Super middleweight world titleholder Billy Joe Saunders is set for his United States debut.
England’s Saunders will make his first 168-pound title defense against an opponent to be determined on Nov. 9 (DAZN) on the undercard of the six-round novelty cruiserweight fight between YouTube stars KSI and Logan Paul at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn announced on Friday.
“I’m really pleased for Billy that he will get to make his U.S. debut on Nov. 9,” Hearn said. “Everyone in the sport knows that he is one of the best out there at 160 pounds and 168 pounds and he wanted the opportunity to prove that he is the best. This event will be huge with a chance for Billy to box in front of a massive global audience of boxing fans and a casual audience that we hope will fall in love with our sport. A strong performance in November can set up all the mega fights for him in 2020.”
Saunders’ opponent is expected to be signed next week, Hearn said.
“It feels like my professional debut all over again,” Saunders said. “I’m very excited to fight in front of the American fans for the first time in my professional career. The Staples Center is an unbelievable venue, and I’m hearing that 20,000 people are expected to be packed in on the night. It’s a great chance to get some new fans onboard and a chance to capitalize on putting my name in the big lights in America. The KSI versus Logan Paul rematch has really captured the imagination of the British and American public, and it’s something that sells. Fair play to them both, it’s going to be a great show.”
Saunders said he was fine being in a supporting fight between novices who are turning pro after the commercial success of an exhibition fight last year that resulted in a draw and sold out the Manchester Arena in England and generated more than 1 million pay-per-view subscriptions.
“People say, ‘Oh you’re on the undercard,’ but I feel like we’re all sharing the show,” Saunders said. “We’re all absorbing that energy off the fans. I’ve seen the numbers they attract. Over 6 million people watched the press conference alone, and all eyes will be on us on Nov. 9.” Last month, Saunders parted ways with career-long promoter Frank Warren and will be fighting for the first time since signing with Hearn.
Former middleweight world titlist Saunders (28-0, 13 KOs), 30, moved up in weight on May 18 and won a unanimous decision against Shefat Isufi to claim a vacant super middleweight title.
Saunders, a southpaw, vacated his middleweight title last fall knowing he was going to be stripped following a positive drug test for the powerful banned stimulant oxilofrine conducted by the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association.
The positive test was returned during the lead-up to what was supposed to be Saunders’ American debut in a mandatory defense against Demetrius Andrade, which was scheduled for Oct. 20 in Boston. But the Massachusetts commission refused to license Saunders because of the positive test and the fight — and Saunders’ career-high purse of $2.3 million — was canceled, with Andrade instead easily outpointing late replacement opponent Walter Kautondokwa to win the vacant belt.