him for securing a two-fight deal against Anthony Joshua.

The involvement of an alleged crime boss in Britain’s biggest fight prompted some backlash and shed light on his role in Saunders’ career, too.

‘This is part of the reason why nothing with me is moving forward at the minute, because there’s only one man I can trust,’ the 30-year-old claimed this week.

‘Without a man you can trust in this game 100 per cent, it’s something that I don’t really want to be involved with any more.

Saunders has great potential and shown his ability but never against the best of the best 

‘I’ve taken a lot of advice from a personal friend of mine, Daniel, and I know he’s walking away from boxing which is a big, big loss in my eyes.’

Given the singular damage Saunders has done to his own career, perhaps it’s fitting that only he will end it, too.

After all, controversy has stalked the 30-year-old for some time and, more often than not, he’s appeared happy to court it, too. The video in lockdown which saw his licence suspended was another ill-judged joke in a career littered with competition. By way of an apology, Saunders vowed to donate £25,000 to a domestic violence charity. A fine could follow.

Earlier in the pandemic, he had trainer Ben Davison and stable-mate Josh Taylor kicked off a plane after calling Delta Airlines to warn them that a friend had coronavirus and was about to board the flight. He later insisted it wasn’t a prank. It’s not the first time words have landed him in hot water.

Back in 2015, he said: ‘I think women are there for sex, every night – hard sex. A woman’s there for cleaning, cooking, washing and sex.’

Two years later, before beating David Lemieux in a career-best display, he tweeted: ‘Females with smelly f****** should be executed.’

Occasionally his circus has been laced with humour. In Belfast in 2018, he clashed with Deontay Wilder in Nando’s, allegedly hurling a half-chicken at the American heavyweight.

Later that year, though, Saunders’ ‘banter’ turned more sinister.

He was fined £100,000 for a ‘sickening’ video in which he offered drugs to an addict in exchange for a sex act. From his £250,000 Rolls Royce, he then told the woman to hit a passer-by who, Saunders says, is a paedophile.

Another video soon resurfaced, showing Saunders haranguing a woman by shouting: ‘You’re selling your body on the street’.

After the woman denied being a prostitute, he continued: ‘I’m underage and you’re offering me sex.’

If only Saunders did enough in the ring to distract from these misdemeanours. Since that night against Lemieux, which should have been his springboard, he has fought only three times.

Saunders says he needs to prepare properly and will not take a huge fight unless he can do so

Once against a journeyman, twice against over-matched fighters. He did pick up the 168 world title but only after surrendering his middleweight belt over a failed drugs test.

He denied wrongdoing but nevertheless lost a money-spinning fight against Demetrius Andrade.

Who knows the price should he fail to eventually land Canelo, or stay true to his words over Kinahan?

By now, all bets are off.




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