Canelo Alvarez’s V Billy Joe Saunders Was a Win for Boxing and the Stigma Around Quitting

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When Daniel Dubios took a knee against Joe Joyce during the tenth round of their British heavyweight title clash, there was no louder critic than Billy Joe Saunders after Dubios’ decision saw him counted out. Saunders took great exception to Dubios’ willingness to supposedly quit and didn’t hold back when asked about his opinion. 

Saunders’ exact words at the time were “before I go on one knee I’d like to go out on my back with my pulse stopped.” The 31-year-old middleweight certainly wasn’t alone in his condemnation of Dubios given that at the time, it was a popular sentiment that gained huge traction and became the latest news on most sporting websites including bigonsports.com.

Very little attention, however, was paid to the fact that Dubios had sustained an orbital fracture that could have had permanent effects, regardless if he had carried on or not. At the time the 23-year-old had also sustained retinal bleeding which would have been impossible for his team to diagnose in the ring. Indeed, with this type of injury impossible to identify with just the naked eye, the only person who could have known something was alarmingly wrong was Dubios, who wisely decided to immediately take a knee. 

The problem with Saunders’ viral comments after this happened was that it created a dangerous stigma around pulling out of a fight, irrespective of whether a boxer knows a few more punches could quite literally be the difference between life and death. Indeed, the backlash that awaits a fighter who takes a knee certainly has the potential to send their career into a tailspin with the subsequent furore enough to put fans off buying their fights. In reality, once a destructive narrative like this begins to gain airtime, it’s almost impossible to stop. 

Indeed, boxing has a reputation for this sort of bravado, but fight fans just need to look at the goings-on inside the MMA octagon to find some much-needed perspective. Take Conor McGregor for example, the Irishman tapped out during his fight against Khabib Nurmagomedov and no one blinked an eye given that it is part and parcel of UFC. If anything, a win by submission is a common method of victory, as asiabet.org explains here. In essence, when punters bet on a method of victory, they pick which fighter will win and how they will do it.

As far as submissions go, they are one of the popular options in the sport with punters choosing them the most when betting on the outcome of a match. The point is, one can dress it up by calling it a submission, but in reality, is it not also quitting? Making the decision to say ‘I’ve had enough’? And if it is such a regularity in the brutal art of MMA, why then does the boxing community fall over itself to criticize someone who does the same?

Hopefully, the boxing world has now come to its senses after Billy Joe Saunders was forced to ‘quit’ against the explosive Canelo Alvarez in Texas after getting the exact same injury as Dubios did against Joyce. In Saunders’ case, it was his team that informed the referee that the 31-year-old wouldn’t be coming out for the ninth round after witnessing up-close the damage that Alvarez had done.

Saunders didn’t argue with the opinion of his trainer Mark Tibbs, which wasn’t a surprise to his opponent. Revealingly, Alvarez had informed his own corner at the end of the eighth that there was no chance that Saunders would be coming out after the previous round led to Saunders’ eye closing up within seconds. 

When interviewed after the bout, the Alvarez went as far as to say that ‘when you break your cheekbone, you can risk your life, and you can’t continue that way.” 

Alvarez was of course completely right and Saunders’ team deserves praise for pulling their man out.  Boxing is just a sport when all is said and done and such uncompromising rhetoric around stopping will lead to moments that no one ever wants to see in a ring. The fact that Saunders was stopped on his stool is a timely win for safety in the world boxing given that he was very much the ringleader when driving up ill-feeling against Dubios. 

One can only hope now that this sort of macho attitude is finally revealed for the fact-free nonsense that it is. Indeed, the sight of a dazed Saunders sat slumped in the corner with his right eye firmly closed should go a long way in ensuring that boxers aren’t afraid to call it a day in certain circumstances. 

Encouragingly, and in a show of real class, minutes after the fight had ended, Daniel Dubois took to Twitter to say that Saunders had fought well and wished him a speedy recovery. Dubois’ thoroughly dignified response will do more good than he will ever know.

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