Bradley Saunders – The calm before the storm

Published On Friday, August 22, 2014By British Boxing News
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Bradley Saunders ready to storm division

Unbeaten County Durham light welterweight prospect, Bradley Saunders 10-0-0 is readying himself for an imminent assault on world domination.

Following a well-deserved break after a demanding first two years on the professional scene, Saunders is now in talks for his 11th professional fight as the WBO International light welterweight champion.

“I’m now 10th in the WBO rankings and there are a lot fighters in there that I can beat, whether at home or abroad, and as I’m in the best form of my life, I have to go for that European and then World which I believe I can win. I’ve a lot of confidence in myself and my abilities, especially after all my recent successes and that has me knocking on a few doors.” 

Since his debut in February 2012 Saunders has broken into the top ten in the British rankings, collected a version of the WBO title, and reached 10th in the WBO rankings putting him in the frame for a world title shot in the very near future. Potential opponents include unbeaten Russian, Aik Shakhnazaryan 13(5)-0-0, the current European champion but has never fought outside of the Soviet Bloc.

The 21-year-old has also not got many notable names on his ledger. The same applies to the unbeaten American, Chris Algieri 20(8)-0-0 who has actually never fought outside of New York. However, after an incredibly surprising split decision win over Ruslan Provodnikov in June, the WBO light welterweight champion will venture to Macao to face Manny Pacquiao in November.

The 28-year-old’s career, despite a six month respite due to hand surgery, currently stands analogous to some of Britain’s finest boxers at the same stage in their career. Fellow light welterweights Ricky Hatton and Amir Khan were also unbeaten at ten pro bouts with seven KOs – one less stoppage than Saunders’ currently boasts. With only two of his ten professional bouts having gone the distance, the hard-hitting Sedgefield star claimed the WBO Intercontinental belt in devastating fashion at Newcastle’s Metro Radio Arena in June, blasting opponent Ville Piispanen away in just 81 seconds for the quickest victory of his career. 

The annihilation of Piispanen was his second fight of 2014 having dispatched the plucky Mitch Prince in March, scoring three knockdowns during a fourth round TKO victory. Saunders encountered stern resistance from the gutsy Scot, dropping his foe twice in the opening round before finally concluding matters in the fourth to complete a solid performance. “I dropped him twice in the first but at the start of the second he came out all guns blazing.

He was trying his best and that continued right until I got rid of him. Even in that fourth round with the last knock-down he was falling to the canvas and still trying to hit me back!” 

The popular 2008 Beijing Olympian adapted to the professional game remarkably well after such an extended and illustrious amateur career that saw him fight for his country in over 100 performances – collecting gold, silver and bronze medals at Commonwealth, Olympic and World Championships. Saunders well and truly set the tone for his pro career by launching it with a 3rd round TKO of Jason Nesbitt in the famous York Hall, London in February 2012. Just two months later in April 2012, Danny Donchev became the second stoppage on his ledger, retiring after the first round with an ear injury at the Royal Albert Hall, London. The third outing for Saunders against Kevin McCauley actually went the distance to the full six rounds at Upton Park on the undercard of the highly controversial David Haye v Dereck Chisora show.

In September that same year Saunders blasted his way through seasoned veteran Ivan Godor in the Scotland v England auld rivalry with exciting challenger Kevin Mitchell losing to then WBO lightweight champion Ricky Burns in four exhilarating rounds of boxing. 

Bradley took his chances in front of Glasgow's SECC capacity crowd to knock down the durable Slovakian three times before the referee called an end to the contest. This was the seasoned 32-year-old’s first stoppage in three and a half years at the hands of Saunders. A busy fighter is a happy fighter and the joy was evidently spread across Saunders’ face when he defeated Peter McDonagh in November that year, his fifth fight in nine months. However, it was during this superb display of boxing skills that Saunders injured his right hand and had to undergo specialist hand surgery resulting in a six month layoff from the sport. In June the following year, Saunders bounced back from injury with a fifth round stoppage over Irish veteran Michael Kelly in Wembley Arena, London with celebrity pal, James Arthur supporting in the audience. Three months later and Gareth Heard was the next opponent to fall victim to the devastating body shots that Saunders has become renowned for. After hitting the canvas twice already, referee Jeff Hinds stopped the contest with just seconds remaining in the fourth round. In the final fight of 2013, Saunders had the pleasure of boxing back in his beloved North East in Gateshead Leisure Centre, Tyne and Wear, after almost a decade of boxing away from home. Gyorgy Mizsei Jr. succumbed to Saunders’ power in the fourth round, after hitting the canvas three times before referee Mark Curry waived the fight off on the one minute mark. 

At the end of 2013 Saunders had stopped all three of his opponents in that year within five rounds, and continued the tradition in 2014 by achieving a third consecutive fourth round stoppage victory over Mitch Prince in March and concluding with that devastating first round KO over Ville Piispanen just three months later to bring his story up-to-date. It is with this platform that Saunders is preparing himself for a European title shot in the very near future. There is also a strong feeling in Saunders’ camp that there are not enough fights left domestically after a series of failed match-ups of late. He was due to fight on the botched Fury v Chisora show in Manchester last July but no opponents would accept the challenge, this was a further setback to Saunders after Paul McClosky also pulled out of an arranged fight.

Saunders faced bitter disappointment when promoter Frank Warren’s £50k bid to the then British light welterweight champion Curtis Woodhouse was rejected. Saunders has since put plans for the British title aside and stated that he will come back at a later stage of his career to challenge for that and expectantly fulfil a lifelong ambition. The previous three holders of the prestigious Lonsdale belt have all been crowned champions past the age of 30, giving Saunders the right idea to return to these honours later.

Firstly, there was the hugely successful Ashley Theophane claiming the British light welterweight title at the age of 30 in February 2011. Now residing in Las Vegas as part of Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s The Money Team, the likeable star conceded his title to last minute stand in opponent, Darren Hamilton at the age of 33. Then there was the incredible story of footballer-turned-boxer, Curtis Woodhouse fulfilling his lifelong dream and promise to his late father by winning the belt just two months before his 34th birthday.

“I think that all UK boxers dream of winning the Lonsdale belt. I can come back to the British title at a later stage in a couple of years time because it is something I’d still love to have.”

Bradley would like to thank his sponsors, webuyanyhouse.com, ESRG Marketing, his trainer Seamus Macklin and his team at the MGM Gym Marbella, Francis and George Warren of Queensberry Promotions, promoter Frank Warren, his manager Daniel Kinahan, and PR manager Tim Rickson.

To follow Bradley Saunders on Twitter click here https://twitter.com/bradsaunders86