Billy Joe Saunders is a professional boxer competing in the middleweight division. Saunders was born in Hatfield, Hertfordshire England. Saunders’s childhood was spent in a Romanichal traveling community. Some of Saunders’ family members were bare knuckle boxers. As an amateur, Billy Joe Saunders fought at the Hoddesdon Amateur Boxing Club and The Cheshunt Amateur Boxing Club.
Billy Joe had a successful amateur career, winning the Commonwealth Championships and the Strandya Cup. Billy Joe became the first boxer from the British Romanichal community to qualify for the Olympic games. He lost in the 2nd round of the games. Soon after, Billy Joe announced that he would be turning pro, signing a contract with promoter Frank Warren.
Billy Joe made his professional debut at the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham, knocking out Attila Molnar. He would win his next two fights by knockout as well. After more impressive victories, he defeated Tony Hill to win the Commonwealth Middleweight Championship. He then made two successful defenses against Bradley Pryce and Jarrod Fletcher.
Billy Joe fought Nick Blackwell in his biggest fight to date. It was for the vacant British Middleweight title. He was able to withstand some tough moments and win a decision to claim the title. He defended the Commonwealth and British Middleweight titles against tough competition, including Matthew Hall, Gary O’Sullivan, and John Ryder. He began to become known in boxing circles as a top contender by defeating tough and undefeated fighters in close fights.
He defeated Emanuele Blandamura by 8th round stoppage to win the European Middleweight title. He then sought out a fight against his rival, fellow undefeated fighter Chris Eubank Jr. The fight was one of the most anticipated match ups in the boxing world. The fight lived up to the hype, as Billy Joe defeated Eubank Jr by a close split decision. With the split decision, Saunders had successfully defended the British Middleweight title on three straight occasions. He now owned the Lonsdale Belt outright and gave it to his father.
Billy Joe then looked to challenge Andy Lee for the WBO Middleweight Title. The fight was postponed multiple times, due to Lee fighting Peter Quillin and then also injuries in training. After winning a tune up fight against Yoann Bloyer, Billy Joe defeated Andy Lee to win the WBO Middleweight title by majority decision. He was helped on the scorecard by scoring two knockdowns in the early rounds and was able to hold on down the stretch as Lee started gaining momentum.
Billy Joe was scheduled to make his defense against Max Bursak, however he had to postpone the fight due to a hand injury. He was also offered the opportunity to fight on the under card of Canelo Alvarez’s Pay Per View fight, but turned it down. He was then scheduled to face Artur Akavov, but the fight was postponed due to Billy Joe suffering injuries in training. He fought Akavov, winning a unanimous decision. However, Saunders was unhappy and criticized the performance.