The return of Billy Joe Saunders

Billy Joe Saunders a huge favorite

By Vikram Birring


In a situation that would only make sense in boxing, convicted doping offender Billy Joe Saunders is being given a title opportunity at a weight class he has never competed in against a relative unknown.


Saunders (27-0, 13 KOs) was scheduled to face undefeated Demetrius Andrade in October for a 160-pound trinket, but that opportunity went up in smoke after a failed VADA test for a nasal spray. This led to Saunders embarrassingly losing the title without a fight in the ring. Saunders made a triumphant return to the ring last December by stopping one Charles Adamu


Then, instead of trying again at 160 pounds, Saunders decided to go up to 168 when the WBO gave him an interim opportunity against Shefat Isufi.


If you are wondering who Isufi is, join the crowd. All that is known about him is that he is a 29-year-old Serbian boxer based in Germany with a record of 27-3-2. He has won his last ten bouts, but his three losses were to European competition, one to an opponent making his professional debut.


Saunders likely gained this opportunity as a result of promoter Frank Warren’s suspiciously cozy relationship with the WBO. The only positive of this situation is that observers will quickly see how Saunders fares at the new weight and begin to gauge his chances against naturally bigger men like countryman Callum Smith. Warren has also talked of Saunders dropping back down to middleweight to face champion Canelo Alvarez or Gennady Golovkin.


The chances of Isufi, (he’s listed as a 100-1 underdog) of beating Saunders are slim to none. His only advantage, if you can call that, is he might be the naturally bigger fighter.


This is nothing more than a showcase fight for Saunders. Anything is possible but look for Saunders to box his way to a wide decision victory.


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