BILLY JOE SAUNDERS faces a long and painful route back IF he decides to carry on boxing after Canelo shattered his face and dreams.
The 31-year-old Brit put his WBO super-middleweight title, his 30-0 record and his fearless no-surrender reputation on the line against Mexico’s WBC and WBA king, in front of 73,126 Texas fans, on Saturday night.
In flashes the southpaw out-jabbed the planet’s pound-for-pound No1 fighter but, just as his trainer predicted, Canelo stepped on the gas in the second half and caved in Saunders’ right cheekbone with a skull-shattering uppercut in round eight.
The 2008 Olympian made it back to his corner but told trainer Mark Tibbs that he could not see from the damaged eye, so the experienced cornerman pulled him out, with Saunders glued to his stool, a white towel of surrender draped symbolically over his head.
Four-weight king Canelo is usually an ice cool customer but Saunders’ pathetic treatment of a few Spanish-speaking journalists in the fight-week hotel bubble infuriated him and made him lazer-focused on a violent finish.
And those tasteless insults were not the only ones to come back and haunt him as the internet lit up with barbs the Englishman had dished out to 23-year-old Daniel Dubois after he boxed on for six rounds with an identical injury, before taking the knee and being counted out by Joe Joyce in November.
TRASH TALK BACKFIRES
Saunders, who told Canelo on Wednesday that he had never boxed a man with as big a heart as his, had said: “Everyone has their own thought process in the ring and what went on in the ring I don’t know. He obviously felt he could not continue.
“You look at the greats, the eyes, the face, we get through that. That’s the path in life we choose for a living. We punch people in the face and get punched in the face.
“If my two eye sockets were broken, my jaw was broken, my teeth were out, my nose was smashed, my brain was beaten, I was not stopping until I was knocked out or worse.
“I don’t agree with a man taking the knee and letting the ref count him out.”
Because of the heartlessness of Saunders’ comments, he will find sympathy especially hard to comeby, if he decides to rebuild.
And, as a super-elusive southpaw without major broadcaster or fan backing – or a world title to dangle – few fighters will want to face him.
Dubois’ June return will end a six-month recovery and that sort of enforced break – and the £5million career-high cheque he undoubtedly earned – could spell big trouble for an ill-disciplined fighter prone to blowing up in weight between bouts.
HEARN QUIT HINT
And promoter Eddie Hearn admitted we may have seen the last of the incorrigible menace now he has hit such a financial high and sporting low.
In the early hours of Sunday morning, the Matchroom boss said: “He’s gone to hospital and I believe he’ll have that operated on immediately. So he’s going to be out for a long, long time.
“But he’s a world class fighter who lost to the pound-for-pound number one. Billy a two-weight world champion.
“If he wants to carry on there’s some big fights out there for him. But he may feel he has got to a stage where he’s been there, he’s done it, he’s seen it all.”
Canelo claimed that Saunders’ shameful rap sheet outside of boxing meant 90 per cent of the UK was in the Guadalajara gunslinger’s corner.
And, after the masterclass in head movement and uppercutting, he may have even bolstered his British fanbase further.
Thankfully his growing army of fans will not have to wait long as he aims to become the undisputed 12st king as early as September.
The golf-loving banger’s last three wins have all come inside 140 days and his dream scenario would be a mid-September shot at Caleb Plant’s IBF strap, the final belt missing from his collection, around Mexican Independence Day on the 15th.
And the American leftie got a chilling warning after the grinning assassin smashed a hole in the face of the man billed as his biggest test since Floyd Mayweather bamboozled him in 2013, for his only loss in 59.
“That’s the plan,” he smiled when Plant’s name was put to him. “That’s the plan to go for the belt. I’m coming, man. I’m coming, my friend!”