Billy Joe Saunders’ father insists his son’s fight with pound-for-pound superstar Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez will not go ahead due to a dispute over the size of the ring for the super-middleweight unification bout.
Canelo is set to put his WBC and WBA titles on the line against undefeated WBO champion Saunders at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas on Saturday.
Throughout the build-up, Saunders has highlighted perceived injustices he will face against the Mexican icon, who will be backed by a partisan crowd on Cinco de Mayo weekend.
The Briton, who is a former middleweight world champion and boasts a 30-0 professional record, stated he will start the fight “three rounds down” on the judges scorecards and recently accused promoter Eddie Hearn of favouring a Canelo victory.
Heavyweight champion Tyson Fury, who has travelled to attend the fight and is a close friend of Saunders’, accused Canelo’s team of “trying a lot of tricks” and urged them to “play fair” in an Instagram video.
The dispute over the ring size call to mind Fury’s own objections to what he felt was an excessively padded canvas, which was subsequently changed, before he upset Wladimir Klitschko in 2015.
However, Tom Saunders appeared to escalate matters beyond mere pre-fight mind games by telling iFL TV that he and his son were ready to return home on Tuesday if they could find suitable flights.
“There’s nothing in the contract about the ring size, it’s all negotiations and the negotiations have broken down,” he said.
“Canelo has put an 18-foot ring, which I think is an amateur ring, that’s the fight ring.
“[Canelo’s] gameplan was to fight in a 20-foot ring. We wanted a 24-foot ring, we’ve come down to a 22-foot ring.
“We’ve spoken to them this morning, they’ve said it’s either 20-foot or book your flights home.
“Unfortunately, we apologise to all the fans around the world… I can’t let my son box in a 20-foot ring against Canelo Alvarez on Santo de Meo [sic] weekend.
“We’ve give in to a lot of stuff here but this we can’t give in to. They’re trying to take his legs away, the fight will not be fair. Fight’s off.”
The fight is scheduled to take place under the auspices of the Texas Department of Licensing & Regulation (TDLR), whose regulations state rings must be “no smaller than 16 feet square and no larger than 32 feet square within the ropes”.
Saunders has fought 28 of his 30 professional contests on home soil and British Boxing Board of Control regulations stipulate rings must be sized between 16 and 20 feet square – facts that make his camp’s cries of foul play in this instance feel somewhat far-fetched.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if they’ve got some late substitute they’re going to dig out from somewhere, but it’s all a big con, people,” Tom Saunders continued.
“If you’ve bought tickets, ask for your money back because all you’re going to see is a bum in there with Canelo and Canelo having a sparring session.”
Although this episode is likely to lead to Saunders’ stomach for arguably the toughest assignment in boxing being questioned, his father thinks Canelo is the man running scared.
“I don’t think he wants to fight Billy Joe,” he added. “I think he’s seen a few clips of Billy Joe and I don’t think he fancies it. He wants a sure thing and Billy Joe’s not a sure thing.
“We can’t give Billy Joe’s legs away. That’s what’s going to win this fight.”