Plans for middleweight world titleholder Billy Joe Saunders to defend his belt on the undercard of Canelo Alvarez's next fight as a prelude to a possible December showdown are off because Saunders rejected all of the opponents presented to him, Golden Boy Promotions vice president Eric Gomez told ESPN.com.
Alvarez (47-1-1, 33 KOs), of Mexico, will challenge England's Liam Smith (23-0-1, 13 KOs) for his junior middleweight world title on Sept. 17 in the main event of an HBO PPV card at AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys, in Arlington, Texas.
Golden Boy and Frank Warren, Saunders' promoter, were in the midst of negotiating a deal under which Saunders would appear in the co-feature in his United States debut. If Alvarez and Saunders (23-0, 12 KOs), of England, both won, they would have a deal in place to meet in December on HBO as Alvarez, the lineal middleweight champion (but boxing at 155 pounds), builds up to 160 pounds in anticipation of a megafight against unified middleweight titleholder Gennady Golovkin next year.
Golden Boy brought up three second-tier contenders as possible opponents for Saunders: Gabriel Rosado (23-9, 13 KOs), Curtis Stevens (28-5, 21 KOs) and Willie Monroe Jr. (20-2, 6 KOs). All are Golovkin knockout victims, but Saunders turned all of them down. Saunders also called out Golovkin for a unification fight earlier this year. When he was offered career-high money to face him in April, he turned that fight down as well.
Golden Boy's first choice was to make the match with Saunders and Rosado, which would get a fighter it promotes a title shot. Philadelphia's Rosado, a fan favorite who is usually in exciting fights, agreed to terms and signed a contract, but Saunders turned the fight down.
"I was working hard with Frank to make this deal, and it was going well, but Saunders is not going to be on the card now," Gomez said. "We tried to make it happen. We offered him reasonable opponents, and he said no. We thought it would have been great to have Saunders and Canelo on the same card before a possible fight between them. But now we are moving on.
"Even though Saunders won't be on the Sept. 17 card, we have not closed the door to still trying to make the fight for December. I'm not sure what else Saunders wants to do, but this was a great opportunity, and Frank knew it. Anyway, the fight with Canelo could still happen at some point."
Rosado has won two fights in a row but is just 2-4 with a no-decision in his past seven fights, so it came as a surprise that Saunders would turn down the fight for which he would be a big favorite -- not to mention the American exposure that would go with it. Rosado was ticked off.
"I signed my contract a week ago," Rosado said. "From what I hear, Saunders wanted an easier fight. They didn't want to fight me. The WBO champ [is] acting like a coward."
Saunders' response to heavy criticism for rejecting the various opponents came on social media.
"Don't believe everything you're told," he said. "I'll be in the ring very soon."
Saunders won a 160-pound belt from Andy Lee by majority decision on Dec. 19 and has not fought since.
With Saunders off the Alvarez-Smith card, Gomez said he is working on a new co-feature, but he declined to get into any details.
"From what I hear, [Billy Joe] Saunders wanted an easier fight. They didn't want to fight me. The WBO champ [is] acting like a coward." Gabriel Rosado
There are others, however, set to appear on the card.
Up-and-coming featherweight Joseph Diaz Jr. (21-0, 12 KOs), a 2012 U.S. Olympian from South El Monte, California, will appear in a fight on the pay-per-view portion of the card against an opponent to be announced, Gomez said.
Mexican junior featherweight prospect Diego De La Hoya (15-0, 9 KOs), a first cousin of Golden Boy Promotions CEO Oscar De La Hoya, and middleweight prospect Jason Quigley (13-0, 10 KOs) will also be on the card against opponents to be determined, though not necessarily part of the pay-per-view telecast. Gomez said Quigley's bout likely will be part of the PPV "free view" show before the formal start of the PPV.
Diaz, Quigley and Oscar De La Hoya appeared recently at Cowboys training camp in Oxnard, California, with team owner Jerry Jones to promote their appearances on the card.
"This is a big step up and great opportunity for me to showcase my skills and what I'm truly about," Diaz said. "I know that 126 pounds is a stacked division, but I want to showcase to everyone Sept. 17, with all the 100,000 people that are going to be at the AT&T Stadium, that I can be the next world champion at 126 pounds.
"I would like to fight any champion at my weight class. Hopefully, I'll become mandatory for the WBC so I can fight Gary Russell Jr. because I know he is the champion. But if not, if I become mandatory for any other world titles, I'm willing to fight anybody: Vasyl Lomachenko, Leo Santa Cruz, Carl Frampton and Abner Mares. I'm willing to showcase that I can get in the ring with the best and beat the best."
Quigley is also excited to be on the card.
"I'm absolutely delighted to be on such an amazing card," said Quigley, who is from Ireland. "To be fighting under Canelo again is going to be amazing. To be fighting in Texas and at AT&T Stadium is a massive platform to show what I've got. I'm going to take full advantage of it and will be ready to shine on Sept. 17."