We have a cracking night of championship boxing this weekend as Englishman Billy Joe Saunders attempts to return to his rightful place as champion of the world, edging closer to a fight with Mexican sensation and unified middleweight champ Saul Alvarez. Here are our top Billy Joe Saunders v Shefat Isufi betting tips.
Saunders takes on Shefar Isufi at the Lamex Stadium in Stevenage on Saturday evening with the bout shown live on BT Sport from 10.00pm. It’s part of a star-studded card that will serve as a real treat to fans of the noble art and we’re expecting a sizeable audience to be in their seats early for this one.
The main event is supported by Brad Foster v Ashley Lane for the British and Commonwealth super bantamweight titles, as well as a 10-round scrap involving Boy Jones and Shaun Cooper for the WBO Youth lightweight title. There are no less than 15 bouts on the card at this time and that means those paying the entrance fee will get serious value for money.
A night for the purists, perhaps, but there’s a real desire amongst many in the industry to see Saunders return as world champion and set-up a massive clash with one of the leading names in the frame, including Saul Alvarez, Gennady Golovkin and Callum Smith. To have any chance of achieving a bout with the names mentioned, Billy Joe must win this return and do so in fine style. Getting the victory is no longer enough as he aims to make up for lost time.
A Surprise Chance for Saunders
Billy Joe Saunders was given the chance to build on his perfect record when matched with German Shefut Isufi but later received a boost when it was announced the fight had been promoted to a bout for the vacant WBO world super middleweight title. That gives the Englishman a chance to become a two-weight world champion, having been successful at middleweight before being forced to vacate after controversially failing a drug’s test.
29-year-old southpaw Billy Joe brings a career record of 27 wins from as many starts with 13 of those victories coming inside the distance, resulting in a 48% KO average. He won a clutch of titles in the early part of his career under the watchful eye of Jimmy and Mark Tibbs at the TKO Gym in London before progressing to become champion of the world. That was achieved thanks to a majority decision win over Andy Lee at the end of what was a thrilling contest. Lee was sent to the canvas twice in round three and looked there for the taking but managed to rally back and push his opponent hard down the home straight.
The final scores read 114-112, 115-111, 113-113, although there could be no argument over who the rightful winner of the fight was. Now the WBO middleweight champion of the world, placing him in the mix with the likes of Golovkin and Alvarez, BJS continued to progress his career and went on to make three successful defences. He started his reign with a points win over Artur Akavov in Paisley before beating Willie Munroe Jr at the Copperbox.
Career Best Came in Canada
The best was still to come from Saunders and we saw him record a career top performance when travelling to Canada and beating the well-respected David Lemieux with relative ease. Billed as a potential banana skin before the first bell, BJS shone on the night, making a mockery of his opponent and even having enough of a lead to showboat during the contest. Saunders proved head and shoulders above his rival that night and it was generally accepted he was more than ready for a step up in grade to face one of the famous names on the circuit.
That didn’t happen, however, and a number of problems – many of his own making – outside of the ring saw the young champion make headlines for all the wrong reasons. He failed a voluntary drugs test, but many experts believe he should not have be found guilty as it was out of competition and not breaking the official rules. He was also seen mocking a drug addict on social media and the feeling in the game was he had become a bit of a loose cannon and bad for the sport’s reputation.
Fans will hope the Englishman has put that behind him and return to the kind of form we saw from him in Canada. It’s true he’s not the only one in the division to attract bad press and supporters will point out Alvarez failed a drugs test but was quickly taken back in by the boxing public following a rematch win over GGG. Saunders will be eager to get his career back on track.
Bookies Expect a Home Win
The majority of industry insiders expect Billy Joe Saunders to win this bout and that view is shared by bookmakers who wasted no time pinning their colours to the mast. They are supporters of Team Saunders here and make no apologies for that. So much so, backers eager to get their cash down on BJS winning this fight will find themselves forced into the special markets as there’s currently no more than Unibet’s 1/50 available.
Looking through the method of victory betting and Billy Joe Saunders to win by KO/TKO is red hot favourite with Ladbrokes offering 3/10. That’s tight enough but it’s actually the best price available at the time of writing and will appear in a fair share of fight night accumulators. The jolly has travelled the distance in four of his last five and that pushes us towards an interest on the points win. Follow our thinking at Bet365 and get a cracking 5/2. That’s our best bet of the night and as well as the backing of the form you’ll also benefit form a punter friendly price.
Those eager to avoid predicting a winner can try their luck on the total rounds betting. Over 4.5 rounds looks nailed on at 1/2 with Bet365, the same firm offering 6/4 on the bout ending before the 4.5 round mark. Will the fight go the distance? No is top price favourite at 1/3 against yes at 5/2 (Bet365). This is a step up in weight for Saunders, so we don’t expect him to go and blast Isufi out of there early. Big hitters could steam into the over 4.5 rounds at 1/2 as it would be a massive shock to see Saunders buck the form and score an early knockout.
Chances of an Upset
All the talk in the lead up to this fight has been about Billy Joe Saunders and the pre-match prices would have you believe he only needs to turn up. That’s not the case, of course, so what are the chances of an upset on Saturday night in front of the watching world?
Not much, think traders who are happy to send out a heavyweight 18/1 – best price at Bet365 – on Shefat Isufi winning, the draw scored at 33/1. The German brings a record of 27 wins against three defeats and two draws but is on a run of victories that extends all the way back to 2015. He will perform better than his price suggests but his record tells us he’s not in Saunders’ class.