Jeff emerges victorious over Rhys in 'Battle of the Saunders'
Jeff Saunders (13-0) returned to the ring with a dominant 40-36 points win over tough Welshman Rhys Saunders (3-17-1), a Celtic super-lightweight title contender, at the Lancastrian Suite in Dunstan on a show co-promoted by Frank Warren's Queensbury Promotions and also Black Flash Promotions.
However, despite the successful comeback, it was an unusal night of boxing.
Flyweight prospect Joe Maphosa (8-0) was informed upon his arrival that he wasn’t boxing that night, despite officials reportedly being aware of this occurring a whole day previously. The poor guy had made the considerable journey from Teesside to discover he wouldn’t be competing as expected, inevitably after a gruelling training camp. His disappointment must've been immeasurable.
It didn't end there as it was almost 7:30pm before all of the boxers arrived at the venueas trainers, boxers, board officials all raced around behind the scenes as none of them had a clear answer to what was actually happening or even how many bouts were going to be on. It didn't help matters that Black Flash Promotions promoter Pat Barrett was stuck in traffic trying to reach the venue.
It ended up as a three-fight card with debutant Jamie Bates (1-0) winning his pro debut on points and unbeaten cruiserweight Michael Watson (2-0) doubling his win tally, also on points.
Jeff Saunders was on the verge of a British title shot when an abnormality with his brain scan put his career at risk and resulted in a 20-month gap between fights 12 and 13.
Sedgefield boxer Jeff Saunders, trained by Nik Gittus and Michael Ferry Wallsend Boxing Academy, is the younger brother of 2008 Olympian Bradley.
Signed to Hall of Fame promoter Frank Warren, he was last in the ring back in December 2017 beating Steven Lewis in a British title eliminator whilst extending his unbeaten run in 12 fights.
But that momentum was stripped away from the now-27-year-old thanks to that shock find during a routine medical check-up.
Rather than give up though, Saunders spent the next 12 months jumping through every hoop possible to prove to the British Boxing Board of Control that he was fine to fight.
“It’s been frustrating," Saunders said ahead of his comeback on July 6. "I’d worked my way to be next in line for the British title and no disrespect to the lads, but since then I’ve watched the lads who have fought for it and would fancy my chances against them.
“It was frustrating to watch - looking and thinking that should have been me, but everything happens for a reason, so they say, so I just keep doing what I have to do; keep cracking on."
Liverpudlian Robbie Davies Jr (18-1) is the current British and European super-lightweight titleholder.
He continued: “It was a stressful time. No athlete would want to see the door shut in their face when they’ve dedicated their life to something like I have my boxing.
”I was giving it my all and knew I had plenty years left in me and was just starting to move into the business end of the sport. So when they told me that news it was a stressful time.
”It was something minor, but big enough for them to pull me out, and understandably. You can’t take risks with things like that.
”But I’ve seen plenty of specialists and underwent many tests to make sure there wasn’t anything to be concerned about, and everything is fine now.
“I’m really glad to see the back of that now and being able to carry on."
Saunders' ring return materialised on the ill-fated 'Black Flash Promotions' event on July 6, finally. He had hoped to be back sooner. He got the green light back in January. But just as the hard-hitting super-lightweight recovered from his own dark days and things were finally looking up, he was dragged back down just as quickly.
"It was the start of this year [he got his licence back] and it felt great. I was over the moon and got straight back into training.
"But I was three to four weeks in with it and my best mate Daz Clemmet took his own life, which knocked me back another couple of months.
"I grew up with him and it really hurt. He just decided one day he'd had enough. It was a hard time; it's been a hard time, but I had to pick myself up and get through it.
"I stay fixated on the prize and I want to get that British title and dedicate it to him. That will be my motivation going forward now."