By Jeff Aranow: Floyd Mayweather Jr. is highly complementary of WBO middleweight champion Billy Joe Saunders (26-0, 12 KOs) after hearing the nice things he said about him during a recent interview. Saunders, 28, says he wants to follow the “Mayweather blueprint” in his fights.
Mayweather thinks Saunders can give a lot of guys problems in boxing with his fighting style. Mayweather isn’t saying who in particular he believes he can give problems to, but it wouldn’t be surprising if he thinks he’ll give the top middleweights Saul Canelo Alvarez and Gennady ‘GGG’ Golovkin some difficulties.
Saunders defeated former IBF middleweight champion David Lemieux this month in out-boxing him for 12 rounds in Laval, Quebec, Canada. This was a change for how Saunders usually fights during his career. Saunders had a habit of mixing it up with his opposition, which sometimes made his fights closer and more competitive.
Saunders had problems beating Chris Eubank Jr., Artur Akavov and Andy Lee. In all 3 of those fights, Saunders traded shots with his opponents. Saunders changed that approach for the Lemieux fight in becoming more Mayweather-like in boxing the Canadian for 12 rounds, and not taking chances. The game plan paid off for Saunders with him winning by the scores 117-111, 118-11- and 120-108.
“I like Billy Joe Saunders. He’s real smart. Hell of a boxer. He’s got good movement,” said Mayweather to Fighthype. ”He’s going to give a lot of them guys problems. He can box. When you lose a fight and keep losing a fight and you don’t make no smart investments and you lose everything. Let’s see if those same fans that so-called love you pay your bills. They’re nowhere to be found. I did it my way, the Mayweather way,” said Mayweather.
Mayweather didn’t come right out and say that he thinks Saunders will give Golovkin and Canelo problems. Those are the guys that Saunders is counting on being able to fight in 2018. Saunders may not get either of them. Saunders’ new way of fighting, which is quite negative, involving movement, avoidance and clinching, is not the type of fighting that Canelo and Golovkin prefer.
It’s debatable whether Saunders’ defensive style of fighting would be effective against Canelo or GGG. It might not. Those guys are able to do a lot more than the slow-footed Lemieux. It’s possible that Saunders would end up tiring himself out against both guys with his movement to evade exchanging with them. Saunders would need to do a lot more against Canelo and Golovkin to beat them than Lemieux, because they’re far more talented.
“Floyd Mayweather, he’s earned all that money now,” said Saunders to Fighthype. “Love him or hate him, he’s killed it, he’s done it, do you know what I mean? He’s cracked the code. He’s not beat up, he’s still strong there in the end, and he’s got everything about him still. I respect a man like that and look up to someone like that. If I can take a little bit from Mayweather; boxing’s about hitting and not getting hit,” said Saunders.
Saunders using the Mayweather blueprint might put him in the same situation Erislandy Lara is in with him not getting the big fights against the top guys. If Saunders is going to be limited with the type of fighters he can face with his defensive style of fighting, then he’s going to be able to take his career to the next level for a big payday fight with Canelo or GGG.
Saunders isn’t as fast as Mayweather, and he doesn’t have his same reflexes. Saunders also isn’t a popular in the UK, which is where he fights. Using the Mayweather approach of fighting a safety first manner probably won’t help Saunders’ popularity in the UK. The fighters that are popular in that country, Anthony Joshua, George Groves and Chris Eubank Jr., are guys that do a lot of slugging. If Saunders continues to fight the way that he’s doing now, he might not be able to gain a large following.
Saunders cares more about winning than entertaining the boxing fans by making his fights bloody, knockdown affairs. Saunders lacks the power in his punches to win fights in the same way that his fellow countryman Groves and Eubank Jr. win. Saunders seemingly has no other choice but to follow the Mayweather blueprint for the remainder of his career, and hope that it’s effective for him.
Saunders might not ever get a fight against Golovkin or Canelo. I would say the chances of Saunders getting a fight with Canelo are virtually nonexistent. Canelo doesn’t grave winning belts for the sake of winning them the way that Golovkin does. Canelo already had a bad experience in his fight with a pure boxer in Erislandy Lara in 2014, and he probably won’t want to fight an even more defensive Saunders for a belt that won’t do anything for his career. In the U.S, the boxing fans care more about entertainment than they do in watching fighters win belts against defensive artists. Canelo won’t gain anything by fighting Saunders and chasing him for 12 rounds to try and win his WBO 160 lb. title. The fights that help increase Canelo’s popularity in boxing are matches against Golovkin, Jermall Charlo, Sergey Derevyanchenko and Daniel Jacobs. Those are fighters that let their hands go, and don’t use a lot of movement and holding the way that Saunders does.
Saunders will be fighting in early 2018. He won’t know until after the May 5 rematch between Canelo and Golovkin whether he’ll get a fight against the winner of that fight in 2018. But before those Canelo-GGG fight each other, Saunders will need to make a defense of his WBO middleweight title. Saunders has already ruled out a fight against Jacobs. Saunders doesn’t want that fight because he feels Jacobs isn’t popular enough for him to face him. Saunders isn’t likely going to fight a popular fighter. He’s expected to take on a limited contender in the top 15, but someone that has little chance of beating him. The fight will be in the UK. If Saunders selects a contender from the World Boxing Organization’s top 15, then he’ll probably fight someone lower ranked that his fans have heard of. The options are not very good for Saunders. He’s going to take heavy criticism and looking like he’s marinating his WBO title if he fights one of the fringe contenders like Conrad Cummings, Tommy Langford, Luis Arias, Martin Murray, or Antoine Douglas. Most of those guys were recently beaten, which will make Saunders look even worse if he chooses to fight them.