WBO super-middleweight world champion Billy Joe Saunders (28-0-0, 13 Ko's) makes the first defence of his title against unbeaten Argentinian Marcelo Esteban Coceres (28-0-1, 15 Ko's) on the KSI vs Logan Paul rematch card at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California on Saturday, November 9th. The show will be streamed live across the USA by DAZN and shown in the UK by Sky Sports.
This is Saunders's first fight with new promoter Matchroom Boxing and fans were hoping for a better-known opponent for his first defence. That's not to say that Coceres won't put up a good showing, but since Saunders's brilliant showing against David Lemieux in Canada nearly 2 years ago, he has faced Charles Adamu and Shefat Isufi, good fighters, but hardly household names.
Considering that Saunders is a highly talented two-weight world champion, he hasn't taken part in many high profile events to date. As he turned 30-years-old in August, he needs to fight big name opponents while he is in his prime. Eddie Hearn of Matchroom has him lined up to fight Callum Smith in a unification match at Anfield football stadium (Liverpool) in 2020 but that will all depend on who "Canelo" Alvarez or Gennady Golovkin choose to face next year. Should either of those choose to face Saunders or Smith then the Anfield plan will disappear, and if it is Smith that gets the nod from "Canelo" or GG then Saunders is back looking for top-line opposition.
The KSI vs Logan Paul rematch will be hugely supported, but not by regular boxing fans. The two Youtube stars bring a completely new, young and raw audience to boxing, something that hard-core boxing fans are struggling to accept. However, many of them will tune in to watch Saunders vs Coceres and Devin Haney who also fights on the undercard.
The 28-year-old Coceres from San Jorge, Santa Fe, Argentina will challenge for Saunders's 168lb title even though he is really a 160lb middleweight. This is not the handicap it sounds because in reality, so is Saunders a middleweight fighting in the higher division.
Coceres record is hard to decipher because most of the opposition are South Americans that we haven't heard of. Their win/loss stats aren't particularly good, so the WBA Fedebol middleweight champion will come into his first world title challenge as a big underdog.
Coceres has not fought outside Argentina, so the atmosphere inside the Staples Center will be a new experience considering the near hysteria that took place on the world tour for the KSI and Logan Paul rematch, but then again it will be new to Saunders too.
Argentina has a habit of turning out tough middleweights that no one has heard of previously, none more than the great Carlos Monzon, but Coceres does not look in that mould. He is well-schooled and can box off the back foot as well as punch it out in a shootout, but there are technical flaws and Saunders is an expert at exposing these.
From a betting perspective, there is the possibility of the upset win. Coceres throws a very fast and hard looking overhand right that he often follows with a good left hook. Beware the unknown Argentinian Billy Joe.
Prediction: Saunders to win a wide points decision.