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BJ Saunders possible for Canelo vs. Smith undercard

Billy Joe Saunders Canelo Alvarez

By Scott Gilfoid: Golden Boy Promotions are reportedly interested in getting WBO middleweight champion Billy Joe Saunders (23-0, 12 KOs) to fight on September 17 on the undercard of their fighter Saul “Canelo” Alvarez’s title match against unbeaten WBO junior middleweight champion Liam Smith (23-0-1, 13 KOs).

The idea would be for the 26-year-old Saunders to get some visibility by fighting on the Canelo-Smith undercard on HBO PPV, so that the U.S fans get a chance to see him fight before Canelo faces him in the near future for his WBO 160lb title. Liam Smith and BJ Saunders are both promoted by Frank Warren.

It would seem likely that Saunders would be taking a voluntary defense against one of the World Boxing Organization’s top 15 contenders. Saunders hasn’t defended his WBO title as of yet, as he was supposed to fight #6 WBO contender Max Bursak on April 30. That fight was called off after Saunders suffered an injured hand in training. It’s unclear if the WBO counted that as one of Saunders’ voluntary defenses or not.

If Saunders is able to make an optional defense, then it wouldn’t be surprising to see him fight Bursak or one of the other arguably less dangerous contenders in the WBO’s rankings such as #15 Jan Meiser or Levgen Khytrov. I don’t see Saunders taking on any difficult contenders unless he’s required to by the WBO in terms of a mandatory, especially if he has a shot to get a big fight against Canelo in the future.

“We’ve had a couple discussions with Frank Warren because he also has Liam Smith,” said Golden Boy Promotions vice president Eric Gomez to RingTV.com. “We’ve had a couple of discussions but nothing has been agreed upon. There’s no commitment yet. There’s just been a couple of conversations so we’ll see what happens.”

Saunders is a main event type of fighter, so I’m not sure how he would feel about fighting on the undercard of the Canelo vs. Smith fight. The only way I could see Saunders and his promoter agreeing to that kind of thing is if they felt there was an excellent chance of fighting Canelo either this year in December or next May on Cinco de Mayo in 2017.

Facing Saunders for his WBO 160lb title rather than IBF/IBO/WBA/WBC middleweight champion Gennady “GGG” Golovkin or WBA “regular” champion Daniel Jacobs would be seen as a very, very weak move by Canelo Alvarez in the eyes of a lot of boxing fans. By continually going after what some see as the weak link each time he fights, Canelo is going to get the reputation as a cherry picker in the eyes of fans. However, Canelo’s huge popularity is with casual boxing fans, and many of them don’t have clue one who is good or who is not good. If they see Canelo fighting Liam Smith and Saunders, they’re more likely to assume that these are the best fighters in those divisions, period. They won’t know about the other fighters that could arguably whip those guys like the Charlo brothers, Golovkin, Jacobs, Demetrius Andrade, Erislandy Lara, and Julian Williams. Saunders and Liam Smith are decent fighters, but I sure as heck don’t rate them as the No.1 guys in their respective divisions. I see Smith as maybe No.7 or No.8 in the 154lb division, and Saunders at No.10. I know it seems crazy for those guys to be rated so low, but you have to realize that neither of them fought anyone really good to win their WBO straps. If they did fight someone good, they would have been soundly beaten in my opinion.

If Canelo can take Saunders’ WBO title from him, it’ll give him more credibility for when/if he faces Golovkin in the future. Supposedly, Canelo will be fighting Golovkin in the fall of 2017, although it’s still unknown whether that fight will happen then. If Golovkin is still looking incredibly good by next year, then it’s likely that Golden Boy will choose to let the fight between him and Canelo marinate until 2018.

I see Golden Boy pushing the fight continually into the future until Golovkin is old, gray and nearly completely shot as a fighter. Since I don’t see Golovkin being old and toothless by 2017, I think Golden Boy will keep pushing Canelo-Golovkin fight into the future until he is completely shot.

In addition to Saunders being a potential name that could be added to the Canelo-Smith card, there’s also a heavyweight fight between the talented Golden Boy promoted WBA interim heavyweight champion Luis “The Real King Kong” Ortiz vs. Alexander Ustinov that will be added.

“There’s a couple of details that are being worked out,” Gomez said of Ortiz-Ustinov. “But it’s normal stuff. I’m very confident that we’ll be able to get it done.”

The winner of the Ortiz vs. Ustinov fight will be the WBA mandatory for the winner of the rematch between IBO/WBA/WBO heavyweight champion Tyson Fury vs. Wladimir Klitschko, which still doesn’t have an official date for the match. Fury suffered an ankle injury that messed up the plans to stage the fight this month on July 9. The fight will still take place, but the date has yet to be confirmed for when it’ll be rescheduled.


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