Billy Joe Saunders

NEW: Our weekly fighting talk feature on what’s said and done inside – and outside – the ropes

Hooks & Jabs
By Richard Hubbard

TWICE, IN WORLD title fights, Billy Joe Saunders had two of the biggest punchers in middleweight boxing teetering on the brink of stoppage but, on both occasions, a voice in his head – not to mention a couple in his corner – pulled him back from going for glory.

Andy Lee, famous for his ‘equaliser’, was put to the canvas twice in the third round when Billy Joe claimed his WBO world middleweight title at the end of 2015 but, after a few words to the wise, took the patient approach and claimed his belt via a points decision.

Most recently, David Lemieux got the wobbles on a couple of occasions, but there was no inclination to put the Canadian out of his Montreal misery.

Bill was clearly boxing to the orders of first Jimmy Tibbs, then Dominic Ingle, but it can’t be easy for a fighting man when the opportunity for an early night presents itself.

However, the WBO champion who defends his title for a fourth time against Martin Murray at the 02 Arena on April 14, insists he has no issue with obeying instructions after seeing others who dropped their guard come to a sticky end.

“It is about the gameplan,” reasoned the 28-year-old. “Dom is looking in while I’m doing the business and it is easier for me to get excited and not see the danger than Dom.

“I always have to remember that, basically to listen to Dom’s instructions because it works.

“You do get the excitement in there, but you’ve got to be patient because that’s what (Matt) Korabov must’ve thought when he was fighting Andy Lee and then he got knocked out cold.

“Of course that was on my mind so I had to think a bit differently.

“The temptation is there, but you’ve got to stay on it and work to the gameplan.”

Then trust in the three wise men in white shirts at ringside…


2018 COULD WELL turn out to be year of the featherweights, with Frank Warren in the last week or so announcing not only Carl Frampton-Nonito Donaire in Belfast, but also bringing to fruition the long-awaited grudge match between IBF world champion Lee Selby and mandatory challenger Josh Warrington in Leeds.

Belfast on April 21 and Leeds just under a month later on May 19 is going to make for fascinating and compelling viewing, especially given that the winners are likely to meet in a blockbuster summer showdown.

One young puncher who is pretty well positioned to assess the runners and riders, so to speak, is the Southampton snapper Ryan Garner, who has been employed in recent times by both Frampton and Warrington to get them ready for big fights.

Ryan Garner

Like the rest of us though, Ryan is finding it a tricky one to call.

“It is a hard one because they are all performing to such a high level now,” reasoned the 20-year-old unbeaten prospect. “I know it wasn’t Frampton’s best performance last time, but I know now he has got the cobwebs off he will be back to the level he was before.

“I am expecting big things from him in his next fight.

“Josh’s main attributes are his fitness and workrate – along with his variety of punches. Selby is a little bit tippy-tappy and likes to move a lot so I think, from the off, Josh has got to get on his chest and just outwork him.

“That’s what I think, to not allow Selby to use his range and long arms. Selby is stylish so Josh needs to get up close to him.

“My 50p would be on Josh! Especially with all the Leeds fans behind him, his confidence will be sky high.

“When he is at his best I still think Frampton is top dog, but you never know because it is all on the night. They could all beat each other if they perform and anything can happen.”

So we’re really none the wiser then…


HARVEY HORN HAS stated an intention to put the fizz back into the domestic flyweight division.

Harvey Horn

It is a weight class that perhaps doesn’t appeal to the widest possible audience due to often being devoid of the crash, bang, wallop of the heavier punchers, but the former Team GB stalwart has promised there will be thrills and spills aplenty when he steps between the ropes.

“Wherever I go there will be a big crowd and it is always going to be interesting,” said the 22-year-old who made his pro debut in December.

“I will be at my best every time and my style will be more exciting, a lot more flair. I want to bring excitement to it because I know how boring the flyweights can be and, as one myself, I know I shouldn’t really be saying that!

“I know they can be boring though and I, personally, wouldn’t watch the flyweights. When it comes down to the real interesting things, the build-ups and the actual fights, I’m going to be a lot different.

“I think some people go a bit too over the top and a few are a bit too boring, so there needs to be a nice healthy balance. You need to be switched on and smart enough to understand that.

“I think I will find the balance.”

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