WBO super-middleweight champion Billy Joe Saunders has explained the reasons for his withdrawal from a projected fight with Mexican star Canelo Alvarez and says he has now switched his attentions to long-term rival Demetrius Andrade.

Saunders (29-0, 14 KOs) was originally scheduled to face Canelo in May before the Covid-19 Pandemic scotched those plans. With the Mexican planning his return in September, Saunders declared himself unavailable, prompting a mad scramble by every world-rated fighter between 160lbs and 175lbs hoping to seize that opportunity.

The gifted Hatfield southpaw has now revealed that a testing lockdown, where he spent most of his time looking after his elderly grandparents and childminding, as the main reason why he couldn’t be ready for a new date with Canelo.

“Every gym was closed and my grandparents are very elderly, I live next door to them. There were a few [health] scares,” Saunders told The Athletic. “Seventy-five percent of my time [was dedicated] to [my grandmother], I couldn’t leave the place, I had my kids every other day.

“I’m not ready in September. You can say to me, ‘Billy Joe, a billion pounds, but you’re not ready and you’re going to get beat’. I would say keep it. Let me get ready, let me win and I will fight for free.

“I’m nobody’s stepping stone. I’m not another belt for Canelo. They want to try mind games, that don’t work with me. I play the biggest mind games in British boxing.”

Saunders has now turned his attentions to WBO middleweight title-holder Andrade (29-0, 18 KOs) who he was scheduled to face in 2018 before testing positive for the banned stimulant oxilofrine. His claim that the failed test was the result of using “a common decongestant nasal spray” was accepted and Saunders moved up in weight to claim the sanctioning body’s crown at 168lbs. Andrade duly won the middleweight crown vacated by Saunders, but is now also looking to move up in weight.

“That’s the fight I would want, I would love the fight. There’s unfinished business with me and [Andrade],” said Saunders.

“I think he’s a non-top fighter. When it’s gone his way, he looks good; when not his way, he can’t get going. When I fight him, we both have skills. It’ll be my heart vs his heart.”

Saunders is currently training in Fuerteventura, Canary Islands, with trainer Ben Davison and WBA Super and IBF super-lightweight champion Josh Taylor.