Billy Joe Saunders became a two-division world champion after he easily outpointed Shefat Isufi over 12 rounds to capture the vacant WBO super middleweight title Saturday.
While Saunders was certainly effective boxing from his southpaw stance, he was far from scintillating in front of the partisan crowd at Lamex Stadium in Stevenage, England.
Saunders, the former WBO middleweight titlist, won on all three scorecards — 120-108, 117-111 and 118-110.
He said the fight, at times, resembled “sparring practice,” as Saunders (28-0, 13 KOs) was able to have his way with Isufi (27-4-2, 20 KOs) by moving around the ring and using his right jab to initiate his methodical attack.
The only moment of danger for Saunders was in the sixth as he was struck by a right hand off the ropes from Isufi that hit him on the side of the head. But that momentary lapse was eventually overcome and Saunders regained control of the fight in the seventh round.
“It was what it was,” Saunders said. “My boxing ability will always get me far in the sport.”
While he has added another world title to his resume, Saunders still has to get a career-defining fight. He was scheduled to defend his WBO middleweight title against Demetrius Andrade in October, but Saunders was pulled from that fight after failing a prefight drug test for oxilofrine, a banned stimulant.
Now he looks for more meaningful bouts at 168.
“I want the big fights. I want the big names out there, the big domestic fights, the unifications,” said Saunders, who says he will confer with promoter Frank Warren for a quick return to the ring. “I’ve moved up from middleweight because none of them wanted to fight me there.”
There is one particular matchup that piques his interest — an all-British showdown with WBA super middleweight titlist Callum Smith.
“I really hope we can make the Smith fight,” Saunders said. “It would be a brilliant fight for the fans, a fantastic fight. I wouldn’t mind going to Manchester.”
Joyce keeps KO streak intact
Heavyweight Joe Joyce (9-0, 9 KOs) remained undefeated by stopping Alexander Ustinov (34-4, 25 KOs) in three rounds.
The lumbering Joyce finished the job by landing a left hook on Ustinov, who had been hit numerous times by the heavy hands of the 2016 Olympic silver medalist. This was the first outing for Joyce under the guidance of trainer Adam Booth, after previously working with Abel Sanchez.