Boxing champion Billy Joe Saunders suspended after posting video 'showing men how to hit women'

David Chipakupaku, news reporter
Middleweight champion Saunders appeared to condone domestic abuse in the video, which was circulated on social media

Boxing champion Billy Joe Saunders has had his boxer's licence suspended after posting a video which appears to condone domestic abuse.

The video, which has circulated on social media, shows the WBO super middleweight champion in his shed with a punchbag in front of him.

In it, the 30-year-old advises men on how to physically hit partners who are "giving you mouth" during the ongoing COVID-19 lockdown.

But in a statement, the British Boxing Board of Control (BBBofC) said that "having considered comments made by Billy Joe Saunders on social media, [it has] suspended his boxer's licence pending a hearing under the board's misconduct regulation, at a time and venue to be confirmed as soon as possible".

In the video, the English boxer says: "I just wanted to make a little video for all you dads, husbands, if you've got girlfriends et cetera.

"Obviously this COVID-19 is getting very serious and we are isolated away in tight spaces.

"If your old woman is giving you mouth and you try to be patient, you try to be calm, cool, but after the sixth day you're just about to explode," he explains, before going on to demonstrate how viewers should punch their partners.

In an interview with talkSPORT Radio, boxing promoter Eddie Hearn described the video as "idiotic".

"I was appalled really," he said.

"It was so idiotic, it was so frustrating because I know Billy well. He's a really good kid, with a really good heart... but every now and again he does the most stupid things.

"It's unacceptable for Joe Bloggs down the street to do it. It's much more unacceptable for a world champion boxer to be doing it.

"People who are in abusive relationships are watching that video. You cannot do it, it's unacceptable," the promoter said.

Saunders' subsequent apology on Twitter went: "I would never condone domestic violence and if I saw a man touch a woman I would smash him to pieces myself.

"I have a daughter and if a man laid a finger on her it would be end well [sic].

"Apologies if I offended any women [sic] stay blessed."

His account now appears to have been suspended.

Saunders issued a further apology on talkSPORT on Monday morning, saying he had intended the post as "a bit of a joke at first".

"There are people dying all around the world with coronavirus and I tried to take the heat off that a little bit by cheering everybody up - but it clearly hasn't done it.

"My sense of humour is not everyone's cup of tea."

Saunders has pledged to donate £25,000 to domestic violence charities.

But the domestic abuse charity Women's Aid has criticised the boxer for the footage.

Adina Claire, acting co-chief executive, said: "Domestic abuse is never a joking matter, but when thousands of women are trapped in their homes with a perpetrator and are fearing for their lives, whether it is supposed to be a joke or not, the Billy Joe Saunders video sends out a dangerous message.

"Before the pandemic, an average of three women every fortnight were murdered by their male partner or ex-partner. Now that we are experiencing a nationwide lockdown, those living with domestic abuse who know that their home is not a safe place are even more exposed to danger than before.

"In the last two weeks, Avon and Somerset police have reported a 20.9% increase in domestic abuse incidents," she said.

"We want women to know that we believe them, we are here for them and support is available, even when they cannot safely leave their home."

The footage caused fierce backlash on social media over the weekend, including from the comedian Janey Godley, with many calling for Saunders to be barred from competing.

"My mum was murdered by her ex-BF...maybe this boxer thinks it's a joke," Ms Godley said on Twitter.

Senior police officers have told Sky News that authorities are preparing for an upsurge in the number of domestic abuse cases as victims have to self-isolate with their abusers.

West Midlands Police have said data from China and Italy suggests that case numbers could "increase by three-fold" over the coming weeks, and that some abusers have already tried to manipulate the crisis.

The Duchess of Cornwall has also recently urged domestic violence victims in isolation with their abusers to seek help.

"If this is your situation, or you are worried about someone else, I want you to know that you are not alone," Camilla said on her official Clarence House Twitter account.

"Even if you cannot leave your home, you can call the National Domestic Abuse Helpline or contact one of the domestic violence charities. Please stay safe and get help."

This is not the first time Saunders has attracted the attention of the BBBofC.

The board fined the Hertfordshire boxer £100,000 in September 2018 following a social media video in which he encouraged a woman to perform a sex act in exchange for £150 worth of drugs.

If you suspect you are being abused and need to speak to someone, there are people who will listen to you.

:: The National Domestic Violence Helpline: 0808 2000 247

:: Women's Aid

:: Refuge

:: Respect's Men's Advice Line: 0808 8010327

:: Galop, the LGBT+ anti-violence charity: 0800 999 5428