First published on Freebets.net
This Saturday night, in the inauspicious surroundings of Stevenage Football Club, Billy Joe Saunders seeks to inject much-needed momentum into a boxing career that has wandered, sometimes aimlessly, from the path to riches and renown it once promised. His opponent, a curated choice from the gallery of obscurity the WBO specialises in, is the unheralded German, by way of Serbia, Shefat Isufi.
A prohibitive underdog with most leading bookmakers, 18/1 with Bet365 the widest, Isufi offers precious little hope or opportunity for investors.
The winner will take home the WBO’s Super Middleweight belt, vacated by Gilberto Ramirez, who belatedly moved to Light-Heavyweight, and offers Saunders a chance to win a world title in a second weight class. It will add a somewhat hollow decoration to a career blighted by inactivity, sloppy preparation, a failed drug test and some questionable decision making and behaviour outside the ring. On the credit side of his career balance sheet, he also handed defeats to fighters as capable as David Lemieux, Andy Lee and Chris Eubank Junior.
Approaching his 30th birthday, Saunders remains a divisive figure, revered by those who recognise his talent and disliked and mistrusted by those tired of his inactivity and misdemeanors. Certainly, It has been a chequered career, and by the benchmark of the ability demonstrated in that trio of victories and an excellent Amateur pedigree, culminating in an appearance at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, an unfulfilled one.
Saunders a Heavy Odds-On Favourite
Problems aside, Saunders is an accomplished boxer, both instinctive and a polished and practiced technician and will be a prohibitive favourite in the fight this weekend. 888Sport offer 1/50 on Saunders to win outright, leaving only bolder and more precise predictions to offer interesting returns.
Isufi’s prospects are slight but improved marginally by his presumed size advantage, he has trimmed down to the 168-pound limit over his own 9-year career. He has been no more active than Saunders’, having last boxed a year ago a fact which extinguishes his chances for this observer. He is slow of foot, largely cautious in style and doesn’t combine punches particularly well.
Saunders, still unbeaten as a professional, will be presented with a rich supply of opportunities to lead and to counter quickly over Isufi’s pawing jab and lackluster backhand. The Hertfordshire man, who was forced to relinquish his WBO Middleweight belt following a failed drug test on the brink of a meaningful match with Demetrius Andrade last year, isn’t a noted puncher but there is value to be had in backing a short fight.
Round Betting Provides Best Value
Round betting is difficult to gauge, I can imagine Isufi being stunned repeatedly with jabs and quick combinations; he has fought nobody remotely close to Saunders’ class in the compilation of his 27-3-2 career after all. His 20 knockouts at that lower level don’t encourage me either. In his 2015 bout with Achilles Szabo, in which the shorter Szabo skirted around the ring, Isufi, even in victory, struggled to close range or to adapt to Szabo’s movement.
Saunders may prefer to take some rounds given his inactivity and with an eye on tougher fights to come. He relishes humiliating opponents with his speed on the counter rather than chasing knockouts and I think the combination of that, and Isufi’s natural size will extend the fight beyond the opening rounds. I believe there is value in predicting the stoppage but I quite like the more modest conclusion that the fight will go beyond 4.5 rounds available at 1/2 with Bet365.
Following the expected victory, Saunders will progress on to potential super fights with Callum Smith, a return with Chris Eubank Junior or even fights with Saul Alvarez. With Bob Arum’s Top Rank now a keen associate, there is scope to believe the bigger fights Saunders’ talent and pedigree have looked capable of securing may yet come to pass.
His style will give him a chance against anyone. Against the overmatched Isufi, I expect it to give him an eye-catching win between 6-8 rounds.