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Billy Joe Saunders to fight on September 17


By Scott Gilfoid: WBO middleweight champion Billy Joe Saunders (23-0, 12 KOs) revealed on Friday that he’ll be fighting on September 17. Saunders, 26, didn’t say who he’ll be fighting or what fight card, but it’s obvious that he’ll be fighting on the undercard of the Saul “Canelo” Alvarez vs. Liam Smith card on HBO pay-per-view in the States.

There’s talk that if Canelo whips Smith, he’ll then move up to middleweight to challenge Saunders for his WBO title at a catch-weight of some sorts. Having Saunders fight on Canelo’s undercard on September 17 will give ant U.S boxing fans a chance to see the British fighter before he faces Canelo later this year in December.

Of course, none of this is official, but that’s what the talk is right now. The fact that Canelo’s promoters at Golden Boy Promotions is interested in having the middleweight champion Saunders fight on Canelo’s undercard on September 17 would be the perfect setup for Canelo to challenge him for his WBO strap in December.

The idea is that Canelo beats Smith for his WBO 154lb title in September in order to get credibility with the American fans. Being seen winning a title, even one off a paper champion, will help make Canelo more popular. Canelo would then move up in weight and fight Saunders for his WBO middleweight title at a likely catch-weight of 157lbs or so. Canelo would then have won two world titles within a three-month time span. He would then make a defense of his WBO middleweight title in May of 2017 before facing IBF/IBO/WBA/WBA middleweight champion Gennady “GGG” Golovkin (35-0, 32 KOs) in September, 2017.

Saunders has a real chance of getting a nice career payday if he gets the Canelo fight in December. Saunders had the opportunity to fight Golovkin, but the money wasn’t there for the fight. Against Canelo, Saunders would likely get a bigger money offer because a fight between them could potentially be put on HBO PPV. Canelo is a PPV fighter; Golovkin is not and possibly never will be.

Saunders was supposed to have defended his WBO title against Max Bursak on April 30. This would have been Saunders’ first defense of his WBO title. However, the defense was cancelled after Saunders pulled out of the bout with a hand injury that he suffered during training.

There has been no talk of Saunders rescheduling to fight Bursak. It’s not surprising though because there was absolutely no interest in that fight. It would have potentially been difficult to sell tickets for a fight between Saunders and Bursak without the boxing fans having an interest in seeing such a poor match-up. I would have never even bothered making that fight in the first place, because I would have seen right off the bat that the British boxing fans wouldn’t go for a mismatch like that.

Saunders last fought in December last year in squeaking out a narrow 12 round majority decision win over WBO champion Andy Lee. Saunders looked good for the first six rounds before running out of gas in the last half of the fight. The only reason Saunders won the fight is because he knocked Lee down twice in the in the 3rd round to build up a big enough lead to cruise the rest of the way.

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