By Liam Roche
Billy-Joe Saunders is one of the most controversial figures in British boxing, and as the reigning WBO Middleweight Champion, he is also one of the UK’s very best.
With less than a month to go until one of the biggest tests of his career, against American Demetrius Andrade, Saunders has yet again found himself in the media spotlight for the wrong reasons.
The Hatfield born middleweight has failed a drugs test for a banned stimulant called Oxilofrine and it remains unclear whether or not the fight will go ahead.
Frank Warren, Saunders’ promoter, has released a statement claiming that the product in question was a common decongestant nasal spray, and that ‘Mr Saunders is not in breach of BBBofC (British Boxing Board of Control) or UKAD (United Kingdom Anti-Doping) anti doping regulations and is therefore in good standing and is licensed to box and defend his World Title on October 20th.
A win against Andrade, the highly ranked southpaw, would launch Saunders onto the world stage, and a potential middleweight unification bout against Danny Jacobs or Canelo Álvarez.
With the fight’s chances of going ahead at 50/50, according to promoter Eddie Hearn, Big Write Hook looks at the storied history of one of the first ever Travellers to win a world title.
August 2008 – In the second round of the Beijing Olympic Games Saunders lost 13-6 to the Cuban, Carlos Banteuax Suarez. In what was a contentious scoring Saunders impressed with his excellent boxing skills.
December 2008 – Saunders turned professional soon after the Olympics, signing a promotional deal with Franker Warren – he has remained with Warren ever since.
April 2012 – It took only 30 seconds for Saunders to win the vacant Commonwealth middleweight title via a stoppage at the Royal Albert Hall.
November 2014 – Saunders announced himself to the boxing world with a hard fought split-decision win over bitter rival Chris Eubank Jr. Saunders displayed superior boxing skills to gain an early lead and held on in the later rounds as the onslaught came from his opponent.
December 2015 – BJS defeats Andy Lee to win the WBO Middleweight World Title. The bout at the Manchester arena was the first ever all-traveller world title fight.
December 2016 – In his first defence of the WBO World Title Saunders fell into bad habits, defeating Artur Akavov in sluggish fashion. After the fight Saunders declared he ‘should be embarrassed to talk about Golovkin’.
June 2017 – In a last chance saloon BJS leaves Adam Booth and hires Dominic Ingle in a bid to regain his love for boxing and fulfil his potential in the ring. Ingle was best known for training Kell Brook and formerly Naseem Hamed.
September 2017 – Like father, like son. After weeks of Saunders goading Willie Monroe Jr in the build up to their September bout, Saunder’s son punched Monroe Jr at the weigh-in. Saunders proceeded to tweet: “My son’s been taught when a stranger puts their hands on them (to) punch and run away (in) self defence.”
September 2017 – Saunders’ decision to join Dominic Ingle was vindicated by a unanimous points win over Monroe Jr whom had previously shared a ring with the notorious GGG.
December 2017 – After a stunning boxing display BJS defeated top ten ranked, and former world titlist, David Lemieux in Montreal, Canada. During the fifth round Saunders dodged a big right hand and looked out into the crowd to see where it went. His ability to evade Lemieux’s power and to score clean punches indicated that he would be able to cause problems for the very best in the middleweight division. He proceeded to call out Golovkin in his post-fight interview.
December 2017 – Ranked by ESPN as the fourth best middleweight in the world after GGG, Daniel Jacobs and Canelo Álvarez.
June 2018 – Saunders withdrew from the defence of his WBO World Title fight against Martin Murray through injury for the second time. Murray called Saunders ‘an embarrassment as a world champion’. A social media spat ensued where BJS offered to fight Murray outside of the ring.
June 2018 – BJS uploaded a video of his son driving a Range Rover around a field onto his social media.
August 2018 – Caught on video fleeing a Nandos in Belfast having thrown a chicken at heavyweight world champion Deontay Wilder in the build up to long-time friend Tyson Fury’s fight against Francesco Pianeta.
September 2018 – Saunders videoed himself taunting a ‘drug addict’ by offering her money for ‘crack’ and instructing her to hit a ‘paedo’ walking down the street. Saunders was warned and fined £100,000 by the BBBofC for bringing the sport into disrepute.
September 2018 – Failed a drugs test for the banned substance Oxilofrine, a stimulant. Saunders and Warren dismissed the charge and claimed fight against Andrade will still go ahead.
On 20 October 2018 – BJS fights Demetrius Andrade at the TD Arena, Boston. A win will be his biggest achievement to date, setting up a potential unification bout against Canelo Álvarez or Daniel Jacobs. A victory over Álvarez or Jacobs would elevate Saunders to the P4P conversation and cement his legacy as a British Boxing great. A loss or a suspension could lead his career to dissipate away, leaving Boxing fans to wonder what could have been.
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