Billy Joe Saunders drops bad-boy guard to explain friendship with Denver Clinton
11th March 2019

A failed drugs test cost the 29-year-old his WBO middleweight title in September and he was rightly vilified when a series of shameful ‘prank’ videos emerged and cost him a fair £100,000 fine.

Saunders and his often-exasperated promoter Frank Warren have had to apologise for far too many slip-ups from the silky southpaw.

But even his biggest critic will struggle not to sympathise with the father of two who risked ridicule by fighting 18lbs and two divisions above his weight in December, just so brave Clinton could walk him to the ring before losing his fight for life in February.

Looking back on the effect Clinton had on his life, Saunders said: “If anybody texts me for charity or anything like that I always make sure I send something.

“But this little boy, his mates got in touch with me and I sent him a glove and he then sent me a thank-you video and I exchanged numbers with his mum and met up with him.

“I stayed in contact, spoke to him every day and went down to visit him.”

“When I got offered the fight I took it and I promised Denver that he could do the ringwalk with me then I knew I had to carry it out because he was coming to do it.

“It just puts life into perspective to be honest with you. I always remember when I took him to a shop and his mum gave him his medication.

“He was sitting in the front of his car and was sick in the front of the car.

"But as he was being sick he was saying 'sorry', he was apologising because he was being sick in my car.

“To be honest with you, I just thought 'f****** hell'. It just puts you in a situation where you realise how lucky we are."

The Hatfield man understands how juvenile some his actions have been and tries to explain that his background might blur his decision making.

Saunders’ December 2017 unanimous points win over feared puncher David Lemieux was as good a Brit has ever looked on foreign soil.

One piece of defensive genius and flair, trademarks of Saunders’ arsenal, went viral but instead of catapulting him into the big time, it left him feeling flat again.

Motivation for someone so naturally gifted, without fights against middleweight stars like Gennady Golovkin and Canelo Alvarez, is hard to come by.

But one look at big brother Tom, who walked away from a professional fight career after just four wins, is enough to keep his desire burning.

Saunders, who is set to fight again at the O2 on April 13, said: “I was sort of moping around a little bit, looking for one of those big fights when I should have just sat down and said 'who are you putting in front of me? Let's get them out of the way'.

“I think my mind wandered off from boxing a little bit and into the real world.

“People think Lemieux was good but I remember, I'll never forget it, I walked to the ring that night thinking 'this ain't Golovkin though'.

“I know there's another 30 per cent left in me. The only time it will come out is when I'm physically at my best and when it's put on me. Only then will you see what I've got and what I haven't got.

“I've got a brother who was 20 times better than me. I wasn't fit to lace his boots up.

"I look at him sometimes going to work a normal job, what he's doing and where he could be.

“It just makes me think that I've never really showed my best yet. I'm undefeated and I just think 'liven up, Billy Joe what are you thinking?'

If he doesn’t know what goes on his head, what chance do we have?

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