By Steven Donnell
For a few years now I have been on the Billy Joe Saunders hype train. I mean, how could you not love a man who “skooled” Chris Eubank Jnr and then had no problem rubbing it in his face at every opportunity? So when I heard Saunders was coming to my hometown of Paisley, I was buzzing as I was going to get to see the man himself after a 12-month absence from the ring due to injury, or if you believe some of the rumours it was due to him just not being arsed.
Donnell disappointed after Saunders’ laboured WBO title defence
Saunders’ opponent was Artur Akavov, an unknown who I had never heard of (I had even called him a bum before the fight and openly slated the guy on twitter) but I was willing to give Saunders a pass on this fight just to see him back in the ring and putting on a show. As both men entered the ring, I was already planning where my friends and I were going after the fight and whether we should order a taxi as this wasn’t going to last long. But halfway through the first round, that didn’t look like it was going to be the case. Billy looked to be struggling with guy who looked, well to be honest, very basic.
Akavov you could tell had very limited ability but was a pressure fighter. He just seemed to keep charging forward swinging. Granted he was missing most of the time but he was forcing Saunders onto the ropes and even more worryingly, Saunders wasn’t countering these wild swings for the first four or five rounds from what I could see. That famous Saunders jab was nowhere to be seen and Billy really did look to be in trouble. All the credit in the world has to go to Akavov for that – this guy had balls and came to fight. To be fair to Saunders he did get better as the fight went on, but at the end of the 12th round I thought Akavov had done enough to dethrone Saunders but obviously that was never going to happen. Not here in the UK, anyway, where we witness some of the worst decisions in boxing today. These judges made sure that Billy left with his belt but his pride must have been bruised and battered.
So what’s next for Billy Joe Saunders?
Well Billy is at a crossroads for me and here is why: there are some massive fights out there for Billy, like Canelo Alvarez and GGG yet I have serious doubts as to whether he has the hunger and the desire to make them. Billy has to ask himself if he wants to be a professional or part-time boxer and decide if he want to keep his World Title and get these big fights made or does he want to lose it to a nobody like Akavov? Billy is at a stage of his career where he can’t be going up to 210lbs as it is killing him to get back down to 160lbs and every time he does this, a bit of him will go with it. Am I saying Saunders is finished? Absolutely not! For me Billy Joe Saunders is still one of the best talents in the UK but Saturday night was a sign of things to come if he doesn’t change his ways.
Steven Donnell @Dinobhoy86
Photo Credit: Getty Images