Billy Joe Saunders has been crowned the new European Middleweight champion in Manchester – and immediately called out Chris Eubank Jr for what could be a mouth-watering Battle of Britain.
The Hatfield boxer took just eight rounds to find a huge right hander to stop Emanuele Blandamura at the Phones 4U Arena, a punch that sent the Italian stumbling backwards into the ropes leading his corner to throw in the towel and bring the encounter to a halt.
Earlier in the evening, Eubank Jr had recorded a straightforward first-round stoppage of Croatia’s Ivan Jukic and although Saunders’ win sees him take a step closer to a world title fight in the not to distant future it seems that Eubank Jnr remains very much on his wish list.
The Saunders fight was the headline act of the evening following Tyson Fury’s withdrawal on the morning of his fight with Alexander Ustinov after his uncle and first trainer Hughie was taken seriously ill to hospital.
Going into the bout, the 2008 Beijing Olympian had not been in the ring due to injury since his points win over John Ryder 10 months ago which saw him retain his British and Commonwealth Middleweight titles.
Blandamura entered the ring wearing a signed Italy shirt, but unlike his nation’s football team during this summer’s FIFA World Cup the 34-year-old from Roma avoided a first-round knockout.
In fact, Blandamura landed a decent right just under Saunders’ left eye as early in the second round leaving the Hertfordshire fighter with a slight swelling at the end of the round, but it was kept in check by his corner and was of little consequence throughout the rest of the bout.
Blandamura countered well in the opening round, but then took the fight to Saunders a little more over the next round until, in the fourth, Saunders turned on the style with a couple of nice lefts jabs to get back on top.
The Italian tried as hard as he could to pin the 24-year-old Saunders on the ropes as he perhaps edged the fifth, but time and again his opponent was too strong to be trapped.
There was plenty of close battling as the fight progressed, but in the seventh Saunders had perhaps his strongest round of the fight.
Blandamura connected with plenty of air around Saunders’ frame, but the Hatfield boxer caught his opponent with a nice right though was unable to follow it up with the man from Rome quickly stepping out of danger.
It was a sign of things to come, and in the eighth Saunders went one better when he caught his opponent by surprise with a sweet right to send Blandamura into the ropes from where he never recovered.
As Saunders prowled forwards to continue the onslaught, the Italian’s bench threw in the towel and with it the man from Hatfield got his hands on the European title.