British boxer Billy Joe Saunders on Tuesday threatened to withdraw from his super middleweight title unification clash with Saul “Canelo” Alvarez after blasting the size of the ring set up at the fight venue in Texas.
Saunders is set to face off against Mexican star Alvarez at the Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium in Arlington on Saturday in front of 60 000 fans – the biggest crowd at a US sporting event since the pandemic began.
However Saunders slammed the dimensions of the ring that has been set up at the venue, claiming each side measures only 16-18 feet, substantially smaller than the 24-foot ring he had been expecting.
“The problem is I come over here and they try to chuck me in a phone box of a boxing ring,” Saunders told Britain’s Talksport radio in an interview.
“People say stuff to get under people’s skin and under camp’s skin, but (the stadium) is hundreds and hundreds of feet long and they want to stick a 16 to 18 (foot) ring in the middle of it.
“For me, that’s just unacceptable. I want a 24 foot ring and they’re saying it’s not gonna happen and it is what it is. But I’ve left it to my team and I’m sure they’ll solve it – otherwise there won’t be any fight.”
While Saunders’ criticism was dismissed in some quarters as pre-fight mind games, the 31-year-old insisted his grievance was genuine.
“You can’t just fly me in here and show me the ring that we’re using and I’ve been training all of my camp in a 24-foot ring.
It’s a unification fight, not a British title. It’s like someone training on the 200m running track and someone training on the 400m running track – there’s a big difference.”
Saunders – who skipped a planned media face-off photo with Alvarez on Tuesday – said the small ring size was designed to benefit the Mexican star’s more aggressive style.
“His game plan is not waiting around, his game plan is coming to me,” he said. “And I want somewhere where I can move and get my boxing off.
“Every world title fight, all of these unification fights, they’re always in big-sized rings. Name me one, name me two fights where you see an 18 (foot) ring unification?”
Alvarez, 55-1 with two drawn and 37 knockouts, will risk his World Boxing Council and World Boxing Association crowns against unbeaten World Boxing Organisation champion Saunders, who is 30-0 with 14 knockouts, in the unification showdown.