Media outlets throughout England reported earlier this week that Frank Warren’s boxing event scheduled for the Copper Box Arena on April 30th has lost the main event fight. WBO World Middleweight titleholder Billy Joe Saunders has had to pull out of the scheduled fight with Max Bursak due to an injury to his left hand sustained while sparring.
Saunders won the WBO title last December with a majority decision victory over Andy Lee at the Manchester Arena. This April 30th fight was scheduled to be Saunders’ first title defense.
The good news is that the injury will not require surgery. Saunders stated that he was advised not to use the hand, giving it a few weeks of rest.
The bad news is that it is now unclear when we will see Saunders fight again and against whom. Saunders would have entered a big favorite versus Bursak; he was widely criticized for settling on Bursak as an opponent after doing a great deal of talking in the media. The match is apprently being scrapped and not rescheduled for a later day, and the original April 30th show is reportedly still going to go on, now with heavyweight Hughie Fury serving as the main event. Fury will oppose Fred Kassi. A 36-year-old native of Cameroon who currently lives in New Orleans, Kassi is 18-4-1 (10 KOs).
Saunders will now be looking for a “big fight”. After winning the world title, the undefeated 23-0 Saunders stated he was looking forward to a big 2016, but this injury is a setback. Saunders will likely not be back in the ring now until the June or July timeframe.
Saunders was all over the boxing news and indeed the British mainstream news as he challenged middleweight kingpin Gennady Golovkin. Saunders has been linked to a big fight with Golovkin ever since, since it is believed that BJ and his British sponsors would be able to put together a financial package that would lure “Triple G” to the U.K.
Another fighter in the running for Saunders’ next opponent is Brit Chris Eubank Jr. The pair have a well documented rivalry, and Saunders won their first bout by Majority Decision back in November of 2014. Eubank Jr has since gone on to win an interim world title and the British title, and the rematch would be a big money fight in the U.K.
Certainly Saunders will wait and see what happens on April 23rd when Gennady Golovkin faces Dominic Wade. It is almost a formality that Golovkin is going to win that fight, so look for Saunders to pump up the “Triple G” rhetoric in the next few weeks. The official negotiating period starts April 24th.