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Billy Joe Saunders to retire at 30

By Marcus Richardson: Billy Joe Saunders says he’ll be retiring in 2 years by the time he’s 30-years-old. The unbeaten Saunders (26-0, 12 KOs) is coming off of a successful third defense of his WBO middleweight title against mandatory David Lemieux (38-4, 33 KOs) on December 16 in Laval, Quebec, Canada.

The victory over Lemieux was one of Saunders’ better wins of his 8-year pro career, but it might also ultimately have hurt his career. Saunders might find himself blackballed by the top money earners in boxing due to his defensive style of fighting. We’ll have to see if that’s the case. It might be though. The popular fighters historically don’t like to face spoilers that run, hold and fight off the back foot for 12 rounds the way that Saunders exhibited against Lemieux.

Saunders already has a strike against him in being a southpaw. Fighters don’t like to face southpaws unless they have to. Saunders being a southpaw who runs, changes directions, holds and showboats to the crowds, he has to be viewed in a negative light by a lot of the top fighters. With Saunders being only a belt holder, and not a popular one, he has very little to offer the top fighters like Canelo, Golovkin, Groves or Eubank Jr. other than his WBO middleweight belt. The WBO is just one of 6 world title belts at middleweight. It doesn’t change anything for the top fighters to face Saunders just for the honor of fighting for that strap. It won’t increase the popularity of the top fighters to face Saunders for his WBO belt.

Saunders says he’ll only come back after he reaches 30 if he’s given a huge money offer of £10million ($13.5 million). Just who would pay Saunders that kind of money is the big question. Saunders isn’t a big name in the UK, and none of the popular fighters are interested in fighting him right now. for Saunders to make that kind of money, he would need to fight a pay-per-view match against someone like Saul Canelo Alvarez, Chris Eubank Jr. or George Groves. Gennady Golovkin isn’t a PPV fighter. There wouldn’t be that kind of money available for Saunders to get facing Golovkin unless the middleweight champion from Kazakhstan agrees to fight for free. There probably still wouldn’t be that kind of money for a Golovkin-Saunders fight.

Saunders will now be taking a stay busy voluntary defense in early 2018 against likely one of the lower level contenders in the World Boxing Organization’s top 15 rankings. If Saunders wins that fight, then he’ll be looking to face the winner of the Gennady ‘GGG’ Golovkin vs. Saul Canelo Alvarez rematch. That fight is planned tentatively for May 5. Facing the winner of that fight will give Saunders a major payday. The money that Saunders makes fighting Canelo or Triple G will give him enough to retire on. Saunders won’t retire right away. He’ll have 2 more years until he’s 30. Saunders can possibly fight another 6 times before he reaches his 31st birthday in 2019.

”I’ve always said when I’m 30 I’ll be done,” said Saunders to the ”I’ve got children, I’ve been very sensible with my money — put it into property — and I’ve always said that when I’m 30 I’ll be done… I’ve done everything in boxing now.”

It’s thought that Saunders will cash out and retire if he can get a fight against Canelo or Golovkin. That part is a given. If Saunders faces Canelo or Golovkin next year and loses, which would seem likely, he’ll still be only 28. He’ll have a lot more time left before he turns 30. The paydays will probably drop off for Saunders after he gets beaten by Canelo or Saunders unless he can pick up a title at super middleweight against someone like Caleb Truax, Gilberto ‘Zurdo’ Ramirez, David Benavidez or George Groves. Saunders’ fighting style might preclude him from getting a fight against any of those champions.

The top fighters don’t usually like to face purely defensive fighters that use a lot of movement. The defensive manner that Saunders put on in beating David Lemieux earlier this month may have turned off the top fighters from wanting to fight him. It wouldn’t be a case of them being afraid of Saunders’ punching power. It might be more of a case of them not wanting to chase Saunders around the ring for 12 rounds.

Saunders is being sensible in the guys that he’s agreeing to fight. He’s turned down a fight with Daniel Jacobs for early 2018. That’s a fight Saunders might lose, and he’s being smart to turn down the fight. Saunders is going to be strategic and fight the guys that he can beat to a high degree of certainty. Fighter like Jacobs, Jermall Charlo and Sergey Derevyanchenko are very risk matches. They’re not proven to be beatable like Lemieux has in his past losses to Golovkin, Marco Antonio Rubio and Joachim Alcine. Rubio knocked Lemieux out in 7 rounds. Alcine out-boxed Lemieux.

”Don’t get me wrong. If I’m 30 and the unified champion and there’s a fight there worth £10million, I’m going to say: ‘All right, let’s do it,’” said Saunders.

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