Coming into a fight of this magnitude with only three fights in the last two years, and against opponents significantly lower in class than Canelo, is far from ideal.
I would have liked to have seen Billy more active and fighting some of the top guys in the division before taking this fight, which is a big jump up from the level he’s been performing at.
Canelo Alvarez and Billy Joe Saunders face off in a blockbuster unification fight on Saturday
Saunders believes he will become only the second man to defeat the Mexican great
If there’s one man in the super-middleweight division capable of pulling it off though it would be Saunders. No one else at 168lbs is better equipped than him to get the job done.
He’s a slick southpaw with lightning fast hands, athletic mobility and outstanding ring IQ – which is everything Canelo has historically struggled against.
I’ve been privileged enough to witness Billy fight first-hand and he’s a remarkable talent.
I was in the corner with Adam Booth for the Andy Lee fight six years ago now and I saw then just how good he was. He blew me away with his performance that night, which I still think trumps the one he gave when he beat David Lemieux back in 2017.
I saw him spar four rounds in the gym as well a couple of years ago. He was so badly out of shape at the time but he was brilliant to watch even then.
Saunders is a slick southpaw and certainly possesses the tools and skillset to win the fight
He showed against Andy Lee that he is a world-class boxer when he won his first world title
I’ve never had any doubts about his ability but – and there has to be a but – there’s a few things that have got me worried for Saturday night.
Saunders will be looking at the fights against Erislandy Lara, Austin Trout and Floyd Mayweather as the blueprint to beat Canelo.
They are all movers and managed to highlight a chink in Canelo’s armour, but it would be foolish to mistake those versions of him for the one who will be standing in front of Saunders on Saturday night.
Canelo has come on leaps and bounds since then and will have only gained valuable experience from those fights.
Yes, they gave him problems but he overcame them to beat Trout and Lara while the defeat against Mayweather would’ve been a great learning curve for him.
But Saunders has not had the activity levels or faced any top-level guys in recent years
While Canelo has been very active and fought at the highest level over the past 18 months
Another thing that concerns me is how active Canelo has been over the last year or two and the level of opposition he has fought, which will give him the edge over Billy.
He’s been going into every camp in tip-top shape so each one has been about improving him as a fighter as opposed to being designed to shift weight.
Now compare that to Billy, who has not fought at the same level as Canelo, hasn’t been anywhere near as active and has ballooned up in weight in between his camps.
It’s no secret that Billy has to strip his body back down every time he fights, and each time you do that you take away percentages from your capabilities.
Billy is going in there against an elite level fighter, not very good, but elite, so he can’t afford to be anything but full tilt.
I just feel like when you’re fighting an elite level guy you have to tick so many boxes in order to win and I’m just not sure the circumstances of this fight are favourable for Billy.
Canelo has also vastly improved since he was given a tough night against Erislandy Lara
TALE OF THE TAPE
Height: 5′ 8″ / 173cm
Reach: 70½″ / 179cm
BILLY JOE SAUNDERS
Height: 5′ 11″ / 180cm
Reach: 71″ / 180cm
I think he’ll give Canelo problems and outbox him early doors and can see him being up after five or six rounds.
But I think it’ll be like when we saw Mayweather box Zab Judah or when Vasyl Lomachenko fought Luke Campbell; it’s quite competitive early on but then you see the difference in levels stretch out down that last half, quarter of the fight and I think that’s what we’re going to get.
Billy does have deceptive power – he’s not a banger but the speed of his counters can do damage – but he doesn’t have enough snap in his punches to stop Canelo in his tracks.
So his only hope is to get a decision. As someone who typically fades in the latter rounds, can he outbox Canelo for the duration of the fight? And is he good enough to win the rounds clearly?
Because he’s going to have to win the rounds so obviously that an excuse can’t be made for Canelo. Because if an excuse can be made for Canelo, then he’ll get the round. That’s just how it is.
Saunders will cause Canelo problems but will ultimately come up short on Saturday night
The game plan for Billy will be to box and move and another challenge for him will be trying to execute those tactics without appearing to be running. If he is seen to be boxing in a negative way, that’s another way he’ll lose out on the rounds.
He’s just got so many things going against him in this fight and ultimately that will be telling.
I think Canelo will come on strong in the second half of the fight and make it very uncomfortable for Billy by targeting the body and constantly pressurizing him.
I can see Canelo either winning on points or he could stop him late. I’d love to be proven wrong though.