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Billy Joe Saunders withdraws from Canelo sweepstakes, Callum Smith wants in

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Saunders was slated to fight Alvarez on May 2nd

KSI VS. Logan Paul 2 Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

Canelo Alvarez’s anticipated September return, presumably behind closed doors, still lacks a dance partner. Golden Boy’s Eric Gomez recently told Yahoo Sports that he “do[es]n’t think we’re going to be able to lure any of the champions and a [Gennadiy] Golovkin fight can’t happen now because of this,” and one of those champions, Billy Joe Saunders, has officially taken his name out of consideration. He tells The Athletic that he wouldn’t be ready by September due to the coronavirus hampering preparation and that he won’t take a pay cut while Canelo gets his full purse.

Instead, he’ll “focus on a tune-up bout in October before a big fight in December,” ideally against Demetrius Andrade. The two were set to go at it in 2018 when Saunders (29-0, 14 KO) held the WBO middleweight title, but that fell through when Saunders failed a drug test; the pair have been in a lengthy will-they-won’t-they relationship since.

As an aside, Saunders presumably still hasn’t gotten his license back after the BBBofC suspended him for being appallingly stupid on social media.

Britain’s other super middleweight titlist, Callum Smith (27-0, 19 KO) sees this as an opportunity. Trainer Joe Gallagher claims his charge is ready, willing, and able to welcome Canelo back to the ring.

“It’s supposed to have been a two-horse race wasn’t it. Now he’s pulling himself out of it, Canelo has got no excuse now, but to fight Callum Smith. ... He’ll take that and I can’t see no reason why Canelo - when they said all along it was between the two of them - Billy Joe Saunders is out, let’s do Callum. Callum is the No 1 at 168. He’s the Ring [magazine] champ, Canelo is the superstar. Let’s just go ahead and do it.”

Smith had previously turned down an offer to face Canelo on May 2nd, with Eddie Hearn claiming “Mundo” was offered less than Canelo’s previous opponents. One would imagine that a new offer would be even lower thanks to the lack of a live gate, especially since Smith’s underwhelming performance against John Ryder somewhat muzzled the fight’s appeal.

Ryder has also put his name forth, joining Sergiy Derevyanchenko and Anthony Dirrell as a potential opponent.