New WBO Super-middleweight world champion Billy Joe Saunders achieved a notable milestone in his career when he won a unanimous decision over Serbian born German Sefat Isufi to become a 2-weight world champion. So what now for the Hatfield man?
It is not Saunders fault that Isufi came into the contest with a record short of deserving a shot at a world title, however, it does take away a little of the shine that Saunders deserves. Imagine for instance that he had beaten Peter Quillin, Jose Uzcategui or Chris Eubank Jr for the vacant title, which I believe he would do given the opportunity, he would be seen as a strong and deserving 168lb champion.
If Billy Joe doesn't get a unification bout with Callum Smith or a fight against a superstar like Saul "Canelo" Alvarez in his next bout, he will need to fight someone in the WBO top 15. Take away Saunders and Isufi and this is what's left:
Erik Bazinyan (Canada) (23-0-0)
Jesse Hart (USA) (25-2-0)
Rohan Murdock (Australia) (24-1-0)
Zach Parker (UK) (18-0-0)
Zac Dunn (Australia) (28-1-0)
Roamer Alexis Angulo (Columbia) (24-1-0)
Aslambek Idigov (Russia) (16-0-0)
Juergen Braehmer (Germany) (50-3-0)
Aidos Yerbossynuly (Kazakhstan) (11-0-0)
Emmanuel Martey (Ghana) (14-0-0)
Lerrone Richards (UK) (12-0-0)
Mate Kis (Hungary) (14-0-2)
Lennox Allen (Guyana) (22-0-1)
Hart, Angulo, and Braehmer are all known quantities that could make decent defences for Saunders but not the names that he needs to build his reputation as one of the very best fighters in his division. The rest are probably all good fighters, we know Zach Parker is, but untested at this level.
The alternative is a move back down to middleweight where he held the WBO title for 3 years and a challenge to current incumbent Demetrius Andrade which is a 50/50 fight but one that would put him in the driving seat as the holder of the only title that Canelo does not hold at 160lbs.
Winning the title from Andrade holds the biggest risk but also the biggest reward. The ever doubtful Americans would respect a convincing win by the Englishman on a big show in Las Vegas or New York, in the manner of Saunders's win over David Lemieux in Canada last year.
At 29, Saunders still has time on his side but it is in these, the peak years of his boxing career that he wants the big fights to take place. He seems to be in a much better place mentally and gets into great shape for his fights compared to the early part of his career.
I would give him a great chance should he be matched against Andrade for the middleweight belt.