Billy Joe Saunders

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Billy Joe Saunders
Billy joe saunders - wembley 2011.11.05.jpg
Saunders in 2011
Statistics
Nickname(s) Superb
Weight(s) Middleweight
Height 5 ft 11 in (180 cm)
Reach 71 in (180 cm)
Nationality British
Born (1989-08-30) 30 August 1989 (age 28)
Welwyn Garden City,
Hertfordshire,
England
Stance Southpaw
Boxing record
Total fights 26
Wins 26
Wins by KO 12
Losses 0

Billy Joe Saunders (born 30 August 1989) is a British professional boxer. He has held the WBO middleweight title since 2015, and previously the European, British, and Commonwealth middleweight titles between 2012 and 2015. As an amateur, Saunders represented Great Britain at the 2008 Olympics, reaching the second round of the welterweight bracket.

As of July 2018, Saunders is ranked as the world's second best active middleweight by the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board,[1] third by The Ring magazine,[2] and fifth by BoxRec.[3]

Early life[edit]

Originally from Cheshunt, Saunders grew up in a Romanichal travelling community near Hatfield, Hertfordshire. His great-grandfather, Absolom Beeney, was one of the community's most famous bare-knuckle boxers.[4] Saunders fought for Cheshunt Amateur Boxing club, overseen by Charlie Bliss, and also at Hoddesdon Amateur Boxing Club.[5][6][7]

Amateur career[edit]

Saunders won his first 49 amateur fights at senior level, including the 2007 Commonwealth Championships[8] and the 2008 Strandya Cup, edging out Cuban Carlos Banteux.[9]

In 2008 Saunders qualified for the Beijing Olympics in the welterweight division at the age of 18.[10] At the European area qualifier in Pescara, Italy he beat European champion Andrey Balanov and Kakhaber Zhvania, but lost in the semi-final to Oleksandr Stretskyy before beating Pavol Hlavačka for the all-important third spot.[11] to become the first person from the British Romanichal community to qualify for the games.[12]

In Beijing he beat Adem Kılıççı in the first round but lost to old foe Carlos Banteux in the second. He was subsequently suspended for "lewd behaviour", allegedly pertaining to an incident with a local woman during a pre-season training camp in France.[13] In early December 2008, Saunders turned professional and signed with promoter Frank Warren.

Professional career[edit]

Early career[edit]

Saunders made his professional debut on 28 February 2009 at the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham, against Attila Molnar. Saunders looked confident from the opening bell, landing hard combinations which quickly overwhelmed Molnar. In round two, a series of punches that landed flush on Molnar's chin caused the referee to stop the fight and save a dazed Molnar. Saunders won his second fight by second-round stoppage of Ronny Gabel and his third fight, also by second round stoppage, of Matt Scriven. On 9 October 2009, he went four full rounds to outpoint Alex Spitko. On 21 May 2011, he scored an impressive second-round knockout victory over Kevin Hammond.[14] Saunders went on to score wins against Norbert Szekeres, Gary Boulden and Tony Hill, the last of these giving him his seventh professional knockout victory and his first major regional title, the Commonwealth middleweight championship, on 28 April 2012.[15] For his first defence of the title, on 1 June, Saunders went the full twelve-round distance (also a first) against veteran Bradley Pryce, outpointing him comfortably. A then-undefeated Jarrod Fletcher was quickly dispatched in two rounds on 14 September.

On 15 December, Saunders fought Nick Blackwell for the vacant British middleweight title. This turned out to be one of Saunders' first tough outings, as he was forced to go the full twelve rounds en route to a competitive unanimous decision victory on the judges' scorecards.[16] A pair of trouble-free fights came next, against tough slugger Matthew Hall on 21 March 2013 and Gary O'Sullivan on 20 July, both of which also lasted twelve full rounds. 2013 concluded for Saunders with another tough fight on 21 September, this time against fellow British prospect John Ryder in defence of the Commonwealth and British middleweight titles. Both fighters came in undefeated and fought for twelve competitive rounds, with very close scorecards all favouring Saunders.[16]

European middleweight champion[edit]

Saunders (right) vs. Gary Boulden, 2011

Saunders vs. Blandamura, Eubank Jr.[edit]

It would be almost another year until Saunders had his next fight. On 26 July 2014 he added to his title collection with an eighth-round knockout of Emanuele Blandamura, earning him the European middleweight title.[17] Immediately after the Blandamura fight, Saunders called out another undefeated British prospect and archrival Chris Eubank Jr.[18] Prolonged negotiations ensued between Frank Warren and Eubank's team (led by his father Chris Eubank Sr.), with the highly anticipated fight eventually signed in October[19] and taking place on 29 November. All three of Saunders' titles were on the line, as well as being an eliminator for the WBO world middleweight title. The rivalry and build-up was likened to the first fight between Nigel Benn and Chris Eubank in 1990.[20] Saunders went on to defeat Eubank via split decision; two judges had scores of 115–114 and 115–113 for Saunders, with the third judge scoring 116–113 for Eubank. Having secured his third defence of the British middleweight title, Saunders earned the Lonsdale Belt outright; he gave this to his father Tommy as a Christmas present.[21]

WBO middleweight champion[edit]

Saunders vs. Lee[edit]

With the win over Eubank, Saunders was in line for an opportunity to fight WBO world middleweight champion Andy Lee. In February 2015, Saunders and Warren accepted a 'step-aside' financial offer from promoter Lou DiBella in order for Lee to face Peter Quillin instead.[22][23] Warren said that he hoped for Lee to win that fight so that Saunders vs. Lee could be staged in the summer. At around the same time, due to his high ranking, Saunders also received an offer from the IBF to fight for their vacant world middleweight title, but he reiterated his intention to follow the WBO route.[24] In June, Saunders vs. Lee was officially announced for the WBO world middleweight title.[25] The fight was initially scheduled to take place in Lee's hometown of Limerick on 19 September, but was postponed and moved to Manchester on 10 October due to Lee suffering from a viral infection.[26] On 1 September, yet another postponement arose due to Saunders receiving a cut in sparring.[27] The fight was subsequently rescheduled for 19 December.[28]

On 24 July, Saunders took a tune-up fight—weighing in at 173 pounds (78 kg), near the light-heavyweight limit—and stopped Yoann Bloyer in four rounds.[29] On 19 December, Saunders defeated WBO middleweight champion Andy Lee via majority decision to capture his first world title, with judges' scores of 114–112, 115–111, and 113–113. In the third round, Saunders scored two knockdowns against Lee to build up an early lead on the scorecards. He then continued to outbox Lee using head movement and an accurate jab until the later rounds. At this point, Lee began to land more frequently with heavy punches of his own, but was too late to overcome the points deficit despite a strong finish in the final round.[30]

Saunders' first defence of the title was scheduled for 30 April 2016, against Max Bursak at the Copper Box in London. However, Saunders was forced to pull out due to a hand injury sustained in training. "I'm bitterly disappointed. This is boxing and these things happen", he said at the time.[31]

On 8 July, Saunders revealed that he would be fighting on 17 September, likely on the undercard of Canelo Álvarez vs. Liam Smith at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, which would have been broadcast on HBO pay-per-view in the US. It was rumoured that this would set up a WBO middleweight title defence against Álvarez in December.[32] However, Golden Boy Promotions vice president Eric Gomez told ESPN on 14 August that Saunders would no longer feature on the undercard due to him rejecting all of the opponents presented to him. Opponents supposedly brought forward by Golden Boy were Gabriel Rosado, Curtis Stevens, and Willie Monroe Jr.[33]

Saunders vs. Akavov[edit]

Frank Warren finally confirmed Saunders first title defence would be against WBO European middleweight champion Artur Akavov (16–1 7 KOs), ranked by the WBO at number 10. The fight was due to take place at the Motorpoint Arena in Cardiff on 22 October live on BoxNation.[34] The fight card was postponed to 26 November after Saunders suffered a muscle injury, along with his stablemate Liam Williams also suffering an injury during a sparring session.[35] The fight was postponed again to 3 December due to transitional issues with Akavov getting into the UK, the fight then took place at Lagoon Leisure Centre in Paisley, Renfrewshire, Glasgow, Scotland.[36]

Saunders started off slow, showing signs of ring rust. Up until round 5, Akavov was the aggressor and doing enough to take the rounds. In rounds 5, 6, 7 and 8, Saunders bounced back and hit combos landing power shots in the process. This seemed to have tired Saunders out for the last two rounds. The fight went the full 12 rounds. Saunders won on all scorecards claiming a unanimous decision to retain his WBO title. The three judges called it 116–113, 116–112, and 115–113 in favour of Saunders. Immediately following the announcement, Saunders took the microphone off the MC and thanked the live crowd for coming and harshly criticized himself on his performance, "There was nothing there. I’ve been out a year, a bit overweight. A few adjustments to camp. Just flat, really, really flat. I’d like to apologise to the fans, especially who paid for it. Terrible performance."[37][38][39]

On 20 December, it was announced that Saunders had parted with long time trainer Jimmy Tibbs, who he had been mentored by since turning professional in 2008. Rumours had started when Tibbs was not present at Saunders last title defence against Akavov. Instead having Danny Vaughan, Johnney Roye and Ben Davison in his corner. Promoter Frank Warren officially confirmed the news.[40] On 18 January 2017, Saunders announced he would be working with Adam Booth.[41]

Cancelled Avtandil Khurtsidze fight[edit]

In early February 2017, mandatory challenger Avtandil Khurtsidze (32-2-2, 21 KOs) took a 'step-a-side' fee to allow Saunders to pursue a bigger fight.[42] On 28 February, it was announced that Khurtsidze would fight British boxer Tommy Langford for the vacant interim WBO title in April.[43]

After retaining his belts against Jacobs, Gennady Golovkin stated that he wanted to unify the middleweight division and hold all the belts available. Golovkin said, "My goal is all the belts in the middleweight division. Of course, Billy Joe is the last one. It is my dream." Rumors of the fight taking place in Golovkin's home country Kazakhstan in June during the EXPO 2017. The last time Golovkin fought in his home country was in 2010.[44] On 20 March, Golovkin said that he would fight Saunders in his native Kazakhstan or the O2 Arena in London.[45]

Saunders tweeted on social media that although he didn't watch Golovkin's fight with Jacobs, he was ready to fight him.[46] Saunders claimed to have signed the contract on his end and gave Golovkin a deadline to sign his.[47] On 29 March, Frank Warren also stated that Golovkin would have ten days to sign for the fight.[48] Saunders later claimed to have moved on from Golovkin, until Warren said the deal was still in place.[49] Over the next week, Saunders continued to insult Golovkin through social media.[50] On 7 April, Warren told iFL TV, that Golovkin had a hand injury, which was the reason why the fight hadn't been made. In the interview, he said, "At the moment, they’re saying that Golovkin’s injured. So we’re waiting to see where this is all going. But as far as I’m concerned, we agreed [to] terms." It was also noted that he would wait until 6 May, for any updates.[51] On 11 April, it was reported that the fight would not take place and Golovkin would ultimately focus on a September 2017 fight against Canelo Álvarez.[52]

On 22 April 2017, Khurtsidze knocked Langford out in round 5 with a left hook to secure his next fight against Saunders.[53] A day later the fight between Saunders and Khurtsidze was discussed to take place at the Copper Box in London on 8 July 2017.[54]

On 8 June, Khurtsidze was arrested in New York along with 32 others, linking him in a Russian and Georgian crime syndicate. Racketeer charges and conspiracy to commit fraud were the two alleged charges, promoter Lou DiBella said, whilst the fight wouldn't be completely called off, it would be postponed.[55][56] Due to the fight being a mandatory defence, Saunders' promoter Frank Warren said that he was unable to make a voluntary defence, as such, taken off the card completely, although the rest of the card would still take place.[57] On 20 June 2017 the WBO released a statement in which it said that the Interim WBO title would be vacated and that Khurtsidze's team would have 10 days to appeal the decision.[58]

Saunders vs. Monroe Jr.[edit]

On 14 June 2017, Frank Warren announced that Saunders would likely make his second title defence in September 2017. Names in the running included David Lemieux, Ryota Murata and Rob Brant.[59] The plan was to have Saunders fight around the same week as Golovkin vs. Álvarez, and then fight the winner. The date of Saunders defence was confirmed by Warren, to take place on 16 September.[60]

On 28 June, it was revealed that Saunders had parted ways with trainer Adam Booth, after working together for only six months, and joined Sheffield based trainer Dominic Ingle. Saunders claimed that the reason for the split with Booth was due to being 'too close to home' and ongoing distractions. Ingle confirmed the statement to Boxing News.[61] Lemieux admitted to passing on the opportunity to fight Saunders because he was pursuing a bigger money fight, possibly with Miguel Cotto.[62]

Warren announced on 6 July, that a deal was in place for Saunders to defend his title against former world title challenger Willie Monroe Jr. (21-2, 6 KOs) at the Copper Box Arena in London on 16 September 2017. Monroe was coming off a unanimous decision win against Gabe Rosado on 17 September 2016.[63] At the press conference, Warren said the winner would highly likely be in a position to fight the winner of Golovkin and Álvarez. Monroe was said to be excited fighting outside of the USA for the first time in his career.[64] Throughout the promotion, Saunders had tried to get the better of Monroe. This continued at the official weigh in. As Saunders stood on the scale, his 7 year old son, Stevie Saunders, also took to stage. Monroe patted Stevie on the head, to which he reacted by punching and kicking Monroe to the groin. Banner Promotions Vice-President, Matt Rowland felt disheartened to Saunders 'non-reaction'. Monroe also had no immediate reaction to being hit on the groin.[65][66] Monroe later reacted stating that he intended to sue unless he was compensated.[67] Saunders defeated Monroe via unanimous decision 117–111, 115–114, and 117–112 on the cards respectively. Saunders controlled the fight throughout, suffering a cut over his right eye during a clash of heads in round 4. Monroe did not pose much threat and lack of knockout power, saw him on the backfoot, pot-shotting and using his jab frequently. In the post-fight, Saunders thanked Monroe for coming over to the UK for the fight, while his son apologized for hitting him in the groin. Warren stated that Saunders would likely fight again in December 2017.[68]

Saunders vs. Lemieux[edit]

Although the Golovkin vs. Canelo fight ended in a split draw, Saunders still pursued a unification fight next.[69] After weeks of going back and forth with former IBF champion David Lemieux (38-3, 33 KOs) on Twitter, on 10 October, the WBO ordered them to meet in a mandatory fight with both camps having 30 days to negotiate a fight, which would likely take place early in 2018.[70] On 16 October, Lemieux's manager Camille Estephan stated the negotiations were going well for the fight and could possibly take place at the Bell Centre in Canada on 16 December 2017. He also stated that HBO were interested showcasing the fight.[71] On 17 October, WBO confirmed the fight had been signed to take place at the new Place Bell in Laval, Quebec.[72] Saunders deployed a strategic game-plan which worked out emphatically and exquisitely retaining his WBO title for the third time. The judges scored the fight 120–108, 117–111, and 118–110. Both HBO and ESPN scored it a clear 120–108 for Saunders. Saunders picked Lemieux off with shots as he would plod forward trying to connect with his big power shots. The difference in hand speed and skills were vast. Saunders used his movement and jab effectively. Lemieux was never able to catch up to Saunders to land his big power shots. In the post-fight, Saunders called out Golovkin, "Golovkin, you keep saying you want my WBO belt. Fight me now. You'll be punching fresh air." CompuBox showed that Saunders landed 165 of 430 punches (38%) and Lemieux landed 67 of his 356 thrown (19%).[73][74] Saunders earned a minimum $1 million purse while Lemieux took home a $500,000 guaranteed purse.[75] The fight, which marked Saunders' first appearance on HBO, averaged 716,000 viewers, peaking at 775,000 viewers.[76]

Cancelled Martin Murray fight[edit]

On 17 January 2018, Warren announced that Saunders would make a fourth defence of his WBO title at The O2 Arena in London, on the same card Terry Flanagan fights Maurice Hooker for the vacant WBO junior-lightweight title on 14 April. The bout would be a 'stay busy' fight for Saunders whilst Golovkin and Álvarez negotiate a rematch for May 2018. A few names listed as Saunders' potential opponents were Martin Murray, Conrad Cummings, Rafael Bejaran and Jason Quigley.[77] Two days later, it was confirmed that 4-time world title challenger Murray (36-4-1, 17 KOs) would be Saunders next opponent, with the fight being billed as 'Battle of Britain' on BT Sport.[78][79] On 20 March, Saunders suffered a hand injury in training forcing the card to be cancelled, however the fight was quickly rescheduled for 23 June 2018 at the same arena.[80][81] On 3 June, Murray announced via his Instagram page that Saunders' had one again pulled out of the fight citing a hamstring injury. Saunders later tweeted, "You have your ups in boxing, but last three months have been downs, sorry to Martin and the fans, be back soon." Murray was not convinced about the injury as he stated Saunders had long been after a big money fight with either Canelo Álvarez or Gennady Golovkin.[82][83][84]

Saunders vs. Andrade[edit]

On 20 June, it was reported that Saunders would fight in September 2018. The then-IBF super-middleweight champion James DeGale was rumoured to be his opponent, possibly at 168 pounds.[85] On 12 July, the WBO ordered Saunders to make a mandatory defence against former two-time light-middleweight champion Demetrius Andrade (25-0, 16 KOs), with both sides having 10 days to reach a deal.[86][87] On July 13, it was reported that Andrade would be unveiled as one of Eddie Hearn's Matchroom Boxing USA's signing with a deal that would see him fighting on DAZN. On July 17, at the official launch, Andrade was introduced as one of Matchroom Boxing USA's signings.[88] On 25 July, the purse bid, which was scheduled for the evening, was cancelled after it was revealed that Eddie Hearn and Frank Warren had reached a deal for the fight to take place in USA under the Matchroom USA banner on DAZN. It was said that representatives of Top Rank were scheduled to be present at the purse bid to try and secure the fight for ESPN+.[89][90] With Matchroom USA having promotional rights on the fight, Warren confirmed the fight would take place on Sky Sports in the United Kingdom and not BT Sport.[91] On 9 August, according to Hearn, the fight would take place at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts on 20 October.[92]

Professional boxing record[edit]

Professional record summary
26 fights 26 wins 0 losses
By knockout 12 0
By decision 14 0
No. Result Record Opponent Type Round, time Date Location Notes
27 N/A N/A United States Demetrius Andrade N/A – (12) 20 Oct 2018 United States TD Garden, Boston, Massachusetts, US Defending WBO middleweight title
26 Win 26–0 Canada David Lemieux UD 12 16 Dec 2017 Canada Place Bell, Laval, Quebec, Canada Retained WBO middleweight title
25 Win 25–0 United States Willie Monroe Jr. UD 12 16 Sep 2017 United Kingdom Copper Box Arena, London, England Retained WBO middleweight title
24 Win 24–0 Russia Artur Akavov UD 12 3 Dec 2016 United Kingdom Lagoon Leisure Centre, Paisley, Scotland Retained WBO middleweight title
23 Win 23–0 Republic of Ireland Andy Lee MD 12 19 Dec 2015 United Kingdom Manchester Arena, Manchester, England Won WBO middleweight title
22 Win 22–0 France Yoann Bloyer TKO 4 (12), 0:53 24 Jul 2015 United Kingdom The SSE Arena Wembley, London, England
21 Win 21–0 United Kingdom Chris Eubank Jr. SD 12 29 Nov 2014 United Kingdom ExCeL, London, England Retained European, British, and Commonwealth middleweight titles
20 Win 20–0 Italy Emanuele Blandamura KO 8 (12), 2:58 26 Jul 2014 United Kingdom Manchester Arena, Manchester, England Won vacant European middleweight title
19 Win 19–0 United Kingdom John Ryder UD 12 21 Sep 2013 United Kingdom Copper Box Arena, London, England Retained British and Commonwealth middleweight titles
18 Win 18–0 Republic of Ireland Gary O'Sullivan UD 12 20 Jul 2013 United Kingdom Wembley Arena, London, England Won WBO International middleweight title
17 Win 17–0 United Kingdom Matthew Hall UD 12 21 Mar 2013 United Kingdom York Hall, London, England Retained British and Commonwealth middleweight titles
16 Win 16–0 United Kingdom Nick Blackwell UD 12 15 Dec 2012 United Kingdom ExCeL, London, England Retained Commonwealth middleweight title;
Won vacant British middleweight title
15 Win 15–0 Australia Jarrod Fletcher TKO 2 (12), 2:42 14 Sep 2012 United Kingdom York Hall, London, England Retained Commonwealth middleweight title
14 Win 14–0 United Kingdom Bradley Pryce UD 12 1 Jun 2012 United Kingdom York Hall, London, England Retained Commonwealth middleweight title
13 Win 13–0 United Kingdom Tony Hill TKO 1 (10), 0:30 28 Apr 2012 United Kingdom Royal Albert Hall, London, England Won vacant Commonwealth middleweight title
12 Win 12–0 Republic of Ireland Tommy Tolan TKO 1 (8), 1:07 14 Dec 2011 United Kingdom York Hall, London, England
11 Win 11–0 United Kingdom Gary Boulden PTS 10 5 Nov 2011 United Kingdom Wembley Arena, London, England Won British Southern Area middleweight title
10 Win 10–0 Hungary Norbert Szekeres TKO 1 (8), 2:51 15 Oct 2011 United Kingdom Echo Arena, Liverpool, England
9 Win 9–0 United Kingdom Kevin Hammond TKO 2 (8), 3:00 21 May 2011 United Kingdom The O2 Arena, London, England
8 Win 8–0 Germany Turgay Uzun RTD 2 (8), 3:00 2 Apr 2011 United Kingdom York Hall, London, England
7 Win 7–0 United Kingdom Tony Randell TKO 2 (6), 0:39 11 Dec 2010 United Kingdom Echo Arena, Liverpool, England
6 Win 6–0 United Kingdom Andy Butlin PTS 6 15 May 2010 United Kingdom Boleyn Ground, London, England
5 Win 5–0 United Kingdom Lee Noble PTS 6 5 Dec 2009 United Kingdom Metro Radio Arena, Newcastle, England
4 Win 4–0 Latvia Alex Spitko PTS 4 9 Oct 2009 United Kingdom York Hall, London, England
3 Win 3–0 United Kingdom Matt Scriven TKO 2 (4), 1:21 18 Jul 2009 United Kingdom MEN Arena, Manchester, England
2 Win 2–0 Germany Ronny Gabel TKO 2 (4), 1:16 15 May 2009 United Kingdom Odyssey Arena, Belfast, Northern Ireland
1 Win 1–0 Hungary Attila Molnar TKO 2 (4), 1:47 28 Feb 2009 United Kingdom National Indoor Arena, Birmingham, England Professional debut

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External links[edit]

Sporting positions
Regional boxing titles
Preceded by
Gary Boulden
British Southern Area
middleweight champion

5 November 2011 – 15 December 2012
Won full British title
Vacant
Title next held by
Elliott Matthews
Vacant
Title last held by
Martin Murray
Commonwealth
middleweight champion

28 April 2012 – 19 December 2015
Vacated
Vacant
Title next held by
Tommy Langford
British middleweight champion
15 December 2012 – 12 March 2015
Vacated
Vacant
Title next held by
Nick Blackwell
Vacant
Title last held by
Vitor Sa
WBO International
middleweight champion

20 July 2013 – September 2013
Vacated
Vacant
Title next held by
Antoine Douglas
Vacant
Title last held by
Max Bursak
European middleweight champion
26 July 2014 – 7 March 2015
Vacated
Vacant
Title next held by
Michel Soro
World boxing titles
Preceded by
Andy Lee
WBO middleweight champion
19 December 2015 – present
Incumbent
Honorary boxing titles
Previous:
Scott Dann
Lonsdale Belt
middleweight champion

29 November 2014
Next:
Vacant