Billy Joe Saunders to make ring return after nightmare year

Billy Joe Saunders has not fought since outpointing David Lemieux in December 2017. Nick Potts/PA Images via Getty Images

Billy Joe Saunders will return to action for the first time since vacating his WBO middleweight world title when he takes on Hungarian fighter Zoltan Sera on Dec. 22 on the Josh Warrington vs. Carl Frampton undercard, live on ESPN+.

Saunders (26-0, 12 KOs) was due to defend his title against mandatory challenger Demetrius Andrade in Boston in October, but that fight was cancelled after Saunders was denied a licence by the Massachusetts State Athletic Commission for that fight after testing positive for the banned stimulant oxilofrine.

Faced with being stripped, Saunders elected to vacate his title, with promoter Frank Warren hitting out at the MSAC: "The MSAC, in their decision to deny a license to Billy Joe, have willfully refused to properly apply the code of [the World Anti-Doping Association] to their ruling," Warren said at the time.

For Saunders, this will be his first fight of 2018 after the collapse of the fight with Andrade and injury forced him out of two separate dates for defences against Martin Murray. Saunders last fought in Dec. 2017 when he traveled to Canada to comprehensively outpoint big-hitting Canadian David Lemieux in a career-best performance.

Away from the ring, 2018 also saw Saunders severely reprimanded and fined £100,000 by the British Boxing Board of Control [BBBofC] for bringing the sport into disrepute after posting a video online supposedly offering a woman class 'A' drugs in exchange for a sexual act.