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Is Saunders ready for Golovkin and Canelo?

Billy Joe Saunders Canelo Alvarez Gennady Golovkin

By Scott Gilfoid: WBO middleweight champion Billy Joe Saunders (24-0, 12 KOs) had one of his poorer performances of his career last Saturday night in defeating hungry challenger Artur Akavov (16-2, 7 KOs) by a 12 round unanimous decision at the Paisley Lagoon Centre in Glasgow, Scotland. Saunders fought like a really rusty fighter against Akavov.

It’s not surprising though, because Saunders was coming off of a one-year layoff from boxing. With that much time off, Saunders was very fortunate to win the fight, period. Some fighters are never the same when they return to the sport after a long layoff like the one that Saunders had.

The ones that are able to continue to do well are usually the more gifted ones like Floyd Mayweather Jr., Miguel Cotto and Vitali Klitschko. The fighters that were marginal talents to begin with tend to fall off and drift back to the pack. Saunders appears to be more of the latter. He looked no better than Akavov in this fight, and that guy is a fringe contender and not a world champion level guy. The fact that Saunders went life and death with Akavov doesn’t bode well for his future when/if he gets inside the ring with the big names in the 160lb division in Gennady Golovkin and Saul Canelo Alvarez.

It’s still not a given that Saunders will fight either of those guys. Saunders might need to defend his World Boxing Organization title against his mandatory challenger in his next fight, and that could be Avtandil Khurtsidze. I wish Saunders a lot of luck if he fights that guy, because he’s going to need it. Khurtsidze is the type of fighter that will turn the judges into spectators and not let them have any part of the results of the fight. Khrutsidze would be looking to KO Saunders if he’s next guy that faces him, and I would give him a very chance of him doing just that.

The fight was supposed to have preparation of sorts to get the 27-year-old Saunders ready for big fights against Saul Canelo Alvarez and Gennady “GGG” Golovkin in 2017. Instead, Saunders’ question decision win over Akavov showed that he’s not ready to fight Canelo and Golovkin. Heck, based off Saunders’ performance against Akavov, I would have to say that he would be totally slaughtered by Canelo and Golovkin in short order. There’s no way that I can see Saunders lasting more than three rounds with either of those guys. I think Saunders would get embarrassed by both of those fighters.

Saunders beat Akavov by the scores 116-113, 116-112 and 115-113. I thought Akavov did enough to deserve a draw or a win, but DEFINITELY not a loss. However, the fight took place in the UK, so you have to assume that it meant that Akavov was going to need to put in a really great effort for him to get the nod, because the visiting fighter. Akavov was the B-side of the equation last night. It’s usually not a good thing to be the B-side fighter.

Saunders was complaining about having had to lose a lot of weight during his training camp for the Akavov fight. He let his weight get too high after his win over WBO 160lb champion last year in December in beating him to get his title.

Saunders didn’t go into detail about how much weight he had to take off to get to the 160lb limit for the Akavov fight, but based on how thin and emaciated he looked, I would guess that he had to take off quite a bit of weight. In fairness to Saunders, he appeared to have lost a lot of muscle from his previous fight against Lee. You could tell by looking at how thin and dried out looking Saunders was last Saturday night that he’d stripped off the wrong kind of weight when getting down to 160. That’s the problem when you gain a bunch of weight.

When you have to take it off during a fairly short period of time, you sacrifice muscle. If it took Saunders nine months to put all the fat on his body during the past year, then he needed more than just a two month training camp to get that weight off. That’s why it would have been better off it Saunders had kept his weight under control during the year so that wouldn’t have to turn his training camp for the Akavov fight into a glorified fat farm. I don’t think Saunders was trained for an actual athletic competition last night against Akavov. Saunders had the look of that of a dieter who had taken off weight so that they would look good on the beach. There’s a big difference between being trained for a fight and being dieted down to look good on the beach.

If Saunders is going to look like this against Canelo and Golovkin, I don’t think he’s got a chance of beating either. To be honest, even if Saunders was at his best, I don’t see him having a chance against Canelo and Golokvin.

“Tonight was really, really flat,” said Saunders after the fight against Akavov. “I’d like to apologize to the fans. On that performance my name shouldn’t be mentioned with Golovkin and Canelo.”

Saunders, 27, did look extremely flat, and he definitely doesn’t belong in the same ring with Canelo and Golovkin. Good fighters are able to come back from long layoffs to still do well. Saunders isn’t talented enough to look good after coming off of any kind of a layoff from boxing. He’s the type who needs to be training ALL THE TIME. The fact that Saunders isn’t doing that suggests that he’s not going to have a very long career as a top guy. In fact, I see Saunders time as the WBO champion ending very soon.

Saunders dodged a bullet in the Akavov fight, because he arguably should have lost his title in this fight. Saunders isn’t a strange to controversial decisions. Saunders’ win over Chris Eubank Jr. was a controversial one in 2014. A lot of boxing fans thought that was a draw.

Saunders’ win over Andy Lee last December was controversial as well. I had the fight scored a draw. What this suggests is that Saunders just isn’t that good. He makes himself worse by not staying in the gym and keeping his weight under control. In that respect, you can compare Saunders with Ricky Hatton. Like Hatton, Saunders lets his weight go up in between fights. He then has to battle hard to take the weight off during training camp. Hatton got away with doing that for a while, but by the time he fought Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, he was starting to show the negative effects of having taken off so much weight.

#10 WBO Akavov was a hand-picked opponent for Saunders. This was supposed to have been an easy fight for Saunders. The fact that it wasn’t an easy fight shows how far away Saunders is from being at the level of Canelo and Golovkin. Let’s be honest, if Akavov had been inside the ring with Canelo or Golovkin last Saturday night, he would have been blown out by either of them. Those guys would stalk Akavov around the ring and blasted him out. If Akavov had come straight at them like he did against Saunders, they would have knocked him out straightaway.

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