Last December, England’s Billy Joe Saunders captured the WBO middleweight title from Andy Lee by majority decision. In a perfect world, he would face Gennady Golovkin, who holds the rest of the belts, in order to establish an undisputed champion of the world.
But like the majority of top middleweight fighters, Saunders has shown a complete lack of willingness to face GGG. In fact, he hasn’t fought anybody since winning his belt nearly eight months ago. He was offered a fight with journeyman Gabriel Rosado on the September pay-per-view card featuring Saul Alvarez and Liam Smith, but turned it down.
It’s not as if the WBO trinket keeper isn’t full of fighting spirit, though. It’s just that he would rather aim it at overweight, middle-aged sports writers on Twitter, instead of fellow world-class middleweights in the ring. When ESPN’s Dan Rafael simply Tweeted on Thursday that Saunders had turned down the bout, the “champ” exploded with indignation, telling the Dean of American boxing writers “don’t talk (expletive), fat boy.”
Saunders than followed that reply with a string of abuse (link contains NSWF language), even accusing Rafael of being a paedophile. Saunders later Tweeted a link to an interview with World Boxing News, where he explained that he turned down the fight with Rosado because he wanted “a real challenge.”
To be sure, Rosado (23-9, 14 KOs) is no world beater. But he would be more than respectable as a stay-busy opponent for a champion marking his time while he waits for a really big bout. Rosado has been in the ring with some of the best on the planet, including Golovkin. He’d be easily the third best opponent Saunders has ever faced, behind Lee and Chris Eubanks Jr.
Almost nobody has an easy night against Rosado. For American fans and writers, who have a definite fondness for the hard-nosed Philadelphia native, it’s hard not to think Saunders didn’t like the risk-to-reward ratio that Rosado represents.
If Saunders comes out in the next few weeks and announces a bout with a legitimate middleweight contender, nobody will care that he’s spent over half the year on the couch. But for now, he’s risks getting stripped by the WBO for lack of activity.