WBO World Middleweight Champion Billy Joe Saunders has an April 30th title defense coming up against Max Bursak at the Copper Box in London. For Saunders, it will be the first defense of the belt he took from Andy Lee back in December of last year and he enters the fight a wide -1200 betting favorite, with Bursak returning at +775.
Should Billy Joe Saunders get by this April date with his belt as expected, Saunders could see himself coming in right behind division top-guns Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin at the top of the Middleweight division. Saunders will be a man with options, some very lucrative, and it will be interesting to see in which direction he goes.
Saunders is 23-0 and at 26 years old he has a bright future. For the American public who may not be too familiar with Saunders, he comes from a similar “traveler” family background as Tyson Fury, and he represented Great Britain at the 2008 London Olympics. He has a good following in England, and as such, he will likely defend the belt at home on most occasions, drawing the opponents in with the promise of a payday.
In the build up to the upcoming Bursak fight, Saunders has been talking about facing Gennady Golovkin sometime in the summer. If he is serious, the fight will likely go down because a fight in the United Kingdom is going to be very lucrative for Golovkin. But Saunders has talked Golovkin before. Though the American market still commands the most attention and respect and dishes out the biggest paydays, the British market has several factors that allow it to compete including a much more fervent, die hard audience, the access to 80,000 seat soccer stadiums and the strength of the pound. For a one time deal, Golovkin could make a fortune.
Even before Saunders' recent chatter, during the build-up to the match with Andy Lee that saw Saunders emerge with the world title, Saunders’ already had a reputation as a “talker”. He is not quite as brash as Tyson Fury, but that is the type of confidence Saunders has in what he does. That he is still completely unproven on a world level does not appear to faze him.
WBA World Middleweight Champion Daniel Jacobs attended the Saunders-Lee fight, and had Lee won, a showdown with Jacobs was considered practically a done deal. Saunders deserves credit for spoiling Lee’s party, but Saunders rarely mentioned Jacobs as a potential dance partner in the aftermath. Jacobs last fought four months ago, and he has nothing on the schedule to this day. He also ranked ahead of Saunders by the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and a match between the two would introduce Saunders to the American market. Billy Joe however, does not seem interested.
Though he doesn’t have much to say about Jacobs, he did call out Golovkin after winning the belt. It was enough to get the Kazakh head-hunter's attention, but Saunders quickly made himself irrelevant by asking for 5 million pounds and Golovkin opted for his mandatory challenge against Dominic Wade on April 23rd. Saunders signed to fight Bursak, and the rest is history.
Until this past week when Saunders went ahead and mentioned Golovkin again. The appeal of a fight in England, champion vs champion, could potentially fill a stadium and would certainly be a big draw. The summer date with Golovkin was on Saunders' mind. Is he serious, or is he just talking?
Saunders will have choices. A re-match with rival Chris Eubank Jr would be big money, and Eubank Jr brings with him an “interim” belt to his WBO belt. The first bout resulted in a narrow split decision win for Saunders, who faired better in the early going before fading so the second generation fighter is most certainly a threat. Still, he is no Golovkin.
There was no real reason to bring up Golovkin’s name yet again, especially if Saunders is not serious about fighting him. The bottom line is Golovkin is the top gun in the division and Saunders has the capability of drawing him into a fight on his home turf. No one else has that advantage, and Saunders has talked about invoking it.
Interestingly, the date of Triple G’s next fight is a week before Saunders fights with Bursak, which would leave their calendars in synchronicity for an August or September showdown. Now Saunders has to take it beyond talk or risk turning into the British version of Juergen Braehmer. He has to make the fight happen.