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From A Fighter’s Perspective: Saunders Did Not Quit

By: Steven Galeano

Billy Joe Saunders would have entered the ninth round and tried to fight to the best of his abilities, all while enduring the pain he was experiencing. Canelo Alvarez brutally broke Saunders’ eye socket in the eighth round of their super middleweight unification Saturday night in Arlington. Saunders’ trainer Mark Tibbs ultimately decided to stop the bout immediately after the eighth round ended.

Tibbs made the right decision.

As a young prospect, the closest I have experienced to this event was a grotesquely broken nose during sparring. The moment happened in an instant and I could do nothing more than continue boxing until the bell rang. Although I felt more than fine, I knew something was immediately wrong at that moment. My trainer looked at me and let out an uncomfortable grimace once he saw the damage. It was painful, especially once the adrenaline of sparring faded. If it were an official match, I undoubtedly would have continued, as a broken nose is the kind of injury you can maneuver around.

A broken eye socket? That is a whole other level. A broken nose, as painful as that was, can be corrected back into place. My fracture was in 5+ different spots, so at best, I was able to have 80% back in place. Continuing with a broken eye socket starts to raise risks of going blind and never being able to fight again. A fighter should only continue with such an injury in VERY specific situations.

If I were in Saunders position, naturally I would have wanted to continue. I am sure he would have wanted an opportunity knowing it would all go wrong. The situation at hand just was not anywhere near worth the risk. Losing on the cards, four rounds to go and across the ring from a monstrous puncher, I believe my corner stopping the fight is the right decision as well. While I would not have verbally expressed that in the ring, I would thank my corner after accessing the situation later on. Even while damaged, you should always try to continue giving your all, it is your corner’s job to weigh the options at hand. All things considered, it must be incredibly difficult continuing to fight knowing it is the wrong decision.

Saunders should thank Tibbs, Alvarez would have brutally punished him further, and unnecessarily.

The deeper issue is that fighters should never call out other fighters for quitting in such situations – whether they have been in them or not. Saunders slammed heavyweight prospect Daniel Dubois when he could not continue after suffering a fractured orbital bone against Joe Joyce.

“If my two eye sockets were broken, my jaw was broken, my teeth were out, my nose was smashed, my brain was beaten, I was not stopping until I was knocked out or worse,” Saunders said after Dubois’ loss in Nov’ 2020. “I don’t agree with a man taking the knee and letting the ref count him out.”

These words will live with Saunders’ in the coming months, now that he is in the same situation just six months later. Similarly, both Dubois and Saunders produced great efforts in both respective fights and had zero reasons to look for a way out. There was something seriously wrong and it is unfortunate that Saunders suffered this same fate. He will bounce back, and this situation will allow for growth moving forward.

Saunders expressed the spirit one should have to even get to such an elite level. The truth is, I feel the same way, but it does not mean that should happen. Your corner should never have you risk your life, as that corner does not care for their fighter. Boxing has seen it all too often. Saunders did not quit, he was beaten by the better man.

Dubois tweeted after Saunders’ defeat, sharing several positive messages on Twitter. “You fought well @bjsaunders_ hope your eye heels up quickly and you can come back stronger champ,” Dubois stated in one tweet. “Maybe he’ll regret what he said about me, maybe this might teach him something. It could be a life lesson.”

An important lesson for all fighters, especially those who have never been in similar situations. Fighters feel like they know how they would react in certain situations but things reveal themselves in the heat of battle. This idea of continuing while receiving unnecessary damage is glorified, well, it should not. Boxing is about trying to hit while not being hit. Wars are glorified by fans who do not think of the fighters past the hours after they have fought.

Saunders has heart, as it takes a tremendous one to reach such a prominent level in the sport of boxing. Had he been pushed to continue, he would have tried to find ways to compete and minimize damage. Thankfully he was not out there for such a dangerous task.

Wishing a speedy recovery to Saunders.

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