By: Hans Themistode
Billy Joe Saunders has always been loquacious. Recently, however, the former two-division world champion has been abnormally quiet.
Approximately one month ago, the British native talked and fought his way into a super middleweight unification contest against Canelo Alvarez. During the lead-up to their showdown and for years before that, Saunders claimed that if he were ever given a chance to face Alvarez, he would hand him the second loss of his career. However, when the two stood across the ring from one another at the AT&T Stadium in Dallas, Texas, Saunders realized how wrong he was.
While the moment was intense, when Saunders began swapping fist with the pound-for-pound star, he claims that he didn’t feel overwhelmed or out of his element. In fact, as he evaded the oncoming onslaught of Alvarez and landed a few big shots of his own, there were moments where he believed the Mexican star was a bit overrated.
“When I got in the ring with him, I thought was this it?” Questioned Saunders during an interview with Talk Sport. “I expected more but I suppose everyone is going to be sort of like that going into that sort of fight you know.”
As Saunders continued to question if Alvarez had anything more to give, the unified super middleweight titlist immediately answered him. During the eighth round, Alvarez avoided a left hand of Saunders and landed a right uppercut. The British star immediately stumbled back and held on to Alvarez for the remainder of the round. Although Saunders kept his poker face on and appeared fine, he admits that the moment the shot landed, he knew something was wrong.
“I thought, ‘Ooh, that’s a good shot, that’s a good shot.’ And I started bouncing about, but my eye had dropped down. I could see like two or three all the time and I realized after 30 seconds it wasn’t my legs, it was my eye. It’s a bad injury, an injury I thought I’d never get, but you never know what’s gonna happen in boxing.”
After attempting to reopen his right eye, team Saunders came to the conclusion that their fighter couldn’t go into the ninth round in his condition. Reluctantly, trainer Ben Davison waved off the contest. Despite suffering a broken eye socket and orbital bone, many have accused Saunders of quitting. Ultimately though, Saunders says that simply wasn’t the case, if it was up to him, he would have gladly gone out on his shield.
“The people who were in my corner know the conversations,” continued Saunders. “I was going out for the ninth round orthodox. My team is there to do a job. They are there to look out for my best interest. I’m there to go on all night. When we step in that ring, that’s our lives and I’m willing to put that on the line. Never would I say I’m finished, I’m done or go down. I boxed a minute and 20 seconds with a broken eye socket. That was the corner man’s decision.
“As a fighter, I wanted to go on. It was the right stoppage. No one wants to lose and it’s gut-wrenching. The better man won on the night. I would have loved to see how the next four or five rounds go.”
If Saunders had somehow avoided the fight ending blow, the scorecards were just close enough for him to mount a second-half rally. Judge Tim Cheatham had it 77-75 in favor of Alvarez while Glenn Feldman and Max DeLuca each had it 78-74 for Alvarez as well.
Still, regardless of how close the scorecards were, Saunders won’t waste any time wishing and wondering what could have happened had he been able to continue. While he has never been fond of Alvarez, all Saunders could do at this point is give him his respect for a job well done.
“He’s a world-class fighter and he caught me with a world-class shot. You got to give that man that credit and respect. He’s a very, very good fighter, very tricky.”