Billy Joe Saunders Looks to Put Past Behind Him for Upcoming Title Fight
Looking to leave last year’s suspension in the past, Billy Joe Saunders will face Shefat Isufi for the vacant WBO super-middleweight title this weekend.
Updated: May 17, 2019 • 8:05 AM ET
Stevenage, England will host this weekend's WBO super-middleweight title fight.
The WBO super-middleweight title will be on the line this Saturday, as Billy Joe Saunders will battle Shefat Isufi for the vacant strap in Stevenage, England.
Saunders will try to maintain his perfect 27-0 record (13 KOs) after defeating Charles Adamu by fourth-round TKO in December. The fight with Adamu was a non-WBO bout, as the WBO handed Saunders a six-month suspension on Oct. 11 for testing positive for the banned stimulant oxilofrine. He claimed the positive test was the result of using nasal spray.
Facing punishment after failing the test last August, Saunders vacated the WBO middleweight world title just before the suspension. He issued for reinstatement on Jan. 14, arguing he had met the conditions of the suspension (clean random drug tests, charity and community work). On Jan. 23, the WBO lifted the suspension and named him its 160-pound mandatory title challenger.
Prior to Adamu, Saunders collected key victories over David Lemieux, Willie Monroe Jr., Artur Akavov, Andy Lee, Yoann Bloyer and Chris Eubank Jr. The 29-year-old British fighter has been linked to fights with Gennady Golovkin and Canelo Alvarez by promoter Frank Warren, but he must get by Isufi on Saturday first if a super-fight with a pound-for-pound great is to happen.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Saunders said at the bout’s final pre-fight press conference. “I had a terrible 2018. I feel that my title was robbed off me, not beaten off me by a better man or someone I could shake hands on the night and say he was the better person.
“But we’re here today and I’m fighting for the super-middleweight title. When this fight was first made, I jumped at the chance with Frank to sign the deal…I will become a two-weight world champion.”
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Saunders is ready to put 2018 behind him and once again become a champion with a possible fight with WBA super-middleweight champion Callum Smith looming.
“I will make the Callum Smith fight, if he wants it, the day after I win,” Saunders said via The Mirror. "I’ll get my team on the phone and if we can do that fight, then let’s make it. He’s a brilliant fighter at 168 and I’d be willing to sign for a unification the day after I fight.
“He’s done very well, he’s achieved so much and I have a lot of respect for him. But it’s a fight I believe I can win.”
Isufi, who will compete for his first major title, has won 10 straight fights and hasn’t lost since 2015. He most recently defeated Mohamed El Achi by unanimous decision in July, and the 29-year-old isn’t just fighting for himself.
“I am doing this for me, but to become Albania’s first world boxing champion is big for them and also Germany as I box under their flag,” Isufi (27-3-2, 20 KOs) said.
• The fight can be seen on ESPN+ at 2:30 p.m. ET this Saturday