Ben Davison admits it couldn’t say no when Billy Joe Saunders asked him to be his new coach. His friend since he was 13 years old, Saunders was the first person to recognise Davison’s potential as a boxing coach.
Over a decade later, Davison trains arguably the most gifted heavyweight on the planet, Tyson Fury. Earlier this year he added Saunders to his stable. Saunders already knew he would be moving up to fight Shefat Isufi by the time he approached Davison.
He had relinquished his WBO middleweight title after a succession of misfortune and self-inflicted controversies. He had split with his former trainer Dominic Ingle and was on the cusp of a redemption bid.
‘I’ve known Billy Joe since I was about 13. It goes back a long time. There was not a doubt in my mind that I would say no to him,’ Davison told Metro.co.uk.
‘If it wasn’t for Billy Joe Saunders I wouldn’t have been on this path.
‘He was the first person to recognise my talent as a trainer. Tyson Fury took that to another level and put me on a bigger stage.’
‘I could see where he was [when he came in the gym], I can see where my fighters are mentally, just by looking at them,’ Davison continued.
‘That’s an important thing to be able to do, although obviously we talk and discuss things anyway.
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‘I knew that Billy Joe was ready to put his foot on the gas. And I knew he wanted to, which is more important. That’s what he’s done and that will show Saturday.’
Davison is no strange to a resurrection job. He helped guide Fury back from the depths of a breakdown to the top of the heavyweight division in the space of 18 months. Saunders is hoping for a repeat performance from his old friend in his own career.
But Davison insisted there was no secret to rejuvenating a fighter.
‘The best advice I’ve ever been given was by my dad and he said to me: “If you do something you enjoy, you’ll be good at it. And if you’re good at it, you’ll have success”,’ Davison explained.
‘I feel Billy Joe was missing a little bit of motivation, a little enjoyment, a love for the sport and also he missed working on the technical side of things.
‘We’ve worked a lot on that, I feel he wanted to brush up on a few things and that’s what we’ve done.’
While Davison and Saunders have always been great friends, Fury reserves special praise for both men after their efforts to get him healthy again. With both fighters now training alongside each other, Davison has watched Saunders and Fury feed off each other’s energy.
‘It’s phenomenal,’ he said, when asked what Fury and Saunders were like to train. ‘When they’re in the gym and one might be a bit fatigued and the other one is on fire, that’s motivation for them.
‘They’re both very competitive and they want to be the best they can be every single day. It’s fantastic for each of them. Outside the gym, they’re good for each other too. They’re very disciplined fighters, although some may believe different.
‘They’re very dedicated fighters. The other day I walked into Tyson’s room at the weekend and they had the music on, lights dimmed – I felt like we were at a house party. They were enjoying each other’s company, having a bit of fun and that’s good for them.’
While there may be the pressure of a move up in weight and a fight in his hometown, Saunders is expected to beat Isufi to become a two-weight world champion. With a 27-3 record, Isufi is not considered a match for Saunders’ skills.
Saunders may be the favourite, but Davison is predicting a tough night for his fighter, even in victory.
He said: ‘It’s one of them fights where if Billy Joe blasts him away, it’ll be because Isufi wasn’t that good and if he has a hard fight, then it’s because Billy Joe wasn’t that good.
‘It’s one of them you can’t win really. Isufi is a little bit of an unknown quantity and because he’s not got a big name, people will underestimate him.
‘He’s coming down from cruiserweight when Billy Joe’s coming up from middleweight. He’s strong, he can put his punches together well and he’s got good variety. It’s not an easy test.’
When the final bell rings on Saturday night Saunders’ future in boxing will be clearer, but Davison knows exactly where he wants to end up with the former world champion: ‘I really, really want the Golovkin or Canelo fight for Billy Joe Saunders at middleweight.’