This Saturday unbeaten middleweight Billy Joe Saunders is eager to add the coveted Lonsdale Belt to the Commonwealth title that he already owns.
The 23 year-old collides with feisty Trowbridge scrapper Nick Blackwell in what promises to be a highly combustible encounter for the vacant British title on Frank Warren’s ‘Three Kings’ promotion at the ExCel Arena in London’s Docklands.
Already ranked 15th by the WBO, manager Warren has designs on fast tracking the Romany gypsy to a world title challenge before 2013 is through. However, in this recent interview with boxing writer Glynn Evans, the southpaw they call ‘Superb’ insists his antennae are fixed solely on a brutal demolition of Blackwell at the weekend.
Below is a question and answer interview with Bill Joe Saunders
Q One of your highlights this year was the 30 second blitz of Southampton’s Tony Hill to win the vacant Commonwealth title, then retaining with contrasting wins over Welshman Bradley Pryce (pts12) and Australia’s touted Jarrod Fletcher (rsc2). That must have been satisfying.
BJS It was and the best is still to come, believe me.
Many expected the Hill fight to be close but I caught him early with those little gloves and I do know how to finish. Because he’s so tall (6ft 2in), we’d trained specifically to get underneath Tony and everything went to plan.... just a bit quicker than we thought it might!
Bradley Pryce was a stiff opponent, a good fighter but he wasn’t that hard to work out technically. He had nothing skill or power wise to concern me. I probably had a harder night when I won the Southern Area title last year against Gary Bolden. For some reason, I just weren’t all there that night (against Pryce). If I had been, trust me, he’d have gone the same way as Hill and Fletcher. But I needed to go 12 rounds and that fight prepared me mentally to do it in future.
A lot actually fancied Fletcher to beat me and were really surprised when I did what I did to him but (coach) Jimmy Tibbs and me both knew what was going to happen. We’d watched DVDs of his amateur win over (James) DeGale and identified that he was a bit too ‘straight up’ and open for a counter left over the top.
I knew from how well my camp had gone that, when I caught him clean, it would be over and he made a big mistake by trying to push me back so early. He was unbeaten, up and coming himself so I knew it was my chance to make a statement. I was over the moon with the outcome. That’s my best performance to date.
Q How do you account for the dramatic progress this year? In what specific areas have you improved?
BJS I didn’t really get pro boxing at first. I thought provided I drank water and ate fresh food, I’d be okay. But now I really live the life, take all the right vitamins and supplements. I’ve not really shown what I’m about in the ring but people at our gym have seen a big improvement. Hopefully, my next opponent with hang around long enough for me to really show my classy boxing.
Q How have the maligned hands been bearing up? What added precautions have you been taking to protect them?
BJS Since the two ops they’ve been fine, touch wood. I had a little ‘stir up’ around round five of the Pryce fight but thankfully it was only bruising. Now, before training, Jimmy wraps ‘em with two bandages and a sponge. They’re being well looked after.
Q Since appearing for Team GB at the Beijing Olympics, aged just 18, you’ve repeatedly said you had no regrets about turning pro and missing out on London 2012. However, when the Games came around and you saw all the hysteria, did you have second thoughts? What did you make of the boxing at the Games?
BJS I’ve still no regrets. The same money isn’t there now that was available when me, DeGale and Gavin signed pro with Frank after Beijing and I’m more than happy with the progress I’ve made in the pros. But, of course, when I was watching it I kept thinking: ‘I could beat him. I’d have won the gold!’
I thought Tom Stalker was very unlucky to be eliminated. I think he caught the backlash of a few debatable decisions that went Team GB’s way earlier. That sort of thing can happen in the amateurs and it’s why I don’t really regret not hanging around for 2012.
Q Which of the Brits would make good pros and what advice would you give them?
BJS Stalker will make a good pro. When we used to spar he could always adapt. (Anthony) Joshua did well to come through a couple of close decisions. He’ll make a good pro when he’s ready.
Firstly, I’d advise them to listen to the right people and try to learn something new every day at the gym.