Undoubtedly one of the biggest and most eagerly anticipated fights of the year, Saul Canelo Alvarez takes on Billy Joe Saunders in what could be one of his toughest bouts to date. This is one contest nobody wants to miss, yet it almost fell apart before both boxers had even stepped into the ring.
Alvarez is aiming to make another stride towards dominance of the super middleweight division, seeking to become the undisputed champion. The Mexican currently holds the WBA, WBC, and The Ring titles. Victory against British boxer Saunders would land him the WBO title, although this promises to be a genuine duel of titans.
Looking at the latest pre-fight betting, Canelo Alvarez v Billy Joel Saunders odds at 3/25 are strongly in favour of the 30-year-old Mexican, yet there will be no underestimating the 31-year-old Briton, valued at 5/1 odds. Both have every incentive to win, potentially setting up a next bout against American fighter Callum Smith, who holds the IBF super middleweight title.
Nevertheless, just days before the scheduled 8th May date for the fight at the AT&T Stadium, in Arlington, Texas, there was genuine concern it might not go ahead. Saunders refused to attend his first media obligation of the week, then claimed the triple title bout was off. His camp was unhappy about the size of the boxing ring.
Tom Saunders, father of the British boxer, even threatened to withdraw his son from the fight. The Alvarez camp had initially wanted an 18ft ring, then later agreed to up the size to 20ft. The Saunders camp remained unhappy, believing that Alvarez wanted a smaller-sized ring to limit the movement of his rival.
According to rules established by the Texas Department for Licensing and Regulation, a professional boxing ring must be a minimum of 16ft square, whilst not exceeding a size of 32ft square within the ropes. As boxing fans will be keenly aware, contrasting fighting styles can often influence the outcome of bouts.
Despite being considered the underdog, free boxing betting tips have highlighted Saunders as a fighter who likes to move around the ring, whereas Alvarez can often be more static, standing his ground. Clearly, a smaller-sized ring would be more advantageous to Alvarez, while at the same time restrictive for Saunders.
“The truth is, I don’t care about the size of the ring. I will just go in there and do my job,” Alvarez later told reporters. Upon seeing those comments, Saunders reacted by suggesting he was “pleased the issue is sorted” via Instagram. Nevertheless, there was no indication as to the eventual size of the ring.
Undefeated in 30 professional bouts, there has been speculation this could all have been mind games by Saunders, aiming to unsettle Alvarez, who has lost just one of his 58 contests. The Mexican is used to getting his own way, whenever it comes to setting the terms of his fights with promoters. However, the Briton appeared unwilling to back down over this issue.
Regardless of the ring size, which has caused plenty of tension leading into the final pre-fight hours, this promises to be a truly fascinating bout between two great boxers. Even though Alvarez is expected to continue his march to further super middleweight glory, Saunders is more than capable of causing an upset in Texas.