Thursday, Jul. 24, 2008

53. Billy Joe Saunders

Great Britan
Age: 18

The broad shoulders of 18-year-old British welterweight boxer Billy Joe Saunders have more than the usual burden of pride and expectation riding on them. For a start there's the large fan base he's gathered in a 49-fight winning streak that included the defeat of a Cuban champion. Then there's the reputation of his family and of his Romany Gypsy people for whom he's aiming to be a "good news story." Part of that involves shucking the image of the bare-knuckle fighter, a tradition of Gypsy culture that made his 96-year-old great-grandfather a celebrated boxing booth champion at the fairgrounds. But above all Saunders puts his faith in another time-honored virtue of the gloved version of the sport: "Boxing has kept me off the streets, stops me smoking and drinking and gives me something to do." Like beating people up.