The Mexican is out to hurt Saunders over a perceived ‘lack of respect’ during the build-up to the fight
For Billy Joe Saunders, the phoney war of hype and posturing is over. Now, it is time to get to work. Saunders will enter the ring on Saturday night in Texas against Saul “Canelo” Alvarez as underdog, but the great rebel fighter of British boxing is adamant he can defeat the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world. “I believe on the night I will be victorious,” he said. “There’s no doubt in my mind, whatever I need to do, I will do.”
Alvarez, the Mexican destruction machine who is a four-weight world champion, is hell-bent on hurting Saunders, having felt a “lack of respect” in the build-up. But Saunders has laughed it all off and says he has a plan to upset the odds in front of a hostile 70,000 crowd.
“I don’t like to go in there and think we’re going to have an all-out Mexican war, because that don’t get you onto the next level,” Saunders said. “We’ve seen Mexican wars in there before and they don’t work. He’s a prize fighter. He’s there to excite people with thrilling knockouts. If you get drawn into that excitement, you’re just going to be another victim.”
Styles make fights and this is a classic: bull versus matador; Mexican warrior versus Romany Gipsy boxer; iron will versus skill; two prize fighters who have been on a collision course for four years. It promises so much. They are in their prime and this super-middleweight contest is of global proportions.
Alvarez likes to take a brief look at opponents in the opening round then comes to fight, a crowd-pleaser and typically Mexican in his desire to stand toe-to-toe in a battle of machismo and brawn. He has matured in his defensive patterns in recent performances. You might say he is the complete fighter.
Opposing the World Boxing Council and World Boxing Association champion, arms stretched across the ropes, body loose, an air of the maverick, confident in his way – though not always the right way, having been fined for a series of misdemeanours – Saunders, the rebel World Boxing Organisation champion. He is steeped in boxing, rarely intimidated and on the edge of his own sensibilities, having dreamt of this moment for 20 years.
“Canelo’s a great fighter and a great champion,” Saunders said. “In my own head, I understand the job in hand. I understand I can’t just turn up and I’m going to shock the world. Sport is made for upsets. My only concern is I know Canelo has a lot of people and a lot of money invested in him, I just want a level, clean, fair playing field.
“There’s not much else I’m good at, to be honest, but when I’ve got those gloves on and I’ve got to get my thinking brain on, I can think from A to Z real quick. If people could get in my head and look out from my eyes, they might think I’m over confident. But it’s not, it’s just my strong belief.”
Big fight prediction: Alvarez to win on points
Billy Joe Saunders has a tricky, awkward, skilful style. Canelo is an aggressive, all-action come-forward fighter. Saunders is in the shape of his life, has supreme boxing abilities and, given his style, will have a game plan of boxing off the back foot and countering Canelo. The Mexican star goes head and body-hunting hard and early, with Saunders’ evasiveness from the southpaw stance allowing him to outbox his foe in the early rounds.
Somehow, though, Saunders, who has not fought the calibre of opponents Canelo has, must find a way to dent his rival, rather than simply nick the rounds. But there is a cold, relentless ruthlessness about Canelo, who has an incredible engine. His work-rate will tire Saunders in the late rounds and I am predicting the Mexican to win a points decision.