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BJ Saunders Pursues Another World Title on Saturday if He Doesn’t Implode First

Arne K. Lang

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Saunders

Dominic Breazeale, who challenges WBC world heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder on Saturday, has adopted the nickname “Trouble.” The moniker would be a better fit for former WBO world middleweight champion Billy Joe Saunders who returns to the ring earlier that day with Shefat Isufi in the opposite corner. Trouble has blistered Saunders since his amateur days.

There’s no question that Billy Joe is a highly skilled practitioner of the so-called manly art. He represented Great Britain in the Beijing Olympics at the tender age of 18. He won European, British, and British Commonwealth titles before winning the WBO version of the world middleweight title. In his last significant bout, he gave the redoubtable David Lemieux a boxing lesson on Lemieux’s turf in Quebec. His record as a pro is unblemished (27-0, 13 KOs). But incidents outside the ring have cost him his belt and branded him a boorish lout.

After losing his second round matchup in the Beijing Olympics, Saunders was sent home when a video surfaced of him behaving lewdly with a Frenchwoman at his hotel in France where the British team was domiciled in preparation for the games. More recently, Saunders was shown harassing a 37-year-old female crack cocaine addict in a video leaked to a British tabloid.

The incident unfolded in September of last year. Saunders, sitting behind the wheel of his Rolls Royce, offers the woman $150 worth of cocaine if she will assault a passerby and perform a sex act on one of his companions. She responds by slapping a stranger, whereupon Saunders speeds away.

This was all in jest and Saunders would later apologize for what he termed “harmless banter.” But the British Boxing Board of Control wasn’t amused. Calling the incident disgusting, they hit Saunders with a $100,000 fine for “bringing the sport into disrepute.”

Saunders, the great-grandson of a famous bare knuckle fighter, is a member of the Irish Traveler community. He is believed to be a distant relative of Tyson Fury with whom he now trains. They recently purchased matching red Ferraris.

Irish Travelers tend to grow up fast. The boys invariably leave school early and enter the workforce at a tender age, usually in some form of construction work such as paving streets. The girls tend to marry young and begin childbearing while still in their teens.

Saunders, 29, appears to be fast-tracking his 10-year-old son Stevie into adulthood. The boy was recently filmed driving his father’s new Ferrari around a car park (i.e. a Travelers compound). Proud Papa uploaded the film to his son’s Instagram page.

This wasn’t the first time that young Stevie made the news. In September of 2017, at the weigh-in in London for Saunders’ bout with Willie Monroe Jr, the kid went and kicked Monroe in the balls. Most of those in attendance, although certainly not Monroe, found this quite amusing.

Since dethroning middleweight titlist Andy Lee, a fellow Traveler, Billy Joe has been relatively inactive. His bout on Saturday will be only his fifth in the last 42 months.

Some of this inactivity can be blamed on bad luck. Title defenses against Ukraine’s Max Bursak and countryman Martin Murray were put on the backburner and eventually cancelled when he suffered injuries in training. But he has only himself to blame for his lost fight with Demetrius Andrade.

Saunders vs. Andrade was all set for Oct. 20 of last year in Boston. But when a random VADA test turned up a banned stimulant, the Massachusetts Athletic Commission refused to grant Saunders a license, killing the match. He, in turn, vacated his title, a proactive move as the WBO was expected to strip him of it.

Andrade subsequently won the belt. His forthcoming match with Maciej Sulecki in June will be his second title defense. As for Saunders, his only action since vacating the title was a stay-busy fight in December that was buried on the undercard of the Frampton-Warrington show in Manchester. Saunders weighed in at a flabby 178 pounds but his opponent, a 41-year-old Namibian, graciously surrendered after four rounds.

The WBO then resurrected the Saunders-Andrade fight, deeming Saunders the mandatory challenger. But Billy Joe would have none of it. Instead he made it known that he would henceforth campaign as a super middleweight and his promoter Frank Warren then went out and matched him with little known Shefat Isufi, a Munich-based Syrian, potting the fight at a soccer stadium in Stevenage, Hertfordshire, near Saunders boyhood home.

The WBO anointed Saunders-Isufi an interim world title fight which meant that the winner would go on to meet the organization’s 168-pound title holder, Gilberto Ramirez. But then Ramirez vacated the belt to compete as a light heavyweight and, presto, the WBO dropped the interim tag to rake in a higher sanctioning fee.

Has Shefat Isufi (27-3-2) earned the right to fight for a world title? That’s a rhetorical question, of course, and needless to say, with so many alphabet straps up for grabs, rhetorical questions of this nature get asked a lot.

Assuming that he doesn’t do something stupid that torpedoes the match, Billy Joe Saunders will win this fight. The only question is which Billy Joe will show up, the Billy Joe that looked like a common journeyman in his dull title defense against Artur Akavov or the Billy Joe that looked almost Lomachenko-like against David Lemieux?

From a financial standpoint, moving up to the 168-pound weight class looks like a smart move. The top dogs in the middleweight division – Canelo, GGG, and Daniel Jacobs – appear to be heading there so Saunders is ahead of the curve. But it would be premature to analyze those potential matchups. With Billy Joe Saunders, one never knows what tomorrow will hold.

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Looking at the Heavyweight Calendar (Odds Review)

Miguel Iturrate

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Joshua vs Ruiz

This past Saturday night saw Deontay Wilder’s WBC world heavyweight title defense against Dominic Breazeale go down on Showtime. The fight lasted just 137 seconds as Wilder floored Breazeale with a cannonball of a right hand to end the night early.

With Wilder out of the way, Anthony Joshua vs Andy Ruiz Jr is up next. They meet June 1st at Madison Square Garden. Two weeks later, on the 15th of June, ESPN+ will deliver Tyson Fury vs Tom Schwarz, so fight fans will get a look at all three members of the “Big Three” all in a month’s time.

Wilder’s erasure of Breazeale this past weekend sent a message to the rest of the division as well as giving him a highlight reel to show during upcoming negotiations. Wilder entered a strong -1000 favorite at the sportsbooks for this fight.

Check out our pre-fight review of the Wilder vs Breazeale odds right here at TSS –

http://tss.ib.tv/boxing/featured-articles/57588-wilder-vs-breazeale-odds-review

Looking forward, the odds posted for Joshua and Fury’s upcoming tussles are even less competitive. Let’s take a look at what the books are giving us as we await the two big Brits fighting in the USA.

Madison Square Garden – New York City – Saturday, June 1, 2019

Heavyweight 12 rounds –

Andy Ruiz Jr +1500 Over 6½ +100

Anthony Joshua -3000 Under 6½ -130

Ruiz Jr is 32-1 overall with his lone loss coming at the hands of Joseph Parker in a failed WBO world title bid. That same WBO belt is now in the hands of Joshua as are the WBA and IBF belts.

Joshua was a big favorite over Jarrell Miller, his original opponent, who was denied a license in New York after testing positive for a buffet of steroids. Ruiz Jr took the fight with less than a full training camp, but you have to believe that he is going to come in highly motivated. Ruiz Jr has been caught at a different type of buffet, the all-you-can-eat kind, but even when in the best of shape his body type isn’t “poster boy material.” Miller was big and bulky as well, but he was a near 300 pounder whereas Ruiz Jr will come in between 250 and 260 pounds, which is right around Joshua’s size. Rather than slaying a 300-pound giant, he is facing a guy who is shorter and fatter than him, making it very hard for Joshua to look great on paper.

At +1500 will people bite on Ruiz Jr? He is more experienced than Miller and he is probably a better fighter overall and though he is facing a formidable champion, Joshua is not a finished product. Perhaps Joshua will be chasing an early finish, feeling the pressure of Wilder’s performance, and if so will he make a mistake that Ruiz can exploit? We are roughly 10 days from finding out.

MGM Grand Garden – Las Vegas, Nevada – Saturday, June 15, 2019

Heavyweight 12 rounds –

Tom Schwarz +1800 Over 9½ -105

Tyson Fury -3600 Under 9½ -125

Tyson Fury closes out the run of top heavyweights with a very deliberately chosen showcase fight against Tom Schwarz. Schwarz is 24 years old and 24-0 but he is a fighter who has come up on the regional German scene and as the old boxing cliche goes, there are levels to this game.

Former contender David Haye mounted a 2016 comeback, booking fights against Mark De Mori (30-1-2) and Arnold Gjergjaj (29-0). It took Haye precisely 6:42 to dispose of both of them, and though Fury is a completely different beast than Haye, the level difference between he and Schwarz may be even as striking.

Wilder has gotten through his “challenge” and if Fury and Joshua also emerge as winners as expected, it will leave several open questions –

– Will Fury vs Wilder 2 happen first, or will Wilder vs Joshua go down first? Could Joshua and Fury meet and freeze Wilder out?

And….

– Will we see any of these fights take place in 2019?

If Joshua or Fury stumble, it will only add to the chaos in the heavyweight division. But if the professional oddsmakers know anything, it isn’t likely to happen.

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Three Punch Combo: An Early Look at Inoue-Donaire and Under the Radar Fights

Matt Andrzejewski

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Inoue vs Donaire

THREE PUNCH COMBO — This past Saturday, Naoya Inoue (18-0, 16 KO’s) punched his ticket to the bantamweight final in the World Boxing Super Series when he impressively knocked out Emmanuel Rodriguez in the second round of their scheduled 12-round fight. The win sets up a showdown with veteran Nonito Donaire (40-5, 26 KO’s) who punched his ticket to the final with an impressive knockout of Stephon Young last month.

As expected, Inoue has opened as a monstrous favorite in the betting markets. While this suggests a one-sided wipeout, I have some other thoughts.

Inoue is pound for pound one of, if not the, hardest puncher in the sport today and put that power on full display in his destruction of Rodriguez in the semi-finals. But having enormous power does not make him indestructible.

In watching that fight against Rodriguez, there were clearly flaws on display on the defensive side of Inoue’s game. For one, Inoue does not move his head at all and as such can be hit. Rodriguez landed several clean punches on Inoue in the first round. And Inoue frequently keeps his hands low looking to bait opponents into throwing to set up counter opportunities. It has worked so far but could be something he pays for down the road.

Donaire is a smart and skilled fighter and though he is 36, his last few fights have shown that he still has plenty left in the tank. Moreover, he possesses one thunderous left hook and has always been at his best when fighting below 122. He has all the capabilities to expose Inoue’s flaws and a left hook that can alter the course of a fight as we have seen him doing plenty of times in the past.

Unlike a lot of people, I do not consider Donaire to be another layup for Inoue. There is real danger in this fight for Inoue if he does not make changes to his game. Donaire has starched big punching rising stars before and I would not discount his chances to expose the significant defensive flaws in Inoue’s game.

 Under The Radar Fight

Boxing returns to ESPN on Saturday with a card from Kissimmee, FL headlined by 130- pound champion Masayuki Ito (25-1-1, 13 KO’s) who is making the second defense of his title against former US Olympian Jamel Herring (19-2, 10 KO’s). While I think this should be an excellent fight, the co-feature, which is flying deep under the radar, should be even better.

In this fight, former two division world champion Jose Pedraza (25-2, 12 KO’s) makes his return to the ring after losing his lightweight title to Vasiliy Lomachenko in December to face Antonio Lozada (40-2-1, 34 KO’s). Given their respective styles, this fight at the very least will provide plenty of sustained action.

Appropriately nicknamed “The Sniper,” Pedraza at his best is a precision puncher. A boxer-puncher by trade, he uses subtle movement inside the ring to create angles that are used to land sharp power shots on his opposition. He is also a very good inside fighter and will shift around on the inside to once again set up just the right angle to land his power shots with maximum efficiency. But despite being a good inside fighter, Pedraza has a tendency to stay in the pocket a bit too long which leaves him open to getting hit.

Lozada is best known for his upset TKO win against one-time blue-chip prospect Felix Verdejo in March of 2018. However, he failed to build momentum off that win and is coming off a lackluster split draw his last time out to 12-7-1 journeyman Hector Ruben Ambriz Suarez.

Lozada certainly does not have the technical proficiency of Pedraza. He is slow and plodding. But what he does bring to the table is relentless pressure combined with a high volume of punches. He will press forward, recklessly at times, winging punches consistently hoping to wear down his opposition through attrition.  As such, he tends to get hit a lot and can be involved in shootouts.

Cleary, Pedraza is the more skilled fighter, but given Lozada’s all-offensive mindset as well as Pedraza’s willingness to stay in the pocket, the leather is all but guaranteed to be flying from the opening bell. Neither are big punchers either so I suspect we see a fight that goes rounds providing many exciting exchanges and one that could certainly steal the show on Saturday.

Another Under The Radar Fight

Also on Saturday, Fox Sports 1 will televise a card from Biloxi, MS featuring a crossroads fight between former 154-pound champion Austin Trout (31-5, 17 KO’s) and former US Olympian Terrell Gausha (21-1, 10 KO’s). But it is another 154-pound fight on the undercard that is receiving almost no coverage that I want to highlight. It pits Chordale Booker (14-0, 7 KO’s) against Wale Omotoso (27-3, 21 KO’s).

Booker turned pro in 2016 after a successful amateur career and has kept up a fairly busy schedule. He is coming off a dominating 8-round unanimous decision over veteran Juan De Angel in January and now is taking a big jump up in his caliber of opposition in facing Omotoso.

Booker, a southpaw, likes to press forward behind a stinging right jab. He possesses elite level hand speed and likes to use that jab to set up quick power punching combinations. Booker is also an excellent counter puncher and possesses a very potent right hook coming from that southpaw stance. He will often hold his left low to bait his opponents into opening up to set up counter opportunities. However, he has also been clipped by his share of left hooks fighting in this manner and this is something he will need to tighten up against Omotoso. So just how will Booker respond to Omotoso’s pressure and heavy handed body attack? Depending on the answer, we will either see Booker step up to the next level or get exposed. And that’s what makes this fight so intriguing to me

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Serhii Bohachuk KOs Mexico’s Freddy Hernandez in Hollywood

David A. Avila

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in Hollywood

HOLLYWOOD, Calif.-Super welterweight prospect Serhii Bohachuk got his first taste of upper tier boxing from Mexico’s Freddy Hernandez and gave him his best Sunday punch to win by knockout.

Bohachuk (14-0, 14 KOs) showed the excited Hollywood crowd he’s more than ready for former world title challengers like Hernandez (34-11, 22 KOs) or maybe even the current contenders with an exuberant display of pressure fighting at the Avalon Theater.

The smiling Ukrainian fighter has been steadily attracting fans to the 360 Promotions fight cards.

Trained by Abel Sanchez, the lanky and pale Bohachuk – whose nickname “El Flaco” fits perfectly – always moved forward against Mexico City’s Hernandez who has made a reputation of being crafty despite the strength of competition. With Bohachuk constantly applying pressure the Mexican fighter used the first round to touch and feel his way around the Ukrainian bomber.

In the second round a sharp counter right floored Hernandez who quickly got up and resumed the contest. It looked like the end was near until Hernandez caught Bohachuk with a solid right cross. It was a warning shot well heeded by Bohachuk.

Both fighters exchanged vigorously in the third round with the Ukrainian fighter’s youth a definite advantage. Hernandez was able to display his fighting tools more effectively in the third round but could it be enough?

Bohachuk was clearly the heavier-handed fighter but was finding it difficult to connect solidly against the Mexican veteran. But in the fifth round Bohachuk lowered his gun sights and targeted the body with a left hook that dropped Hernandez.  The fight was stopped by referee Wayne Hedgepeth at 1:40 of the fifth round.

Other Bouts

A battle of super featherweights saw Rialto, California’s Adrian Corona (5-0) rally from behind to defeat Florida’s Canton Miller (3-3-1) by split decision after six rounds.

Corona had problems with Miller’s speed in the first two rounds and was unable to track the moving fighter’s direction. But in the third round Corona began to apply more aggressive measures against Miller and was especially effective with lead rights. The momentum changed quickly.

Miller switched from orthodox to southpaw and it served to pause Corona’s momentum, but he seldom scored with solid blows. Though Miller landed quick soft blows, Corona was landing with strong shots and convinced two of the three judges that he was the winner by 58-56 twice. A third judge saw Miller the victor by the same score 58-56.

“It’s not my job to judge the judges,” said Miller. “It’s my job to just fight.”

Corona was happy with the victory.

“I could have put the pressure on him a little more,” said Corona. “It was a very technical fight and he put on a great fight.”

Other Bouts

George Navarro (6-0-1, 2 KOs) knocked out Cesar Sustaita (3-5) with a perfect overhand right that disabled the senses and forced referee Raul Caiz Jr. to halt the fight at 1:37 of the first round.

“I worked hard to prepare for this fight,” said Navarro.

A super bantamweight clash saw Humberto Rubalcava (10-1, 7 KOs) knock out Daniel Constantino (3-3-2) and win by knockout after a flurry of a dozen blows went unanswered. Referee Angel Mendez stopped the battering at 1:39 of the first round.

Photo credit: Al Applerose

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