Ben Shalom believes Billy Joe Saunders is ‘miles off’ a return to the ring and insists Chris Eubank Jr must challenge for a world title this year.
Saunders has not fought since losing to Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez in May last year, forced to retire in the eighth round after suffering three fractures to his right eye in a punishing career-first defeat.
During his time away from the ring, the former two-weight champion has contemplated retirement but promoter Eddie Hearn revealed last week he could return to the ring in September or October.
Saunders and Eubank Jr have shared an intense rivalry dating back to their 2012 fight where the former sealed a split decision win.
Promoter and BOXXER CEO Shalom believes Eubank Jr is still desperate to secure a rematch. But with his old rival still working towards a return, he believes the Brighton middleweight must now focus on winning a world title before pursuing a host of other huge fights.
‘I think Chris would love that fight [against Saunders],’ Shalom told Metro.co.uk on behalf of Bet365.
‘But Billy Joe has had a lot of time off….he’s been enjoying himself and I think he’s miles off. Let’s hope he’ll be back in the ring soon, but we’ll see.’
Shalom continued: ‘Eubank now finds himself in a position in his career whereby he needs to prove himself as a world champion.
‘If the opportunity is there to fight for a world title, he should be taking it, regardless of the name. I think once Chris has proved his world title credentials, it makes a potential fight with the likes of Conor Benn, Billy Joe or Golovkin later down the line so much bigger.’
Eubank Jr had hoped to secure a showdown with IBF and WBA middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin.
However, the hard-hitting Kazakh is now expected to meet Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez in September with the Mexican superstar appearing to confirm their huge trilogy fight will take place before a rematch against Dmitry Bivol.
Elsewhere in the middleweight division, WBC champion Jermall Charlo is set to defend his title against Maciej Sulecki in June.
Demetrius Andrade meanwhile holds the WBO title although the American was set to move up to the super-middleweight division to fight Zach Parker for the interim 168lbs title – a bout that has since been postponed.
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