Saul "Canelo" Alvarez has issued a stinging rebuke to Billy Joe Saunders, claiming that he did not even recognise his middleweight rival after he gatecrashed a recent press conference. The popular Mexican also confidently stated that he could beat him with "one hand tied behind my back and my eyes closed".
Canelo, seated next to Golden Boy Promotions chief Oscar De La Hoya, appeared alongside Gennady Golovkin at the plush Landmark London Hotel in Marylebone on Monday (19 June) for the opening UK leg of an international press tour to promote the duo's eagerly-anticipated middleweight title clash at Las Vegas' T-Mobile Arena on 16 September.
An otherwise respectful encounter between the planet's premier middleweights was heated up by the intervention of Saunders, who asked why Canelo had effectively handed Golovkin the WBC belt after vacating his title in May 2016 amid claims he would not be "forced into the ring by artificial deadlines".
"I'll translate that - I s**t myself," Saunders mocked after Canelo had spoken about the time frame established by the WBC and conditions added in areas such as the percentages and purse split.
When asked by IBTimes UK what he made of those comments during a subsequent sit-down with reporters, a dismissive Canelo said: "I didn't even recognise him, to tell you the truth. I didn't recognise him. I saw him. He's got to come down in weight first before considering fighting one of us.
"I've never really studied him. When we were talking earlier and discussing possibly fighting him, I saw maybe one or two rounds. But I've never really studied him or seen him."
Further quizzed by IBTimes UK if Saunders' antagonistic approach was the right or wrong way to go about securing a fight against him, Canelo responded: "I can promise you this: with one hand tied behind my back and my eyes closed, I'll be able to beat him."
Saunders asked during the presser if the winner of Canelo-Golovkin would entertain a unification bout for his WBO strap, reiterating that he signed his half of the deal to face "GGG" earlier this year only for the undefeated Kazakh to "lose his pen".
"Yeah. He's a funny guy. He talks too much. He is a boxer, he's not promotions," Golovkin said when asked if he recognised Saunders. "He talks too much...I know him of course."
It was rumoured earlier this summer that Golovkin decided not to fight Saunders in June, instead choosing to look ahead to a possible showdown with Canelo after retaining his WBA (Super), WBC and IBO belts in a hard-fought unanimous decision victory over mandatory challenger Daniel Jacobs at Madison Square Garden that saw his formidable knockout streak curtailed at 23.
However, Golovkin appeared to suggest that it was actually the other way around.
"It's a question for [promoter] Tom [Loeffler]. I said I am ready. I remember I said 'Tom, please bring this fight to Kazakhstan'. He said no, he's not ready. June 4 and June 10...he said no. OK. My focus is on Canelo."
Saunders believes Golovkin will suffer his first professional loss later this summer and wants to face Canelo in the United States. The 27-year-old southpaw has fought just once since winning the WBO title from Andy Lee in late 2015, defeating little-known Russian Artur Akavov on points in extremely unconvincing fashion on 3 December.
A hand injury sustained in training forced the cancellation of his first scheduled defence against Max Bursak in April 2016. His meeting with mandatory Avtandil Khurtsidze, scheduled for 8 July, was postponed earlier this month after the Georgian challenger was arrested in New York and indicted under the Rico Act.
Promoter Frank Warren confirmed at the Canelo-Golovkin presser that Saunders would also fight on 16 September at the Copper Box Arena in London. His opponent for that contest will be announced at a later date.