British boxer Billy Joe Saunders was in hospital on Sunday awaiting surgery after suffering multiple orbital socket fractures and facing questions about his future in the ring after becoming a victim of the heavy-handed predatory fists of Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez.
The Mexican secured a stoppage victory when Saunders was unable to start the ninth round of their world super-middleweight contest in Texas after a brutal uppercut in the eighth left him badly hurt and unable to see out of his right eye. Saunders was in no position to continue, sat broken on his stool in his corner, but until then it had been a compelling contest played out as expected in their diverse styles. But Canelo, who has become a real predator in the ring, mopped up Saunders’ World Boxing Organisation super middleweight crown to add to the World Boxing Council and World Boxing Association belts he already held.
The 30-year-old star of boxing then called out Caleb Plant, who holds the International Boxing Federation title, for a fight in September in which Canelo will have the opportunity to become the first Mexican fighter to be an undisputed champion in the division. Canelo is becoming better and better as a closer, and has won three fights in 140 days, two of those against unbeaten champions in Saunders and, at the turn of the year, fellow Briton Callum Smith, who was ranked the No 1 in the division at the time.
For Saunders, assuming his eye injury does allow him back into the ring – and it will take several months to recover – there are three fights out there for him: Smith, Chris Eubank Jr in a rematch from their fight seven years ago, and Gennady Golovkin at middleweight. Of all three rivals, the battle with Eubank would offer the most attractive fight for fans.
Indeed, Eubank was quick to comment on his social media channels, winning a £10,000 evens bet with a bookmaker that Saunders would be knocked out in the fight. Boxing is full of hubris, and this was one of those moments, as Eubank sank the knife in deep against a foe whom he clearly has venom for.
Saunders left the arena immediately – although his team were involved in a fracas with Mexican fans ringside – and into an ambulance to a medical centre. The promoter Eddie Hearn explained: “Billy went straight to hospital and I believe he will have been operated on immediately. So he is going to be out for a long, long time. But we know Billy Joe Saunders is a world class fighter. He lost to the pound-for-pound No 1 and he boxed well.
“So for me, it all depends on what he wants to do. He made a shedload of money tonight, he boxed on the biggest stage you could possibly box on, he’s a two-weight world champion and he just lost the unification fight to the pound-for-pound No1. If he wants to carry on, there are some big fights for him but he may feel he’s got to a stage where he’s been there, he’s done it, he’s seen it all.”
Saunders throws in the towel despite vowing to never do so through injury
Billy Joe Saunders was pulled out of his super middleweight world title fight against Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez in the early hours of Sunday morning, despite claiming he would never do so through injury.
The Briton was critical of compatriot Daniel Dubois’s decision to pull out of his fight against Joe Joyce last year, when the heavyweight suffered a suspected broken eye socket and nerve damage, but Saunders was on the end of a similar injury against Canelo that left him unable to see out of his right eye.
Speaking to The Telegraph’s Gareth A Davies before his fight against Canelo, he said: “If it means I say goodbye to my kids, and I never see them again, I can leave this earth happy knowing I have won.
“Myself personally I would go and go and go until I couldn’t breath anyway. I’d rather get knocked out cold or have a haemorrhage fit, every which way but lose.
“If I win this fight, let me win this fight, let me say goodbye to my kids, I’d say adios, I’d go today.”
Speaking on the Ak and Barak SiriusXM show about Daniel Dubois’s stoppage defeat against Joe Joyce:
“Fighters get in that ring and we know what’s on the line. Before I go on one knee I’d like to go out on my back with my pulse stopped.”
One wonders if Saunders will revisit his critique after what he dealt with in Texas.
“Everyone has their own thought process in the ring and what went on in the ring I don’t know. He obviously felt he could not continue,” Saunders told the radio duo last year. “You look at the greats — the eyes, the face, we get through that. That’s the path in life we choose for a living. We punch people in the face and get punched in the face.
“If my two eye sockets were broken, my jaw was broken, my teeth were out, my nose was smashed, my brain was beaten, I was not stopping until I was knocked out or worse. I don’t agree with a man taking the knee and letting the ref count him out.”
Saunders had his successes in this fight against Canelo, moving well, and in rounds five, six, and seven, he showed a confidence and swagger in the ring in being elusive and making the Mexican miss. And yet, the power Canelo carries makes him a difficult, dangerous opponent, and Saunders, who suffered his first loss in his 31st contest, does not carry the kind of power that his opponent brings.
Targeting the body early, Canelo cleverly hunted Saunders, who held his own behind the jab, but when the finish came in the eighth round, it was decisive. Canelo landed a brutal right uppercut as Saunders ducked down, breaking his foe’s face, and in the same round, hit the Briton with an uppercut through the middle that almost knocked his mouthguard out. Clearly hurt in the closing minute of the eighth stanza, Saunders covered up on the ropes, and as he sat on his stool, his face a picture of dejection, his trainer Mark Tibbs relayed to referee Mark Calo-oy that he was pulling his fighter out.
The decision immediately called into question Saunders’ vow not to ever quit in a fight, as he told Telegraph Sport before the fight “I would go and go and go until I couldn’t breath anyway, I’d rather get knocked out cold or have a haemorrhage fit, every which way but lose”. But Tibbs knew better than to listen to a fighter’s desire to fight on at all costs.
“His eye socket was caved in and he couldn’t see. I didn’t get the response I wanted from him. I had to pull him out,” said Tibbs.
Canelo, outstanding once more, said, in his post-fight interview: “I knew he would not come out for the next round, I knew I had broke his cheek and I told my corner [after the eighth round].”
Although some observers had Saunders ahead, others had it 4-4 after the eighth round, and the three ringside judges had it in favour of Canelo.
The event, aired on digital broadcaster DAZN, set an attendance record in the United States for an indoor boxing event, with 73,126 in the Dallas Cowboys Stadium cheering on Alvarez on the Cinco de Mayo weekend. It broke the American indoor attendance record of 63,352 for the heavyweight championship rematch between Muhammad Ali and Leon Spinks at New Orleans Superdome in 1978.
Promoter Hearn also added on the broadcast that he is expecting to provide an update on talks to complete the Tyson Fury- Anthony Joshua undisputed heavyweight fight, headed for Saudi Arabia in August “later this week.”