Former world middleweight champion Billy Joe Saunders returns to the ring to take on the unheralded Shefat Isufi for the interim WBO Super Middleweight title.
The fight was initially scheduled for April 13th at Wembley Stadium but was moved to May 19, 2019 at The Lamex Stadium in Stevenage, England. It will mark the first time in his boxing career that Saunders is fighting in his hometown of Hertfordshire.
Moving Up In Weight
Billy Joe Saunders is the former WBO middleweight champion who won the belt win a majority decision win over Andy Lee in 2015. He defended the title three consecutive times before he gave up his belt after failing a drug test. The 29 year old is now moving up to super middleweight with hopes of landing big fights with Callum Smith and Chris Eubank Jr.
Saunders is 5-11 and has a reach of 71 inches while fighting out of the southpaw stance. Billy Joe has an undefeated record of 27-0 with 13 knockouts. He has gone 12 rounds in nine out of his last 12 bouts. However, Saunders is coming off a 4th round TKO win over Charles Adamu, only the second time that Adamu has been stopped.
Andrade was supposed to fight Demetrius Andrade but after failing a drug test, he relinquished his WBO middleweight belt and was suspended for six months. Andrade went on to fight and win the vacant belt while Saunders’ suspension was lifted early and he was named as mandatory challenger to Andrade before choosing to fight Isufi instead.
Billie Joe Saunders vs Shefat Isufi
Odds from bet365 as of 4/10/19
Fighting A Relative Unknown
Shefat Isufi is surprisingly ranked #1 by the WBO and that’s why he is going to be opposite Billy Joe Saunders for the interim WBO super middleweight title. The belt became vavant after Gilberto “Zurdo” Ramirez decided to move up and challenge Sergey Kovalev for the light heavyweight title.
The 29 year old Isufi is also listed at 5-11 and fights out of the orthodox stance. His professional boxing record is listed at 27-3-2 with 20 knockouts. Isufi has previously fought at cruiserweight and light heavyweight but is currently campaigning in the super middleweight division where Billy Joe Saunders is stepping up to.
The Germany-based Serbian is the bigger man in this fight and has the edge in ring experience, having fought as a pro since 2010. However, he is a relative unknown who has almost exclusively fought in Germany and has never faced a recognizable or world ranked opponent. This unknown factor though, works both ways as while we may think he’s a tomato can, he may bring an element of surprise in this fight.
Forgive the description but I think this is a mismatch. Isufi has a record of 27-3-2 with 20 knockouts. That’s cure but when you take a look at his resume, his list of victims has no familiar names. He only has three losses but who did he lose to? Isufi has fought mostly in Germany and this is his first bout in England.
When you take a look at his record, he has won 10 fights in a row, seven of those by stoppage. His last two victories were intercontinental title bouts. One was to then 37-year old Rafael Sosa Pintos and his last bout was against 30-year old Mohamed El Achi who’s fought mostly in France. So while Isufi has plenty of ring experience at 32 bouts, he hasn’t fought opponents in the same quality as Billy Joe Saunders’ foes.
Saunders has fought and defeated the likes of Andy Lee, Chris Eubank Jr., Willie Monroe Jr. and David Lemieux so there’s a huge disparity in level of opposition and that’s the reason why I called this a mismatch. Boxing is about levels and I don’t think Isufi is on the same level as Saunders.
For the sake of comparison though, Isufi is a hard hitter and he’s a busy fighter with three bouts each in 2016 and 2017. He fought twice last year and this is his first fight of 2019. Saunders meanwhile has fought five times only over the same period and may be rusty. If Isufi turns out to be a real heavy hitter and he is well-conditioned because he has been a very active fighter, then we may have a fight in our hands.
If not, I think Saunders is going to dominate this fight from start to finish. Love or hate him, Saunders is a highly skilled fighter who also has good punching power. He can choose to box for 12 rounds but if he sees an opening, he will go for the kill as well. Saunders will likely box Isufi at the beginning just to test his power. Once he knows he can take it, he’s going to work the body and start slowing his opponent down. I think Saunders ends this fight in the middle rounds.
I don’t think Isufi can outbox Saunders and I’m not sure if he can knock him out either. I’m picking Billy Joe Saunders to win this fight by stoppage in the middle rounds.