Two-weight world champion Billy Joe Saunders (29-0, 14KOs) has linked back up with his old trainer Mark Tibbs.
Saunders, 31 from Hatfield, was initially trained by Mark’s father Jimmy Tibbs from the start of his career in 2009 right up to winning the WBO World middleweight title against Andy Lee (35-3-1, 24KOs) in December 2015. Mark was always present as his father's assistant.
The history-making fight with fellow traveller Lee was the first time that both fighters involved in a world championship contest were from the travelling community. Saunders had Lee down twice in the third round but was taken all the way to a mixed decision points verdict to land his first ever world title.
'Superb' Saunders is no stranger to making history when he became the first person from the British Romany Gypsy community to qualify for the Olympic Games in 2008.
He defended his middleweight world title a whole year later to underwhelming challenger Artur Akavov (20-3, 9KOs) when he laboured to a points win over the Russian, but he had Ben Davison and Danny Vaughan in his corner for that fight instead. It wasn’t clear why he and Jimmy had split at first, but it was evident it was due to training issues in what was a tumultuous year for Saunders, which ended with him fighting in a leisure centre in Scotland in his only fight of the year.
He also trained with Adam Booth, immediately after his win over Akavov, but it only lasted around six months as Saunders then relocated to Sheffield to join Dominic Ingle. The reason for the move was to avoid any distractions that could arise from staying put in his Hertfordshire home.
After his second word title win, up at super-middleweight, against Shefat Isufi (30-4-2, 22KOs), Saunders split amicably from long-term promoter Frank Warren to join Eddie Hearn’s stable. He has experienced one fight under the Matchroom Boxing banner in September 2019 against Marcelo Coceres (28-1-1, 15KOs) at The Staples Center in LA before landing a huge fight with Mexican superstar Canelo Alvarez (53-1-2, 36KOs), which has since been cancelled due to the delays and complications that the COVID-19 pandemic caused.
After discussing his career with Mark Tibbs lately, the southpaw made the decision to work out arrangements to train together again.
Mark, 51 from East London, was always the assistant to his father, who was the head trainer, but worked with Billy Joe closely on his strength and conditioning.
When the Tibbs family were spearheading Saunders’ career, they collected every belt on the way to world honours – the Southern Area, Commonwealth, British, and European middleweight titles, as well as a WBO International belt.
Tibbs revealed the news in an exclusive interview with SecondsOut, "I'm excited about Johnny Fisher - a new heavyweight - and I've linked back up with Billy Joe Saunders."
He explained in detail, "Bill contacted me a few weeks ago now, we had a couple of sessions and whatnot, and we just had a chat regarding his career and we're knuckling down now and hopefully getting ready for a date."
A professional boxer himself during 1988-1994, winning 22 from 25 bouts, Tibbs added, "He is a talent where no one has seen the best of him yet, and the best is yet to come. He's shown very good enthusiasm; very, very good hunger, and that winning mentality that I've always seen in him is still there, he's a winner."
He concluded, "We've got off to a good start and it's exciting for sure."
Mark has opened up a brand new gym recently in Essex and, after splitting with Dillian Whyte very recently, is currently training heavyweight debutant Johnny 'The Romford Bull' Fisher; unbeaten 21-year-old James 'Hitman' Hawley; WBO European flyweight champion Harvey Horn. The addition of a world champion fighter will give the newly-opened gym and its stable a welcome boost.