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Buncey’s BOXXER Bulletin: Cinco de Mayo Showdown

In this week’s column, presented by RDX Sports, veteran columnist Steve Bunce looks ahead to the much-anticipated clash between pound-for-pound king Canelo Álvarez and British technician Billy Joe Saunders, in what is the biggest fight of the year so far.

As many as 70,000 fans will watch Saúl “Canelo” Álvarez fight Billy-Joe Saunders in Texas at the AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas on Saturday night.

It will feel like business as usual for the Mexican idol: a British boxer in the opposite corner for the seventh time and a new world title up for grabs. 

Saunders brings his WBO super-middleweight belt to the fight and an unbeaten record – Canelo delivers the WBC and WBA versions. He also delivers the fans, the publicity – and the money.

This fight is a massive task for Saunders, make no mistake. 

Saunders was a genuine medal hope at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and is still only 31. He is unbeaten in 30 professional fights and was the British, Commonwealth and European middleweight champion before winning the world middleweight championship, followed by winning the super-middleweight version in 2019. 

He has dominated so many fights, barely losing a round. However, against Canelo he starts as a big, big underdog.

Billy Joe Saunders (right) starts as the heavy underdog, despite his unbeaten record as a professional / Credit: Getty Images

He is part of a tradition of British boxers traveling to exotic locations for fights they are expected to lose. I’m reminded of Joe Bugner in a world heavyweight title fight with Muhammad Ali in Kuala Lumpur in 1975 and Gary Lockett against middleweight king Kelly Pavlik in Atlantic City in 2008.

But those are extremes: nobody forgets an Ali loss and everybody forgets a loss to a man like Pavlik. The list of Álvarez victims falls somewhere in the middle and Saunders deserves a bit more, to be honest.

“I’m not getting the respect I deserve and that doesn’t bother me,” says Saunders. “I’m here to win the fight and not a popularity contest.”

Saunders is always honest and he is not against upsetting people on both sides of the ropes. There has been plenty of friction in the months, weeks and days before this fight and that will continue until the first bell sounds and the pair are left in the centre of the ring. 

It is likely to continue even then. Saunders knows just how dirty Álvarez can be in a fight.

Saunders is determined not to be added to the list of brave British fighters that have lost in world title fights on the road. He insists that he is not here to make up the numbers.

“Álvarez knows that this will be a hard, hard fight,” said Saunders. “I can tell – he’s not stupid.”

So far, Álvarez has made easy work of six British boxers since 2011: Matthew Hatton, Ryan Rhodes, Amir Khan, Liam Smith, Rocky Fielding and Callum Smith all lost in world title fights. It has been a wicked and nasty history in many ways.

Álvarez has fought 58 times, lost just once and has won world titles at four weights. All this, and still just 30 years of age. He is boxing’s highest-paid performer, the man who pulls the strings and sets the agenda. 

In a cash business, Canelo Álvarez has the keys to the bank and he has them for a reason – he is the best at his craft.

Canelo Álvarez is considered one of the best fighters of his generation / Credit: DAZN

On the undercard, Kieron Conway defends his WBA intercontinental light-middle title belt against unbeaten Souleymane Cissokho. Conway was the favourite in BOXXER 3, back in May of 2019, but lost to eventual champion Derrick Osaze. Just one month later, Conway drew with Ted Cheeseman over 12 rounds for the British light-middleweight title.

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