Billy Joe Saunders claims he will not get the credit he deserves if he becomes a two-weight world champion this weekend.
Saunders has stepped up a division to face Shefat Isufi for the vacant WBO super-middleweight crown at Stevenage’s Lamex Stadium on Saturday night.
The former WBO middleweight king is favourite to beat the unheralded Isufi and emulate Chris Eubank Snr and Nigel Benn by reigning at the two weights, but he is not expecting to be showered with plaudits should he manage it.
The Traveller is controversial and feels there are powerful figures in the sport who dislike him.
“I don’t think I will get the credit I deserve if I win, because you’re always going to get the negative side of stuff,” said Saunders. “You’ve got to ignore that and take the positive side. I’m focussed on myself. I’m only interested this year in getting out three times. I want to win this world title, defend it, be active and get the big fights.”
The 29-year-old is still sore over being forced to give up his WBO belt last autumn after failing a drugs test before his planned defence against Demetrius Andrade in Boston, USA.
His positive sample would not have mattered in the UK because it was out of competition, but the Massachusetts State Athletic Commission counted it as a failed test under their rules and refused to grant him a licence to face Andrade.
“Losing the belt hurt,” said Saunders. “I know I did no wrong and so does the BBBofC.
“Sadly, I think when big money is involved a few certain people have a big say in the boxing world and I think I was caught up in that. I believe my title was needed to make the big unifications for Canelo [Alvarez, the Mexican superstar] and other promotional companies.”
Saunders was also hit with a £100,000 fine last autumn for posting a video on social media of him offering a woman drugs to perform a sex act and punch a passer-by.
He knows he was stupid and is focused on getting his career back on track after that difficult time.
“I’ve done some silly things, but they’re behind me now,” he said. “I’m only looking forward and I intend to grab this opportunity with both hands.
“It’s very appealing to be a two-weight world champion and it can also escalate me up into the big super-middleweight and middleweight fights. I’ll be ready for any middleweight or super-middleweight after this.”
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