Back in December 2017, Billy Joe Saunders produced a dazzling display against David Lemieux, systematically dismantling the dangerous Canadian to retain his WBO middleweight title in style.

The Briton's unanimous points triumph seemingly paved the way for a blockbuster fight. Now, three and a half years on from delivering a boxing lesson in Quebec, and having moved up a division, Saunders finally gets that opportunity.

Gennadiy Golovkin was the initial target back then, but Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez is more than an adequate alternative. The Mexican is viewed by most to be the best pound-for-pound boxer around right now, as well as the sport's biggest superstar.

The two rivals have taken contrasting paths to topping the bill at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. While Canelo has skipped around the weights, piling up victories and padding his resume to help define his lasting legacy, Saunders has fought just four times since schooling Lemieux.

"He thought he was going to get Golovkin or Canelo as his next fight after his brilliant display against Lemieux. He didn't, though, and then lost momentum being inactive for 12 months," Dominic Ingle, Saunders' former trainer who was in his corner in Canada, told Stats Perform News.

"I think he found it hard to motivate himself for fights that weren't going to bring him some big money, or a big name.

"He's just not been very consistent in terms of fights, but he's got that kind of style that can prove so elusive. If you can hit someone with two or three shots and they’re missing you back, you’re going to win.

"The thing with Canelo, though, is how consistent he has been, no matter who he is up against. He just gets on with it."

So, can Saunders really seize his long-overdue chance? The skilled southpaw has both the talent and temperament to cope with Canelo, so the key - according to Ingle at least - will be his stamina.

"With Billy, even if he hasn't done a lot of boxing stuff and sparring, it's like a game of tag with him. He can touch someone, get them to commit then he fires in a quick counter and is off," Ingle explained.

"The way he boxed against Lemieux wasn't like I'd taught him any of that stuff; he knew how to do it. What he needed was the conditioning and the fitness to get through.

"There was a stage when he wanted to stop him [Lemieux], but there was no point taking a risk. If he can box like that – I know it's a different opponent, of course – but Canelo finds it difficult to beat fighters who are elusive and slippery. It's frustrating when you can't get your shots off."

Saunders has done his best to antagonise Canelo before the bout, including threatening to head home during fight week over a dispute about the ring size inside the impressive venue.

He will hope to annoy him once the bell sounds to start the action too, as the seemingly unstoppable force faces a moveable object determined to make life as tough as possible for a rival accustomed to getting his own way.

Canelo has lost just once – back in 2013 to Floyd Mayweather Jr – but Ingle feels Saunders has all the ingredients required to create a recipe for success, even if a stoppage triumph seems unlikely.

"It's all about how quickly Canelo can get used to closing Billy down," Ingle said ahead of a bout that could see a record crowd in attendance for an indoor boxing event in the United States.

"I know people will say that fight against Mayweather was years ago, but if you struggle against movers then that doesn't change. When he boxed Erislandy Lara [in 2014] he struggled a bit as well.

"He can obviously do really well against orthodox fighters, but when it's against southpaws it is a bit more difficult.

"You've got Billy there being a southpaw, a great southpaw and an exceptional mover, while Canelo struggles with southpaws and movement. Billy likes to frustrate you when you are up against him.

"You need to be fit to do that kind of style, one like Tyson Fury uses, so you can frustrate your opponent into making mistakes. He can beat Canelo, for sure, but I don't think he can stop him.

"He can win on points, but that is a risk as the verdict may go against you."

Any risk is surely worth the reward for Saunders, who can alter the boxing landscape by beating Canelo and taking not only his WBA and WBC belts, but also his aura of invincibility. 

If the build-up is anything to go by, he appears up for the challenge that lies ahead in the ring, no matter what size it is.

Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez was the epitome of composure in the media presentation ahead of Saturday's huge bout with Billy Joe Saunders, who insisted: "I have come here to win."

In a long-awaited fight that has seen a feisty build-up – including a dispute over the size of the ring and a fiery photoshoot on Wednesday in which tempers threatened to boil over – Canelo and Saunders will meet in Arlington.

Approximately 70,000 spectators, the largest crowd in the United States since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, and the largest ever for an indoor boxing event in the country, will flock to the AT&T Stadium to witness the unification clash.

Mexican Canelo holds the WBA and WBC super-middleweight titles after victories over Callum Smith and Avni Yildirim – the latter fight clearing the way for a meeting with undefeated WBO champion Saunders.

Canelo has won 55 professional fights, 37 by knock-out. There were little signs of any complacency from the 30-year-old, but he coolly declared: "I've been involved in a lot of big fights; this is just another day at the office.

"I come to win; boxing is my life. I come here to win.

"I'm excited for this fight. He's a great fighter, he has a lot of ability and he's also a southpaw, but I'm not the same fighter of six or seven years ago and on Saturday I'll show that."

Saunders, on the other hand, is convinced Canelo is about to meet his match.

"I've been boxing since I was five years old, I've been dragged up. We can all have the rough, tough talks from growing up as kids but I'm here for a reason and there's no other reason for me to be here apart from win. Not about fame, anything else, publicity – win," he said.

"I don't think we've had somebody come to win for a very long time. We've had lots of people fly in, turn up, collect checks and fly out, but we haven't had the heart and soul and the IQ that I will bring to the table and to the ring, to win.

"I can't talk what he’s done down, he's done brilliant things for boxing. He's a good champion, but there's a time in life where you get tested.

"Sometimes when you forget where you come from, forget all those hard things that have brought you to where you're at, sometimes that can make it difficult on yourself, and I think he's bumping into the wrong man on Saturday to be walking away with those titles."

Billy Joe Saunders knows he must "turn the boxing world upside down" to beat Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez in their super-middleweight unification bout.

Undefeated WBO champion Saunders takes on WBC and WBA title-holder Canelo at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas on Saturday.

The Mexican is the clear favourite, but Saunders is ready to upset the odds.

"I'm certainly, most definitely going in there as the underdog in many, many people's eyes," he told Stats Perform.

"It's about self-belief; I wouldn't be here if I was thinking that I wasn't going to go home with the win, anything but.

"I'm very excited to get in the ring now and showcase my skills off to the world.

"I don't really watch opponents, watch glimpses of them. I've seen him for many, many years. He's a complete fighter. I know what's got to be done.

"He's a brilliant fighter, got to rate him. He's down as pound-for-pound king, so it's my turn to turn the boxing world upside down."

Saunders insists a partisan Cinco de Mayo weekend crowd will not negatively impact his performance – "it will spur me on," he says – but he has repeatedly referred to potential issues with the judges.

The 30-0 Briton has stated he will start the fight "three rounds down" on the scorecards, while his father suggested there was a dispute over the size of the ring.

"That all got sorted out," Saunders said, adding: "He's a brilliant boxer, I'm a brilliant boxer. It’s all on a level playing field."

But Saunders, when asked how he could beat Canelo, said: "I don't want to say that. You'll find out on Saturday night.

"I don't want to give too much away. I know what I've got to do to get the edge.

"I just want to be treated fairly and hopefully the judges score it for how they see it and not how they hear it."

Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez will start May's super-middleweight unification showdown "three rounds" to the good, according to WBO champion Billy Joe Saunders.

Canelo will put his WBA and WBC belts on the line against the undefeated Saunders on May 8 after clinically dispatching an over-matched Anvi Yildirim in three rounds in Miami on Saturday.

Saunders was set to face Canelo last May before the coronavirus shutdown intervened and British fighter has already moved to start the pre-fight mind games by suggesting the pound-for-pound Mexican superstar has benefitted from favourable scorecards in the past.

Canelo boxed to a draw and a majority decision win over the course of two thrilling and close bouts with Gennadiy Golovkin.

Back in 2013, when the four-weight champion suffered his only career loss to the great Floyd Mayweather Jr, one judge remarkably scored the fight a draw.

Such instances appear to be at the forefront of Saunders' mind – with good reason given only 14 of his 30 career wins have come by stoppage.

"So long as I make sure everything's on a fair playing field," he told iFL TV.

"To me, money doesn't really matter. Victory matters.

"When someone works all their life to get to where they need to get in life, it's very important that people be fair.

"If I win, give me the decision. If I don't win, I don't win. But as long as it's fair.

"I already know when I go there I'm three rounds down. So I need to make sure everyone's on a fair, even playing field."

Caleb Plant's IBF strap will be the only major prize at 168lbs residing outside of a blockbuster contest.

However, to Saunders, the prospect of defeating a fighter widely recognised as the finest in the sport appeals far more than whatever baubles that might bring.

"This ain't really about nothing but me versus him. Winner v winner, that's what it is," he said.

"We know nobody is unbeatable. Nobody. That's for sure.

"It's going to be a very tough fight and a very hard one. But I wouldn't just be getting in this ring for money or for a chance just to be seen.

"I'm going in there for one reason and one reason only. May 8 can't come quick enough."

Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez and Billy Joe Saunders will clash in a mouth-watering unification bout on May 8, promoter Eddie Hearn announced.

Canelo defended his WBC and WBA middleweight titles via a brutal TKO after just three rounds against Avni Yildirim in Miami on Saturday.

After being floored in the third round, Turkish challenger Yildirim managed to make it to the bell but his corner through in the towel before the start of the fourth at Hard Rock Stadium, where the gulf in class was evident from the outset.

Following the mismatch, a blockbuster showdown against unbeaten WBO holder and Englishman Saunders (30-0) was confirmed.

"It's Canelo against Saunders — May the 8th — venue announced shortly as he continues to move toward the undisputed championship at 168," Hearn said post-fight on DAZN.

Canelo said: "He's a very difficult fighter. He wants to unify. We want to go for it. We need to go for it.

"People talk whatever, but I'm a very mature fighter. I know how to control myself."

The 30-year-old Canelo is looking to become the first undisputed champion at super-middleweight, with IBF holder Caleb Plant next on the list if he gets past Saunders.

"It hasn't been done," Canelo said of being crowned undisputed champion "I want to make history.

"At 168, no one has done it in the world. I want to make my own history."

There was an electric crowd in attendance for the Canelo-Yildirim contest, with fan capacity capped at 15,000 amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Canelo dominated and made his move in the third round – a combination of jabs sending Yildirim to the canvas, and while the latter survived the round, he did not emerge from his corner for the fourth.

"I wanted to have a great fight here," Canelo added. "I needed to knock [him] out, and that's what I did. That's what I had to do."

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