There probably won’t have been many fight fans who felt sorry for Billy Joe Saunders as he made his way to the back of an ambulance at the AT&T Stadium on Saturday night.
After having all of his pre-fight bluster beaten out of him by pound-for-pound superstar Canelo in Texas, the 31-year-old exited the arena with a white towel wrapped around his head, as much to hide away from the world as it was to comfort his newly broken eye socket.
Loud, arrogant and unapologetically crass in and out of the ring, Saunders isn’t exactly the most likeable character in boxing and some would argue that, given his attitude in the build-up to this one, from pointless disputes over ring size to mocking a Mexican interviewer’s English, he got everything he deserved.
Maybe they’re right and maybe this sort of stinging humiliation, something the Hertfordshire man hadn’t come close to tasting in his previous 30 fights before Canelo, is exactly the wake-up call the supremely talented bad boy of boxing desperately needs.
For once it is Saunders at the butt of the joke. Former foe Chris Eubank Jr, who was beaten by Saunders in 2014, couldn’t hide his delight after winning a $10,000 bet that his compatriot wouldn’t last the distance against Canelo, while Fernando Vargas, a two-time super-welterweight champion, called Saunders an embarrassment to the sport and says he “quit like a freakin’ female dog.”
It’s the moniker of ‘quitter’ that will be the hardest to shake. Firstly, he didn’t quit - that’s simply not true. Saunders told his corner he couldn’t see, but it was Mark Tibbs’ decision to throw in the towel (correctly). But it won’t make much difference, especially given his response to Daniel Dubois, who suffered a similar injury against Joe Joyce in November, whom he branded a ‘quitter’ and told that he would fight on with two broken eye-sockets.
On Sunday Saunders’ had successful surgery on the broken orbital bone that ended his fight in the eighth round in Arlington, as well as confirming that he also had his cheek bone broken in three places.
"You win some and lose some. Didn't feel out (of) my league but got caught with a good shot and couldn't see,” Saunders wrote on Facebook.
"Thank you all who watched. I'll be back, God bless you all."
Of course he’ll be back. Love him or hate him, he is still undoubtedly one of the most gifted pugilists this country has to offer. Opinions vary on what the scorecards looked like when the fight was ended, but most agree that the Brit was more than competitive up until the stoppage.
Don’t expect a rematch with Canelo any time soon but Saunders is still one of the very best at 168lbs and when he does return, there’ll be plenty of opportunity to become world champion once again. For now though, it might be time for Saunders to indulge in some humility.