Britain’s rising star in the middleweight division, Billy Joe Saunders (14-0, 9 KOs) made a successful first defence of his Commonwealth Middleweight belt with a 12 round master-class over former commonwealth light middleweight titlist, Bradley Pryce (33-11, 18 KOs) at Bethnal Green’s York Hall this evening.
Saunders dominated his smaller opponent from the 1st bell to the last with a razor sharp jab and credit must go to Pryce for showing durability and lasting the course, especially with a heavily swollen left eye which was attracting attention from the referee throughout the second half of the contest.
In Saunders’ own words, in the post-fight interview, he seemed to neglect his Southpaw left hand as the fight wore on but worked the jab to perfection leaving his opponent no way of getting into the fight.
There were shades of Canelo Alvarez v Matthew Hatton about this fight. Pryce was game. Certainly tough. But ultimately he was too small and a step too slow for the rising star of the British middleweight scene.
The judges had the fight 120-109(x2) and 120-108 for Saunders. I didn’t see the round that was allegedly drawn. It looked like one way traffic from start to finish. Saunders was throwing slick 2 handed combinations in the earlier part of the fight and mixed uppercuts and straight rights after 2 and 3 jab combinations but as the fight progressed, the 22 year old Hertfordshire man who moves to 14-0 with 9 early, let his left handed power output drop and continued to try and force a stoppage on the right eye of Pryce with the right lead.
Pryce deserved to see the final bell and proved himself a valiant opponent but no w slips to 33-11 and must now surely take a look at whether there is another run in the 154lb division for him. Its not a particularly hot class in the UK, which may be why he moved up for the Saunders fight, but there are a couple of stars rising in Joe Selkirk and Erick Ochieng and Pryce is in danger of becoming gate keeper to those guys challenging the top man in the division domestically, Ryan Rhodes.
Saunders is now calling out the middleweight big guns in Macklin, Murray and Barker but the next logical test would be Welshman Kerry Hope who rematches Grzergorz Proksa in his first defence of the EBU middleweight belt that he claimed in a razor thin decision back in March. Assuming Hope comes through that of course. Its worth noting that Hope was taken the distance and scored a 2nd consecutive majority decision over Tony Hill, the same guy that Saunders took the Commonwealth belt from with a 1st round blitzing in April.
Like the young red-headed ‘superstar’ of Mexican boxing, Saunders has plenty of time to grow and doesn’t have the inordinate pressure that a ‘world title’ brings. With careful management he can pick off his domestic and European rivals and become a force in the World 160lb division in 2 or 3 years. He has good physicality, wonderful boxing ability (having come up through the Amateur ranks and made Britains 2008 olympic team), and an endearing personality.
Coming through his first 12 rounder with a smart, solid and in places technically excellent performance, the future is looking bright for Billy Joe Saunders.
On the undercard of this Boxnation televised/Frank Warren promoted card – another emerging prospect in the super-middleweight class, local favourite Frank Buglioni (now 5-0 with 3 early) also went the distance in 6 rounder against journeyman Jody Meikle (3-21). Despite his awful pro record, Meikle showed immense toughness as he shipped a ton of power from Buglioni and came back often with grins. A good learning for the young Enfield man whose trainer commented that in the next bout he’d like to see his man close the show when given the chance. But nevertheless a patient, mature performance from a man who is demonstrably a popular character and could well be part of the next generation of British super-middleweight stars.
Also, Stephen ‘Swifty’ Smith continued his comeback from a surprising loss to Lee Selby with a dominant performance over Venezuelan Jose Luis Graterol in a super featherweight 8 rounder. The crowd got their money’s worth with this fight also going the distance but again, the Liverpudlian and middle brother of the Smith trio, was never troubled and controlled the fight. His opponent also seemed to be struggling with heavy legs and the humidity toward the end.
Smith may be looking to rematch Selby at some point or, having moved up a class, seek to get himself to the top of the pecking order of domestic 130lb division via fights with the likes of Liam Walsh and Gary Buckland.
Overall, a good night on the UK domestic scene, there is much promise here and the York Hall attendees appeared to get good value for their tickets.
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