The English boxer Billy Joe Saunders has earned numerous achievements over the course of his professional career in the ring. He currently holds an undefeated 29-0 record and has won world championship titles in both the middleweight and super-middleweight weight classes. Saunders consistently ranks as one of the best super-middleweight boxers active today.
Unfortunately, Saunders has also proven to be one of the most trouble-prone figures in professional boxing. He recently made headlines again as the result of an inappropriate social media joke. That gaffe quickly led to some serious repercussions for the 30-year-old boxer. Here we take a look at the source of the controversy, as well as its effects and Saunders’ response.
The nature of Billy Joe Saunders’ “joke”
The “joke” in question was a video that Saunders posted to his social media account. The video featured Saunders hitting a punching bag while spouting misogynistic advice aimed at “dads, husbands [and people] with girlfriends.” Saunders talks about how best to hit female partners if tensions boil over as the result of the coronavirus lockdown.
The video discussed partner abuse in brutal, unsavory terms, with Saunders describing how to “hit her on the chin” and then “finish her off.” The video brought swift condemnation against the boxing star. Of course, this wasn’t the first time Saunders got in trouble for inappropriate video content.
Back in 2018, a video surfaced of Saunders apparently offering drugs to a woman in exchange for a sex act. In addition, Saunders also coerced the woman into punching a passer-by.
That video brought Saunders a £100,000 fine courtesy of the British Boxing Board of Control (BBBC). It also set an unsavory precedent for Saunders’ current predicament.
Effects of the controversy
In the present case, the BBBC acted even more swiftly and punitively by suspending Saunders’ boxer’s license. That suspension holds good at least until a hearing is scheduled under the BBBC’s misconduct regulation. Given the Coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis sweeping the globe, such a hearing could be weeks or even months away.
Until the case has been settled, Saunders will be unable to compete professionally. That could have huge ramifications, potentially costing Saunders millions of dollars. In particular, the BBBC’s decision may upset an upcoming super-middleweight title unification fight between Saunders and Canelo Álvarez.
That fight was going to be a huge opportunity for Saunders, who was already relishing the opportunity to go toe to toe with arguably the single biggest name in professional boxing.
With the match now in doubt, Saunders may take a big financial hit. And no matter what happens at the hearing, he will undoubtedly face a public relations backlash that will hurt his reputation for years to come.
Billy Joe Saunders’ response to the backlash
The criticism of Saunders’ video came from all corners. Even Saunders’ promoter, Eddie Hearn, voiced his disgust for the video’s content, saying “You cannot do it. It’s unacceptable.”
He did, however, defend Saunders’ character, calling him “a really good kid, with a really good heart,” and giving examples of Saunders’ charitable efforts.
Saunders himself quickly released an official apology, calling his video a “very, very, very bad out of taste joke.” He claimed that the “actual reality of domestic violence” never crossed his mind when making the video, and offered to make a donation to a domestic violence charity with money from his next purse.
Of course, if and when he gets another purse is a complete unknown at this point. And while Saunders may have said all of the right things in his statement, no amount of apologizing can make up for the fact that he posted the video in the first place — or that he ever thought a “joke” like that could be funny.