LOS ANGELES — Big things were expected out of Billy Joe Saunders after his dominant performance against David Lemieux nearly two years ago.
But what was expected to be a pivotal moment in the British fighter’s career became a major hiccup when he tested positive for a banned substance ahead of his WBO middleweight title defense against Demetrius Andrade.
Saunders (28-0, 13 KOs) has since had to work his way back up the ladder with a pair of victories and has plans to inject himself back into the mix in 2020. The first step will be his final fight of 2019 when he faces unheralded Marcelo Esteban Coceres (28-0-1, 15 KOs) on the undercard of the showdown between YouTube celebrities Logan Paul and KSI on Saturday, live on DAZN.
Although there are some who might be miffed at the idea of being on the undercard for a celebrity fight, Saunders realizes what's at stake when it comes to winning back old fans and securing a few new ones along the way.
“I made a lot of mistakes, but now I want my name to be recognized for the right reasons,” Saunders told DAZN. “I’m not gonna let the crowd go away bored.”
The plan is for Saunders to put together an exciting performance, defend his WBO super middleweight title and hunt down the big names between middleweight and light heavyweight. And the one individual he has a target on is none other than Canelo Alvarez.
“That’s the one man I’m after,” Saunders said. “I’m dying to fight him. Maybe I’ll be the one who faces him when he returns on Cinco de Mayo weekend next year.”
Saunders said that while he was impressed with Canelo’s performance against Sergey Kovalev last weekend in Las Vegas, the narrative that he’s a four-division champion doesn’t hold true until he faces him in the 168-pound division.
“He needs to face me if he wants to prove that he’s a true super middleweight champion,” Saunders said. “He’s won legitimate world titles at middleweight and light heavyweight. But Rocky Fielding wasn’t even the real WBA champion when he beat him last year. I am.”
If, for some reason, Canelo isn’t willing to face him at super middleweight, Saunders has no issue moving up to challenge him for his WBO light heavyweight title — he just wouldn’t advise Canelo to go that direction.
“You saw how Canelo fought against Kovalev, and my movement would give him nothing but problems,” Saunders said. “He can’t fight like he did with Kovalev by charging forward and loading up punches against somebody that moves like me. It would be a bad idea.”
Saunders knows that Canelo has plenty of options for his next opponent and is fine with waiting, as long as he gets a significant name on his resume next. He’s open to revisiting his showdown with Demetrius Andrade at 160 pounds but is surprisingly a little leery of a fight with Gennadiy Golovkin.
“I wanted to be the first to beat Golovkin,” Saunders said. “Canelo kind of ruined that for me, so that fight isn’t as big as I wanted it to be.”
Saunders also noted that GGG’s style of “blocking punches with his face” has taken some years off of his career, and that he’s no longer the feared boogeyman of boxing that he once was. And that takes some luster out of a potential fight.
“That fight he had with Derevyanchenko took another few years off of his career,” he said. “He’s clearly lost a step. But I’ll still fight him.”
Canelo, Andrade or Golovkin. Those are the names Saunders has his eye on. He just has to take care of business on Saturday and look forward to what could be a huge 2020.