By Lee Elford
Boxing comes back to the Albert Hall after 13 years on Friday 28 April as a wave of promising British talent taking the next steps of their education in pursuit of major honours. 2008 Olympic Bronze medalist Billy Joe Saunders leads an exciting quartet of Frank Buglioni, Dean “Irish Lightning” Byrne and Freddy “Luke” Turner, who all ply their trade and fight out of the TKO gym in East London under the watchful eyes of father and son trainer duo Jimmy and Mark Tibbs.
Widely acknowledged as one of the nation’s hottest prospects, Hatfield’s travelling Olympian Billy Joe Saunders makes his 13th professional appearance of an undefeated career against a tricky opponent in Tony Hill, who took newly crowned European champion Kerry Hope the full 10 rounds in his last contest.
Though confident of victory, the middleweight accepts this could prove to be his toughest test to date and looks to overcome his man before pursuing a British title by the end of the year.
In his previous outing, the 22-year-old made light work of Ireland’s Tommy Tolan, stopping him in one round at the York Hall in December. “I come out in the first round got the jab going caught him with a left hand and that was it really,” said Saunders when speaking to Boxingscene.com. “The referee saw his legs dip, if I’d have caught him with another shot I would have knocked him out so the referee just stopped it there and then.”
Saunders saw his scheduled 15 March fight at Wembley arena cancelled due to headliner George Groves injuring his back just five days before his British title defence against Kenny Anderson. It all comes with the job for Billy, who fate has subsequently dealt a good hand.
He said: “It happens in boxing. It’s happened before so I knew what to expect and how to deal with it. I’ve dealt with it now. I’ve given up my Southern Area title and I’m fighting for the English title against Tony so something good’s come out of it even though the last one got cancelled, but that’s boxing it happens.
“Jimmy and Mark wanted me to have a week off. I came back in once a week, twice the following week and so on - breaking it in steady so I’m not in the gym every day. I’ve moved it up a day week by week in the five or six weeks so I’m training back into peak condition before the fight.”
“Tony went 10 rounds with Hope, but Hope’s not in my class and he’s European champion,” said the Southpaw when quizzed on his next opponent’s previous clash. “He’s a good stayer/sticker but that’s about it he’s got no class. He’s very fit, but I believe I’m very fit. Tony did well to stay with him but I’ll be hitting him with different punches than Hope did - this will definitely be my toughest challenge as a professional, but the better person I fight the better I fight.
“If I fight journeymen, I won’t fight like a journeyman I’ll fight like myself. When I’m fighting someone that’s good, game and a good operator I’ll just move up the levels. That’s what I need now, you’ll see the best of me coming up.”
“That’s what I want,” answered Saunders when questioned about his pursuit of the British title. “My aim was always to be British champion before the next Olympics. Because I was the youngest out of the lot I wasn’t going to say I wanted to be world champion before the next Olympics because I know that it’s silly for me to say that as I’ve got a lot of time on my side so why rush it? I thought I’d have the British [title] within three years of turning pro or four years before the next Olympics so hopefully within the next 6 months I’ll be British champion.”
Billy Joe plans to have a total of six fights in this calendar year so fight goers and BoxNation viewers can expect plenty more in the intriguing journey and development of this exciting and potential future world champion.