Dis­graced Saun­ders launches fight of his life for a fu­ture in the ring

Bad boy Bri­ton has given up WBO crown to ap­peal against a pos­i­tive drug test, writes Gareth A Davies

The Sunday Telegraph - Sport - - Sport -

It has been a month of hor­ri­ble head­lines for Billy Joe Saun­ders: a taste­less video of him taunt­ing a drug ad­dict from his Roll­sRoyce, which brought a £100,000 fine from the Bri­tish Box­ing Board; footage of the fighter forc­ing a stranger to strip naked af­ter pulling up along­side the man’s car; and then last week’s shenani­gans.

The Mas­sachusetts State Ath­letic Com­mis­sion re­fused the Bri­ton a li­cence to box fol­low­ing a pos­i­tive test for a banned sub­stance in Au­gust. The rul­ing meant the 29-year-old lost out on a $2.3 mil­lion (£1.7 mil­lion) world ti­tle de­fence in Bos­ton next Satur­day. Saun­ders did lit­tle for his al­ready tar­nished rep­u­ta­tion when he told the US au­thor­ity: “You can go suck my p----.”

Saun­ders opted to re­lin­quish his World Box­ing Or­gan­i­sa­tion world mid­dleweight ti­tle and his lawyers are set to ap­peal against the Mas­sachusetts com­mis­sion’s de­ci­sion.

Last night, Mike Maz­zulli, pres­i­dent of the US As­so­ci­a­tion of Box­ing Com­mis­sions, told The Sun­day Tele­graph that he “com­mended the ac­tion” of the Mas­sachusetts com­mis­sion. “He tested pos­i­tive,” Maz­zulli said at a Bel­la­tor mixed mar­tial arts event in Con­necti­cut. “I would have done ex­actly the same. It comes down to the li­a­bil­ity on the com­mis­sion if any­thing hap­pened.”

It is cri­sis time in the ca­reer of bad boy Saun­ders, though the pos­i­tive drug test may be bad luck. It ap­par­ently came from tak­ing a nasal de­con­ges­tant, with ox­ilofrine not banned by UK Anti-Dop­ing in out-of-com­pe­ti­tion tests like this one was.

Be­hind this may­hem, Saun­ders is a supremely tal­ented south­paw boxer. He is un­de­feated in a 26-fight, nineyear ca­reer. His last out­ing was in De­cem­ber, when he com­pletely out­boxed the dan­ger­ous David Lemieux in Canada.

Saun­ders comes from a Ro­many Gypsy fam­ily and has lived on a Trav­ellers’ site near Hat­field in Hert­ford­shire all his life. He would say that all he knows is box­ing. His lin­eage in­cludes a great-grand­fa­ther on his mother’s side, Ab­solom Beeney, a leg­endary bare-knuckle cham­pion in the trav­el­ling fair­ground box­ing booths be­tween the wars. His two sons, Billy Joe Jnr and Steve, al­ready spar on the site.

Saun­ders once bought a fourbed­room de­tached house to live in dur­ing his train­ing camps, but found it un­nat­u­ral. He rented it out and went back to his car­a­van.

He trains in Sh­effield un­der Do­minic In­gle, who has Saun­ders’s eat­ing habits un­der con­trol. “I’m s---- about my food”, the boxer told me. Saun­ders re­cently or­dered a white Rolls-Royce. “Some­times it’s nice to treat your­self for the hard work you’ve done. I re­mem­ber a few years ago I was buy­ing rolls off Greggs bak­ers, now I’m buy­ing Rolls off Royce.”

He is proud of his up­bring­ing. He rides horses and owns a string of them, tak­ing part in car­riage-rac­ing fairs against other Trav­ellers.

In the build-up to his fight for the WBO ti­tle against Andy Lee – set for Ire­land but later tak­ing place in Manch­ester – it was pro­posed Katie Tay­lor could ap­pear on the un­der­card. When Saun­ders was asked about women’s box­ing, he said: “I think women are there for sex ev­ery night, hard sex. Clean­ing, cook­ing, wash­ing, and sex. They’re not there to put on head­gear and get punched. That’s my opin­ion on women, but I’m just a sex ma­niac.”

Tay­lor re­sponded on Twit­ter: “I feel sorry for his wife and daugh­ter if that’s his only view of women.”

At his friend Tyson Fury’s sec­ond come­back fight in Belfast in Au­gust, Saun­ders threw a chicken at heavy­weight cham­pion Deon­tay Wilder in a Nando’s and was pur­sued from the restau­rant by the World Box­ing Coun­cil heavy­weight cham­pion’s en­tourage. The al­ter­ca­tion was over a com­ment ap­par­ently made by Saun­ders which riled Wilder.

A week later, Saun­ders tested pos­i­tive for ox­ilofrine on his 29th birth­day. Pro­moter Frank War­ren said: “He may not box ever again. Well, that’s how he feels at the mo­ment.”

For now, the walls have closed in on the Trav­eller. Rather than find­ing him­self “guilty of bring­ing the sport into dis­re­pute”, as the Bri­tish Board ruled against him, Saun­ders needs to fo­cus on the dis­ci­pline of his sport to prove he is in­deed a true cham­pion.

On the ropes: A trou­bled Billy Joe Saun­ders

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.