Billy Joe Saunders admitted that his performance Saturday night doesn’t warrant what would be the biggest fight of his career.
Saunders hopes, however, that Canelo Alvarez saw so much vulnerability in him during his 11th-round stoppage of Marcelo Coceres that the Mexican superstar will want to face Saunders next. Opposing Saunders would afford Alvarez an opportunity to win the WBO super middleweight title.
The 29-year-old Alvarez (53-1-2, 36 KOs), who knocked out Sergey Kovalev in the 11th round a week ago, hasn’t determined whether he’ll remain at light heavyweight or move back down to super middleweight or middleweight for his next fight. Alvarez stopped England’s Rocky Fielding for the WBA’s secondary super middleweight title last December 15 at Madison Square Garden, but Saunders pointed out that Alvarez’s 168-pound championship victory is illegitimate.
“Canelo Alvarez, listen, if you wanna become four-weight world champion – you’re not four-weight, you’re only three, because you wasn’t the ‘super’ WBA champion – take me while you think I’m spent,” Saunders told DAZN’s Chris Mannix following his win at Staples Center in Los Angeles. “Take me now, because you know, this is the time to take me next. I want Canelo Alvarez, and to give the fans a big fight – win, lose or draw. Canelo Alvarez, you’re a great fighter. I respect ya; you’ve done good things for boxing.”
Besides beating Fielding, Alvarez has won world titles at junior middleweight (WBA, WBC), middleweight (IBF, WBA, WBC) and light heavyweight (WBO).
When he stopped Fielding (27-2, 15 KOs), another Brit, Callum Smith, was recognized as the WBA’s true super middleweight champion. Smith (26-0, 19 KOs) knocked out Fielding in the first round of their November 2015 bout in Liverpool.
On Saturday night, Saunders (29-0, 14 KOs) knocked down Argentina’s Coceres (28-1-1, 15 KOs) three times in the 11th round. Saunders was consistently listed as a 100-1 favorite over his unbeaten, unknown challenger, but Coceres surprisingly made their scheduled 12-rounder very competitive prior to the 11th round.
“Look, there’s no excuse,” Saunders said of his U.S. debut. “That performance [is] not worthy of the Canelos, the Jacobs and the other big names. I came here five days before [the fight]. I’m not making excuses, but I knew, in my own heart, from round nine I have to get this man out of there. I thought I have to get him out because my timing were off, my head movement were off. Everything was just off tonight. It’s just one of them nights. I won, but you know, I wanted to impress the American crowd. I hope you enjoyed the knockout, because that’s the only thing I can give you tonight. So, thank you very much.”
Saunders made the first defense of the WBO super middleweight title he won nearly six months ago.
The 30-year-old Saunders won the then-unclaimed WBO 168-pound championship by out-boxing Serbia’s Shefat Isufi (27-4-2, 20 KOs) in that 12-rounder. He won a unanimous decision May 18 in Stevenage, England.
Coceres fought as a full-fledged super middleweight for the first time in his seven-year pro career. He also boxed by far his best opponent, but he gave a commendable account of himself versus Saunders and managed to make their fight tight.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.