BILLY JOE SAUNDERS will have to defend his WBO super-middleweight title against his mandatory challenger in his next fight but could then be in line for that elusive mega fight against WBO light-heavyweight champion and all-round money-making superstar Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez.

Saunders, last seen labouring to an eleventh-round stoppage win over unheralded Argentine Marcelo Esteban Coceres, is in need of a big fight, if only to properly rev his engine and find some motivation. This much is undeniable.

Yet, according to WBO President Francisco ‘Paco’ Valcarcel, Saunders has had his share of breaks from the sanctioning body and must now, before any dreams of Canelo, fulfil his mandatory duty in the new year.

“Billy Joe Saunders just fought. He must make his mandatory for his next fight,” Valcarcel said during Thursday’s annual WBO convention in Tokyo, Japan. “We gave a lot of breaks to Billy Joe Saunders. When is he going to fight next? We allowed him a voluntary.”

With the emphasis on him fighting his number contender, Saunders could next be seen in a ring opposing either countryman Zach Parker or Australia’s Rohan Murdock, who are due to square off in January for the right to then box for the WBO title.

However, because Canelo Alvarez is Canelo Alvarez, which it to say the biggest star in the sport, he will be granted special privileges if he decides to drop back down from light-heavyweight, the division in which he recently won the WBO belt, to super-middleweight, a division in which he has so far only dipped his toes.

“Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez is the Super champion,” Valcarcel explained. “If he decides to fight at 168, he can fight for the title. The elimination bout will be fought with the condition that the winner could be the number two contender.”

You can have all the conventions you want and make as many titles, eliminators and rules as you want, but, in the end, it’s Canelo Alvarez, and superstars of his ilk, who govern the sport and will continue to do so in 2020.

Canelo Alvarez
Who runs the world? Canelo (Tom Hogan/Hogan Photos/Golden Boy)

The WBO are also keen to crown a new cruiserweight champion, having formally ordered a vacant title fight between Poland’s Krzysztof Glowacki, 31-2 (19), and England’s Lawrence Okolie, 14-0 (11).

This bout was unanimously approved by the WBO committee during its annual convention in Tokyo, Japan on Thursday morning and Francisco ‘Paco’ Valcarcel, president of the WBO, instructed Matchroom Boxing, Okolie’s promoter, to prepare for a 15-day negotiation period with Glowacki’s promoters, Andrew Wasilewski and Leon Margules. (This period will give both camps the chance to agree terms for a fight due to take place no later than 90 days after the designated negotiation deadline.)

The belt is vacant, of course, because its previous holder Mairis Briedis of Latvia has a World Boxing Super Series (WBSS) final against Cuban Yuniel Dorticos to arrange. Briedis had been ordered to rematch Glowacki following the controversial nature of their first encounter, a WBSS semi-final, but decided against in, opting instead to dump the belt and focus solely on Dorticos instead.

This leaves Glowacki, still smarting from the manner of his third-round stoppage defeat to Briedis, to contest the now-vacant belt against Okolie early next year.

Lawrrence Okolie
Okolie could become a world champion in 2020 (Action Images/Andrew Couldridge)