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Billy Joe Saunders: I’m the best now

Billy Joe Saunders David Lemieux Gennady Golovkin

By Allan Fox: Billy Joe Saunders (26-0, 12 KOs) has christened himself as “the best” after his victory over David Lemieux (38-4, 33 KOs) last Saturday night. Saunders, 28, retained his WBO middleweight title, and he kept himself in position to face Saul Canelo Alvarez or Gennady Golovkin in 2018.

That was the goal that Saunders had going into the Lemieux fight. Above all, Saunders needed to win to keep himself in the hunt for the winner or loser of the Canelo vs. Golovkin rematch on May 5. There’s too much money at stake for Saunders to have lost the fight with Lemieux. Saunders went through back to back training camps to take off all the weight that he put on since his last fight. Saunders had to have been very heavy for him to go through 2 training camps to get ready for the Lemieux fight. It’s a wonder that Saunders didn’t end up over-trained for the fight.

“I’m the best now. That’s what [the victory] means,” Saunders said to fighthub. “I’m world champion, performing like a world champion. Golovkin or Canelo, I’m ready. Don’t call me out when I’m fat and unfit and not in love with boxing. Fight me now, when I love boxing and I’m performing. Now fight me.”

Saunders has been the one calling out Canelo and Golovkin rather than them calling him out. Saunders seems to have things reversed in his mind. He’s been the one chasing Canelo and Golovkin, dropping in on press conferences, and looking needy.

Saunders’s comment about him being the “best now” might be interpreted by some boxing fans as him saying that he thinks he’s the best in the 160 lb. division after beating Lemieux. Saunders still has a lot to prove before he can call himself the best at 160. For Saunders to be the best at 160, he’ll need to beat Golovkin, Canelo, Danny Jacobs, Ryota Murata, Sergey Derevyanchenko, Jermall Charlo and Demetrius Andrade. Beating Lemieux is just the start for Saunders, not the end. It takes more than a win over the likes of Lemieux to be the “best” fighter in the middleweight division. Lemieux is more of a limited fighter in terms of the best fighters in the division. Beating Lemieux was a good thing for Saunders, but he still hasn’t proven himself against the top middleweights.

It might take Saunders 2 to 3 years for him to prove he’s the best in the middleweight division under ideal circumstances. One thing that may keep Saunders from ever proving he’s the beat at 160 is the match-making that’s being done for him. If you look at the type of fighters that Saunders is being put in with, guys like Willie Monroe Jr. and Artur Akavov, that indicates that he’s not always being tested at the highest level. We’ll see who Saunders’ management choose to put him in with in early 2018. It’s more likely than not that Saunders will be matched against a beatable lower level fighter to make sure he doesn’t lose. If Saunders is the best, as he’s now calling himself, then he should be able to fight the best every time out. We haven’t seen that though from him, have we? I suspect that he’ll be matched like he’s been in the past against guys that aren’t a threat to him.

Lemieux’s power is among the top 3 in the division, but he’d been exposed on 3 separate occasions in the past in losses to Golovkin, Marco Antonio Rubio and Joachim Alcine.

After the fight was over, Saunders looked irritated when addressing the media, basically telling them ‘I told you so’ about how easy his fight with Lemieux would be. Some in the media viewed the fight as a 50-50 affair going in, and that rubbed Saunders the wrong way.

“Did I not tell you it was going to be an easy fight? I told you to bet on it, and I told you what I was going to do. I said he would not hit me, and he didn’t hit me,” said Saunders.

Saunders did his job in traveling to Canada and beating Lemieux in his home country last Saturday night at the Place Bell in Laval, Quebec, Canada. Saunders says he’s ready to fight the winner of the Canelo vs. Golovkin fight. That fight isn’t for another 5 months. Saunders has a long time to wait for the rematch to take place. Even then, it’s not certain that he’ll get the winner of the fight. Saunders will need to sit and wait until September at the earliest before he gets Canelo or Golovkin. If Canelo and Golovkin fight a third time, it means Saunders will need to wait until 2019 to fight the winner of that match. That could potentially complicate things for Saunders if the World Boxing Organization moves #3 WBO Daniel Jacobs to No.1 and makes him the new mandatory challenger.

Saunders took care of his WBO mandatory challenger David Lemieux for 2017 with his one-sided 12 round decision win last Saturday. Saunders will need to fight his next mandatory challenger in 2018. It won’t be a big deal if the WBO makes #2 WBO Rob Brant the mandatory challenger for Saunders. However, if the WBO orders Saunders to fight Jacobs, it’ll be a real threat to him. Jacobs isn’t someone that Saunders will be able to out-box without the threat of being caught and knocked out. It’s in Saunders’ best interest for the winner of the Canelo-GGG 2 fight to face him next September rather than fighting a third fight. Those guys can make big money fighting each other. There’s no money in Golovkin and Canelo fighting Saunders, because he’s not a star even in his own country of the UK.

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