Saunders was offered Andrade and Canelo Alvarez
By Dan Ambrose: Billy Joe Saunders was offered a big money deal to face WBO middleweight champion Demetrius Andrade followed by a fight against Saul Canelo Alvarez if he won, but he turned it down in order to fight Shefat Isufi (27-3-2, 20 KOs) at super middleweight, according to Matchroom promoter Eddie Hearn.
Eddie doesn’t understand why Saunders rejected the offer to face Andrade, and then Canelo Alvarez after that. Saunders (27-0, 13 KOs) thought he was going to be fighting for the vacant World Boxing Organization 168 lb title after the current champion Gilberto ‘Zurdo’ Ramirez (39-0, 25 KOs) was supposed to be moving up to light heavyweight.
Ramirez, 27, says he’s not vacating his WBO title. He’s just going up to light heavyweight for a fight to test out the division. In the meantime, Saunders is still scheduled to fight Isufi on April 13 at the Wembley Arena in London, England, but there wont be the WBO super middleweight title on the line. It looks like Saunders made a big mistake by not taking the offer to fight Andrade, and then Canelo Alvarez. The only way it makes sense for Saunders to have turned that deal down is if he lacked the confidence that he could win against the southpaw Andrade (27-0, 17 KOs) in order to earn the fight with Canelo.
“They announced the fight for the WBO super middleweight championship of the world,” Matchroom Boxing USA promoter Eddie Hearn said to IFL TV in talking about the April 13 fight between former WBO middleweight champion Billy Joe Saunders and Shefat Asufi. “It’s clearly not for the WBO super middleweight world championship at the moment. I’m guessing it was part of the whole [Tyson] Fury, ESPN, Queensbury, Top Rank deal that this process would happen, and I guess it’s not happening, and I guess Gabriel Ramirez said, ‘No, I’m not going to vacate.’ I mean, he may do it if he’s given a deal to move up. At the moment, Billy Joe Saunders against Shefat Isufi is not for the WBO super middleweight world title, so if he [Saunders] wants to come back down and take the fight he should be taking against Demetrius Andrade, and the deal he was offered; which was an absolute fortune, and then fight Canelo after. It was a big deal that he was offered, a huge deal,” Hearn said.
Saunders would have likely gotten a career high payday in fighting Canelo Alvarez, if Hearn is on the level about the two-fight deal that was being offered to him. However, it wouldn’t have been easy for Saunders to beat Andrade. that would have been a tough fight for Saunders. That wouldn’t be like the fights we’ve recently seen Saunders in against the likes of David Lemieux, Charles Adamu, Willie Monroe Jr., and Artur Akavov. Andrade can actually fight, and he might have beaten Saunders. There’s been some inactivity problems for Saunders in the last four years of his career.
Since beating Andy Lee by a 12 round majority decision in December 2015, Saunders has fought only four times. Saunders has been horribly inactive for a world champion, and the WBO has let him get away with it. Saunders defended his WBO title once in 2016, twice in 2017, and once in 2018. He vacated his WBO belt after he tested positive for a banned substance oxilofrine, and failed to get his boxing license from the Massachusetts Athletic Commission for him to make a title defense against mandatory challenger Andrade last October.
When asked when Saunders was offered the deal to face Andrade and then potentially Canelo afterwards, Hearn said, “A month ago.”
Saunders was interested in the past in fighting Canelo. It doesn’t make a lot of sense for him not to take the deal that as offered to him by Hearn if it mean that he could potentially fight Canelo. But perhaps Saunders wanted the deal to be just with Canelo without having to beat Andrade to get the fight? Obviously having to get through Andrade first to get the Canelo fight would make things a little more complicated for Saunders or anyone for that matter. Andrade is not an easy out for anyone, especially a fighter that has been as inactive as Saunders in the last four years.
Some boxing fans think Saunders has been avoiding good competition during his career in order to protect his unbeaten record, and to avoid losing his WBO title, which he no longer holds. Saunders not taking the deal to fight Andrade and then Canelo is going to make a lot of fans that he didn’t have faith in himself that he could get the job done. Of course, if Hearn is just talking, and there really wasn’t a deal offered to Saunders, then it makes sense that he’s fighting Isufi now. It’s unclear why Hearn would be talking about Saunders passing up on a fight against Andrade and Canelo if it didn’t happen.
Hearn then said, “The winner [of Saunders vs. Andrade] fights the Canelo-Jacobs winner or defends in the U.S. Yes, a big deal. But Shefat Isufi was calling, and that’s the route he’s going to take. I presume he’s [Saunders] pulled out of the mandatory spot [for the WBO middleweight title]. So I think he can pop back up and go, ‘Actually, I was told it was for the [WBO super middleweight] world title. It’s actually not. Do you mind if I come back [down to middleweight to fight for WBO title against Demetrius Andrade],'” Hearn said.
Before Ramirez changed his mind about giving up his WBO super middleweight strap, Saunders was getting a great deal in fighting the little known #1 WBO Isufi for the vacant WBO 168 lb title. That would have been like a free title. Only the WBO knows why they gave Isufi a #1 ranking with their organization. Just looking at Isufi’s resume, it’s hard to even considered him worthy of a bottom dwelling spot at #15 in the WBO’s rankings. For the WBO to have given Isufi the #1 spot in their super middleweight rankings, it’s mind-boggling.
“Golovkin, Lemieux,” Hearn said when asked who the next mandatory challenger is for WBO middleweight champion Andrade.
Gennady Golovkin might be the one that ends up fighting Andrade for the WBO middleweight title in the spring or summer.