Lots is being made of BJS’ not answering the bell for the 9th round last night. Look, I think there’s “quit” as in give up because you’re not brave; and there’s “quit” because going on isn’t a viable option. I’m going to argue that with Billy Joe, it was option #2. I don’t buy that Saunders isn’t a brave guy. Chickens don’t get into boxing in the first place – never mind into the ring with Canelo Alvarez, of all people! Saunders is NO coward.
We all have to remember that boxing isn’t just a sport to these fighters. It’s also a business. It’s how Saunders feeds his family. If he had “answered the bell” for Rd 9, I might have applauded his courage…but I would have questioned his judgement. Given what we now know about the severity of his eye injury, that 9th round might have cost him not only his career, but his very eyesight too. Sometimes, discretion is the better part of valor.
I don’t think Saunders wanted to go on. But I don’t think he was “looking for a way out” either. He didn’t need to look for one. He had an extremely severe eye injury. Maybe he could have stood up and gone out there, but he shouldn’t have. His corner wasn’t going to let him come out. Live to fight another day (hopefully). Yes, Gatti or a few fighters like him, might have gone on. But it’s always dangerous to judge any group of people by its exceptions. Gatti was an exceptional “exception.”
As for how Saunders ran his mouth before the fight, and all the nonsense he had to say about Dubois’ fight against Joyce, I’m prepared to give him a break, now that I’ve had some time to think about it. Billy Joe shouldn’t have said the things he did. But I’ll bet dollars to donuts that nobody knows that better than he does right now. Here’s what I think happened. I don’t think BJS was being disingenuous when he criticized Dubois or trash talked Canelo. I just think that as an undefeated fighter, who had never really faced real adversity in the ring before, he couldn’t have imagined how it felt to be hit that hard or to be hurt that badly.
Pardon the irony here, but I think Alvarez closing his eye, was the most “eye-opening”, maturing experience of Billy Joe’s life. I imagine that one of the first thoughts that went through Saunder’s head, once the cobwebs cleared enough to allow him to think again, was “Oh shit! That’s what Dubois went through. I had no idea!” I suspect we will see a different BJS going forward. I hope he is able to resume his career and I hope he will never forget his lesson in humility. I hope the public – especially his fans, will cut him some slack, and stand behind him as he hopefully carries on with his career.
By David Augere-Villanueva
Video courtesy DAZN