AHEAD of his WBO middleweight world title fight with Willie Monroe Jr at the Copperbox tonight, Billy Joe Saunders discussed his physical transformation under the guidance of trainer Dominic Ingle.

“The way people are: ‘your body can’t change like that’, your body can’t do this, your body can’t do that. But if you’re locked away for 13 weeks religiously eating, drinking certain amounts a day, supplements, training three times a day, then if you’re not in that shape then obviously you’re not sticking to it, you’ve not been doing it. The problem with me is I’ve always trained hard but I’ve always been ‘a little bit of pizza,’ bang I’ll eat that. It’s always been that way with me,” Saunders said.

“I’m mature. I’ve never been in this shape. It’s all part of learning, making mistakes, learning from them and I’ve learned from them. I’m in good shape now, I’m planning on keeping it,” he explained. “But when you go up there and you see in Sheffield, you see the kids fighting for peanuts and they’re training and they’re living the life. I’m following suit with what they’re doing. I’m world champion, but then you get in the groove of it. Then you know. You just realise, this is what I should have been doing and then I would have looked like this a few times. It’s not hard work, it’s just I made it harder work for myself previously.

“When someone comes in fat all the time, not looking in shape because talent can get you by. When you realise. I know the bigger picture, I can now see these kids fighting on a Saturday, back in the gym on a Sunday and they’re getting what, three grand. I’m thinking f****** hell that’s dedication. It took me a couple of times to realise. I was thinking they’re probably just trying to impress me. Then you see it, they’re fighting, they’re back in the gym. They’re fighting, they’re back in the gym. That’s the way.”

His opponent raised concerns with the drug testing regime ahead of the fight, complaints that promoter Frank Warren has dismissed. Saunders said, “I’ll tell you why, Monroe came here and seen me 12 weeks ago. He seen me 10 weeks ago looking in decent shape but thinking this is going to be the same old scenario looking at you. He’s been round the gym all his life. He knows what it takes to get into shape, because he’s in good shape. He’s looking at me thinking you’re not going to do it. Deep down when I work, I don’t care who it is and who it’s not, I’m not saying I work harder than anybody else but there is nobody who works harder than me when I’m down to it. I put everything into it. You heard yourself him about social media, so he’s been looking at it and obviously he’s been looking and thinking seven or eight weeks ago ‘he shouldn’t be looking like that, he didn’t look like that in his last fight.’ He’s looked at my weigh in in my last fight, seen me standing like that, like a blown up mushroom and thinking this guy’s going to be nothing. When he’s seen the physique about me, everything coming together, his ticker starts going. Because he likes to be in there with someone he can control. If he was here with someone quiet he’d be all over them talking to them. But there you go.”

billy joe saunders

Saunders is not dwelling on such accusations. “They can say I’m on drugs. I’m on the best drug [testing] program you can. I’m on UKAD. They randomly test you. They can turn up four times in one week, seven days a week. I’ve been tested in this fight. You get all this talk. I’ll tell you what it is. They’re probably looking at me thinking his body’s changed, look at how much his body’s changed,” he said.

“I think you get a lot of haters. It’s not really sensible people that do it. Proper boxing people who know me and know of me know that I’ve never took a drug in my life. I’ve never, ever, ever took any sort of drug in my life. Anybody that knows me personally knows I wouldn’t do that. Let’s face it, if you’ve got to cheat to beat someone then are you really a champion? Are you really a champion? I don’t think so.”