ARLINGTON, Texas — Even the first official event for Saturday’s super middleweight unification fight between Canelo Alvarez and Billy Joe Saunders wasn’t immune to controversy.
Saunders did not show for a press event and arrival photos on Tuesday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. His father, Tom, told ESPN that Saunders was unwilling to budge on a 2-foot difference in ring size. To his credit, Alvarez saw through the morning bluster and dismissed the claims from the opponent’s camp as not something that could seriously jeopardize the fight.
“He has to fight Saturday, “Alvarez said through an interpreter. “The fight is going to happen. That’s not a problem.”
Alvarez was right. By midafternoon, the issue appeared to be resolved. It’s unclear if the ring size will be 20 feet, which was the contested size, or 22 feet, which Tom Saunders told ESPN is the size his son wanted.
In an Instagram post, Billy Joe Saunders said “the ring is not a problem” and asked Matchroom Boxing managing director Eddie Hearn to install the ring. However, the whole situation made for an entertaining start to fight week.
Saunders (30-0, 14 KOs), who owns one of the four major belts in the 168-pound division, walked through the hotel lobby with members of his camp Tuesday morning. However, he opted not to walk less than half a mile to AT&T Stadium for arrival photos and the first press availability of the week.
“We’ve given a lot away here,” Tom Saunders told ESPN earlier Tuesday. “We ain’t gonna give away no more. It’s a 22-foot ring or there’s no fight. Simple as that. We’re here to fight. We’re here to win.”
With Billy Joe Saunders absent, Alvarez and his trainer, Eddy Reynoso, posed for photos inside the home of the Dallas Cowboys. Alvarez (55-1-2, 37 KOs) is considered one of the world’s best pound-for-pound fighters and holds two of the major belts
“We’ve faced everyone — lefties, righties, champions, ex-champions — in any size of ring,” Reynoso said through a translator during a brief news conference where he downplayed the issue. “To us, this doesn’t mean anything.”
Later in the afternoon, as Alvarez made his way through the hotel lobby, Saunders’ camp again chided Alvarez about the ring size. Alvarez walked by, turned around and in English replied, “You’re a f—ing p—y.”
Alvarez told reporters that he didn’t care about the ring size as he attempts to unify the belts.
“It’s not the only excuse he’s had,” Alvarez said through an interpreter. “He’s had plenty of excuses. I’m just going to go in there and do what I have to do.”