The Middleweight Puzzle: What’s Next For Billy Joe Saunders?

Tom Dunstan

Amidst the drama of Saturday night’s middleweight super fight between Gennady Golovkin and Canelo Alvarez, just over 5000 miles away in London, there was another middleweight world title fight taking place.

For Billy Joe Saunders, Saturday night must have felt like any other fight, it was just another fight that was overshadowed by the divisions bigger names. But, unbeknown to many, Saunders holds the final piece in the middleweight puzzle, the WBO world title.

After beating Andy Lee in December 2015 to become the WBO king, to say Billy Joe Saunders has been inactive would be a huge understatement. Over the past 19 months, Saunders has only defended his title twice, but, he is now looking to cement himself as one of the divisions top stars.

As Saunders will confess, Saturday night was undoubtedly his biggest test to date. The man self-dubbed as ‘Superb’ has made his intentions clear, he wants the biggest and best fights. So, with his only bargaining chip, the WBO title on the line, Saunders knew he had to come through.

Against a tough opponent in Willie Monroe Jr, it almost looked like a new Billy Joe. In the best shape of his life, Saunders was up against a man who Golovkin had been in with and convincingly knocked out, so he had to prove a point.

The fight certainly wasn’t as dramatic as Monroe vs GGG, minus Saunders picking up a cut after an accidental head clash, Saunders outboxed the American and won convincingly, that was reflected by the unanimous decision on the judges’ scorecards, who had the fight at 117-111, 115-114 and 117-112.

“There was more pressure in this fight than a Canelo or Golovkin fight because I had to get through it. It might have been boring but I just had to outbox him. I just stuck to the game plan.” – Billy Joe Saunders

With Saunders coming through his test, it seemed a certainty that he would finally get to mix it with one of the middleweight elite. But, with GGG and Canelo battling to a controversial draw, what’s next for Billy Joe?

Golovkin unification still on?

At first, many assumed that a rematch between Golovkin and Canelo was a no-brainer, it might appear not. With Canelo not planning his in-ring return until May 2018, the rematch appears to be a mile away.

Saunders has taken no time in making it clear that the current WBC, IBF, WBA and IBO world champion is his number one target. With both Saunders and Golovkin seeking another fight before 2017 draws to a close, both men could get their wish. Saunders will finally get to test himself against one of the divisions best and Golovkin finally has a chance of adding the final world title to his name.

This week, Saunders promoter Frank Warren has announced that they are discussing the fight and have even begun to look at possible venues.

“We would do it early December and we’re looking at a couple of venues. It will be in the UK unless Golovkin insists on it being somewhere else.” – Frank Warren

Amir Kahn?

Due to the fact that we haven’t seen Amir Kahn since he was knocked out by Canelo almost a year and a half ago, Kahn’s name came as a pretty big surprise when it comes to Saunders’ list of possible opponents.

Now aged 28, Saunders knows better than anyone that this is the time to start making big money fights, Amir Kahn does offer that.

Granted, boxing fans associate Kahn with his glass jaw, but, Kahn himself is a former unified welterweight champion and his name carries a lot of attention with it. The former Olympian has previously stepped up to the 160Ibs division and could be tempted to step up again.

With Kahn now 30, his career is also entering its final chapter, an all domestic world title fight is a guaranteed big money payday for both boxers.

Saunders will know full well that Amir Kahn isn’t a genuine middleweight and adding his name to his resume would really add to a potential unification bout in the future.

Whether it be Golovkin or Kahn, could we still see Billy Joe Saunders shock the world in 2017?

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