It has been announced that Billy Joe Saunders will return to the ring in December against a currently unknown opponent.
Saunders (30-1-14kos) was last seen in the ring 8th of May 2021, when he fought Canelo Alvarez (60-2-2-39kos) for the unified WBC, WBA, WBO and ring super-middleweight championships.
Billy Joe Saunders would go on to lose the contest via 8th-round corner retirement. This would be Saunders's first loss.
The fight was held at the AT&T Stadium in Texas, USA.
The official attendance for the contest was 73,126 which was reported to have broken the attendance record, overtaking the record held by Leon Spinks vs Muhammed Ali 2.
With just over two and a half years out of the ring, it will be interesting to see how he does in his comeback, and who he will face on his return to the 168lbs division.
Billy Joe Saunders Is Polarizing
Saunders is a polarising fighter among the boxing public, due to some controversial behaviour outside of the ring, but what can't be denied is his natural boxing talent.
Billy Joe Saunders is one of the most naturally gifted fighters the UK has produced in the last 15-20 years, representing Great Britain at the 2008 Olympics.
He was also the first boxer from the travelling community to win world titles in two divisions, the WBO middleweight world title and the WBO super middleweight world title.
Saunders's return to boxing will be a welcome addition to a stacked super middleweight division.
The talented southpaw should have plenty of options for big-name fights once he gets through his ring return at the end of the year.
There are plenty of options in the supper-middle weight division for Billy Joe Saunders, however, this will depend on who is available for him to fight.
Billy Joe Saunders told Boxing Social his plan for his comeback and his link up with Eddie Hearn again.
“I could say right from now that in 11 or 12 weeks I could get down to 12st, but at what cost? I don’t want to go in there and stink the place out because I’m drained, and I haven’t made the weight. I want to slowly bring it down and have a little run-out, get the ball rolling, pick an opponent, and then look for the biggest fights Eddie Hearn can bring me. I only want three or four fights.”
With only three-four fights left he will only want to fight the best.
Before I get onto the potential opponents, there is an honourable mention which would be a big fight domestically and financially, however, I think it is unlikely to happen due to the weight and potential fights for both fighters.
This fighter is of course Chris Eubank Jr. This fight would generate a lot of buzz and give Chris Eubank Jr. the chance to avenge his first career loss, to Billy Joe Saunders.
Chris Eubank is the number one contender for Janibek Alimkhanuly’s WBO middleweight title and his well-documented fight with Conor Benn which was cancelled due to Benn failing multiple drug tests.
Saunders seemed to dismiss the possibility of the fight in the near future. “Listen, commercially it’s one of them that makes sense for both of us. Eddie [Hearn] is the man to make it. At the minute, he’s a 160 fighter, so I think he’s trying to prove himself at 160.
“Obviously, there’s a big fight for him there at the minute in Conor Benn. It’s an interesting fight that everybody wants to see. I’ll let Conor Benn take care of him at 160, then he’ll probably move up to 168 and I’ll just finish him off. I’ll take the leftovers.”
As rematches go it would be big domestically but unrealistic at this moment in time for both fighters.
With only 3-4 fights left, Billy Joe Saunders only has a short amount of time to fight the big names before he hangs up his gloves for good. I will look at five opponents he could face in the final phase of his career.
5) John Ryder 2
Saunders fought John Ryder (32-6-14kos) in 2013, beating the Londoner by unanimous decision retaining his British and Commonwealth middleweight titles.
Ryder's record is deceiving he is a lot better than his record suggests.
He may have lost to three British victims of Canelo Alvarez in Saunders, Fielding, and Smith, but it was the Smith fight that he showed the public that he was a world-class operator and arguably could have been given the win against Smith.
Ryder has improved a lot since his first meeting with Billy Joe Saunders, claiming good wins over Danny Jacobs and Zach Parker before his gutsy points loss to Alvarez.
I feel this would be an easy fight to make as they are both aligned to Matchroom and would give us the opportunity to see where Saunders is since his two-year layoff.
Even with Saunders's inactivity I still believe he would defeat John Ryder in a hard-fought points win. I think his natural talent will be enough to take the victory as long as he is physically on point in this fight would set him up for some of the marquee names in the division.
4) David Morrell
Next up is Cuban amateur star and WBA regular world champion David Morrell.
Morrell has only boxed 9 bouts but has won 8 by KO beating former Olympic bronze medallist Yamaguchi Falcao via 1st round KO.
Morrell would provide a stern test for Saunders, the imposing 6’1 Cuban with an 88% KO ratio would give Saunders plenty to think about and provide a different test to the other fighters on this list.
Despite only turning professional in 2019 prior to the covid pandemic Morrell has progressed fast through the paid ranks and is somewhat of a bogeyman in the division with no one keen to face him.
A proposed fight with David Benavidez never materialized but with Benavidez, due to fight Demetrius Andrade later this year. A win over Saunders next year would do wonders for the career projection of the dangerous Cuban.
However, Billy Joe Saunders has shown he is capable of outclassing notable power punchers such as David Lemuix and Andy Lee, beating them with ease.
I think Saunders would be too good for Morell at this moment in time and would beat him on the scorecards.
3) Demetrius Andrade
Unbeaten Rode Island native Andrade (32-0-19kos) the former WBO world champion was due to face Saunders in October 2018 in Boston but that didn’t happen as Saunders tested positive for the banned substance oxilofrine in a random drug test conducted by VADA.
“We can confirm that the product concerned is permitted to be used ‘Out of Competition’ by United Kingdom Anti-Doping (“UKAD”) in line with the regulations of WADA,” then promoter Frank Warren said.
“The British Boxing Board of Control under whose jurisdiction Billy Joe Saunders is licensed are affiliated only to UKAD/WADA.” That resulted in Saunders moving up to 168lbs, claiming the WBO world title.
Styles make fights and Andrade’s awkward style would give Saunders a complex puzzle to crack.
Saunders amongst other opponents have criticised Andrade’s resume citing he has not fought the top guys; this fight would give Andrade a fight he wants and a fight he can show how good he really is.
With Andrade fighting Benavidez at the end of the year he wouldn’t be able to fight Billy Joe Saunders until next year depending on who the winner faces but given the history would lead to a fantastic build-up.
2) Caleb Plant
One of the best fights to make at super middleweight is former IBF champion Caleb “Sweet Hands” Plant (22-2-14kos).
Plant is one of the most technically sound fighters in the weight class, having fought some of the best talent in the division.
Notably he has the infamous knockout of Anthony Direll, Caleb Truax and his only career defeats are to Canelo Alvarez and David Benavidez.
Stylistically, this would be like a chess match should the talented former champions come to blows.
Plant is a slick counterpuncher who fights out of a Philly shell defence allowing him to remain unpredictable in attack or defence due to his excellent footwork, hip movement and, reflexes thus allowing him to execute his devasting combination punching when in range.
This would be one of the toughest fights for Billy Joe Saunders to take and would have to be right on the money from the get-go but given his performance against Alverez prior to the broken eye socket he is more than capable of producing the performance he needs to give Plant his third career defeat.
1) David Benavidez
The biggest fight in the division outside of the Alverez rematch is the ‘Mexican Monster’ David Benavidez.
This fight easily represents the hardest fight on the list.
Benavidez is an aggressive, violent puncher who has overpowered and viciously beaten every fighter he has stepped in the ring with.
He is tall and fights with a high guard, tucking his chin in, meaning when a punch does get through the guard, he doesn't leave his chin exposed.
For such a big fighter, his fast powerful combinations allow him to fight just as effectively on the inside but like a lot of fighters, it's their life away from the ring which lets him down.
From being stripped of a title for testing positive for a banned substance to failing to make weight, it depends on which Benavidez turns up.
If Billy Joe Saunders can topple the Mexican Monster using his boxing skills that would be the best win of his career.
If he was able to beat some of the other fighters on this list, it would improve his legacy and the way in which his career will be critiqued.
A fully fit Saunders, firing on all cylinders is a match for anyone as seen in his bout with Alvarez before he was stopped.
His return will create even more buzz in one of the best divisions today.
Hopefully, it brings out the best in Billy Joe Saunders and shows us why on his day he is one of the most naturally talented boxers today.