By John Hargate
One of Britain’s brightest young talents, unbeaten Hatfield middleweight Billy Joe Saunders, made a resounding statement to all the division’s big names when he took out current Australian middleweight champion and former Commonwealth games gold medallist Jarrod Fletcher at 2.42 of the second round at the York Hall last Saturday night.
The twenty-three year-old Saunders, now 15-0 (10), looked relaxed from the off and took the opener, scoring accurately with his lightning fast hands from the southpaw stance, and landed several telling left hooks to the body that seemed to trouble twenty-eight year-old Fletcher.
In the second, a short left shocked and dropped the Australian (11st 5lbs 2oz), who made it up by the count of eight. Saunders sensed the stoppage was in the offing and piled in, bringing what appeared to be a slightly premature ending from referee Ian-John Lewis, although it looked to be just a matter of time before Billy-Joe found a clinical finisher in any case.
Saunders (11st 5lbs 4oz) spoke to BoxingScene about the fight and his career development. “I felt very good, very fit and very strong, I trained very hard, me, Jimmy [Tibbs] and Mark [Tibbs],” he said. “I knew what to do from the start really. I got my jab going like Jimmy told me to do and I didn’t even dream I’d catch him but it just come. That’s boxing for you.”
I asked Billy-Joe if he’d seen much footage of his opponent pre-fight? “Not really. Jimmy watched him and broke [his style] down and he told me what to do. We just stuck to a game-plan and as you can see it worked pretty well.”
What’s next for the former Beijing Olympian? “I just want to move onto bigger and better things now,” Billy-Joe replied. “The British title, Martin Murray’s got that, and it’s a fight that can be made. It’ll be good for the fans, we’re both good exciting fighters.”
“It’s gone out to purse bids,” Billy-Joe elaborated, “So I’ll leave that to Frank [Warren] and his team to sort out, but as you can see, Frank’s moving me along nicely. If they said to me you’ve got to fight him in three-week’s time or next week, I’ll be in the ring fighting him.”
BoxingScene spoke to Jarrod Fletcher’s manager Adam Wilcock after the bout who, while clearly disappointed, was magnanimous in defeat. He said: “Billy Joe Saunders is a tough guy and a great fighter. Jarrod just got caught, plain and simple really, no excuses.”
I suggested that the stoppage may have been a tad premature? “Potentially but it’s hard to say,” Wilcock conceded. “[Jarrod] got caught, he’s gone down and Billy Joe has smelt the blood and gone after him pretty hard.”
So the writing was on the wall at that stage? “Mate, I wouldn’t go as far as saying it was a matter of time, not at all,” he said. “At the end of the day, no-one wants to see boxers get hurt. The ref’s made his decision and we accept it. He’s got to protect the boxers. Jarrod will go back and regroup. He still has the Australian middleweight title, so we’ll go back and defend it before the end of the year and get him back on the right track.”
Fletcher loses his unbeaten record with the defeat, dropping to 12-1 (7).
Heading up the undercard, 24-year-old Bradley “Super” Skeete and “The Connemara Kid” Peter McDonagh engaged in a hard fought 10 rounder for the vacant British Masters title at welterweight. After a close first round in which both men had a look but Skeete did slightly the more accurate work, McDonagh took charge and proceeded to bash unbeaten Skeete up for the next four. McDonagh was relentless, whipping in his short, spiteful hooks and uppercuts from close range. Skeete looked uncharacteristically tight and allowed McDonagh (10st 8lbs 6oz) to dictate pace and range.
In the sixth, Skeete, who weighed in at 10st 5lbs 12oz, managed to gain himself a little room and began to land cleanly and accurately on the incoming McDonagh, who’d dropped his pace after the all-action first half. The remainder of the fight was a close run thing, but McDonagh couldn’t find the intensity of those early rounds, and a grateful Skeete visibly relaxed into his boxing, just about landing the cleaner shots. Referee Ken Curtis gave Skeete the fight 97-95. BoxingScene had it by two points to Skeete as well, 96-94.
Bradley Skeete, now 9-0 (3), spoke to me in his dressing room post-fight. I started by asking Bradley if he thought he’d done enough to justify the points verdict? “Yeah, definitely,” he stated emphatically. “There was a few close rounds at the beginning, I was a little bit nervous, it was my first ten rounder. I said in all the interviews before that I’d trained for a hard ten-round fight and that’s exactly what I got. I’m getting the right fights at the right time, and that’s exactly what I needed, that sort of fight. It was close, but I well won it.”
Skeete looked intense during his ring-walk and the introductions, and appeared very stiff in the early rounds. “It was nerves,” Bradley explained. “I had a lot of fans here, it was my first title fight. He’s hard and tough, and I had to dig in and get the job done — and that’s exactly what I done. Halfway through I started to relax and started enjoying the boxing. He was tiring, and I started catching him with clean shots. I was hurting him to the body a lot in the end rounds.”
What’s next for the popular Penge fighter? “Chas Symonds,” Bradley said straight away. “He’s been swerving me for so long, but this was the eliminator (for the Southern Area title), so he’s got to put up or shut up because I’m coming for him next. Peter McDonagh is a lot better than Chas, and I’m ready for him.”
An unhappy McDonagh drops to a deceiving 18-25 (2), but as he says, records are for DJs. “I thought I won the first five or six rounds out of sight,” Peter stated post-fight. “I took my foot off the gas in the seventh, thought I’d have a little breather and come back in the eighth and ninth — maybe the 10th was close, although I thought I nicked that as well.”
“I thought I was well up, I was pushing him all around the ring,” McDonagh continued. “I knew it was going to be hard, because he’s a Frank Warren fighter, and I knew I had to win the rounds easy, but that’s what I thought I done. Four-week’s notice again. Look at the crowd out there for me, because they know I’m a real fighter. I’ve got two little kids, I’ve got a wife, I don’t want to get out of this game fucking punch drunk. I’m trying to get my dues out of it. Even Warren, even Dean [Powell], they knew I won the fight. I see the panic in their faces.”
McDonagh pointed to a slight swelling under his right eye. “Last shot of the tenth round that eye come up, he caught me with a thumb in the eye, but apart from that, I haven’t got a mark on me. I took his jab out the game.
“All my corner were saying was, ‘Keep going Pete, keep going, they’re going to rob you. If you don’t keep going, they’re not going to give you the decision’. There were a few rounds that were close, but that’s when I was having breathers. I knew how far ahead I was. I’m not an idiot. When his corner’s screaming, ‘You’ve got to work Brad, you’re not throwing anything’, surely I’m winning the fight? I could hear everything they were saying. There were five hundred people out there for him, and not one of them were shouting.”
I asked where this left Peter? “I’m a light-welterweight, and I’m cheating myself fighting at welter,” he answered. “I feel strong. I can push welterweights around. What am I going to do with light-welterweights?”
Enfield super-middleweight Frank “The Bug” Buglioni made short work of late replacement Joe Rea, stopping the Irish switch-hitter after twenty-four seconds of round two. The 23-year-old Buglioni came in to a raucous reception from his numerous fans, and repaid them by dropping Rea twice in the opener, both from right hands. Buglioni rushed a little in the second looking for the finisher, getting caught a couple of times in the process, but soon found the finish with another straight right. Buglioni improves to 6-0 (4) and looks like a future champion in the making.
I asked Frank post-fight how he rated his performance? “I was pleased with it. I don’t know how good it was until I watch it back, but I’m pleased I got him out of there. He is a tough boy — he’s been the distance with a few good kids. He’s got a 50/50 record [8-9-1 (4)] and knocked out four, so he’s got the power and I knew that he was going to have a go, but that suits me, someone coming forward and having a go.”
19-year-old featherweight Mitchell Smith out-pointed Latvian Pavels Senkovs over four, winning every round on referee Ken Curtis’ card. Several sharp counter right-hands thrown from behind the shoulder stopped the Latvian in his tracks, but Mitchell couldn’t quite get the stoppage despite coming out all guns blazing in the last. Smith takes his fledgling record to 3-0 (1) and told Boxingscene that he was pleased with his dominant performance.
“I’m very happy with it. That kid’s a tough kid. He’s had 46 fights and he’s only been stopped in two of them, and they were both on cuts [Senkovs’ record reads 2-47-4 (2)]. I caught him with some cracking shots, and I give the kid all credit for staying up from them. I know I’m a hard puncher for a featherweight. He was looking for the right hand and I was looking to roll his right hand off with my shoulder and counter with my own. It worked a good few times but he stayed up, and I tried a little bit too hard for the stoppage.”
Smith continued: “In the last round it showed that I was getting on top of him. He was starting to struggle and he was having a walk, and hey listen, if that’d been six-rounds I might have got him out of there. I’m hoping to get a six rounder in in November, or maybe December. I’ll start going through the stages quite quick, and hopefully by next year I’ll be fighting for a title of some sort. I’ll be happy with that.”
Popular light-middleweight Steve O’Meara scored his third consecutive stoppage in a row, stopping Tony Randell at 1.31 of the third with a succession of right hands. The final one to land was a vicious right-uppercut and Randall hit the canvas hard causing referee Jeff Hinds to wave things off. O’Meara improves to 16-2 (5).
Boxingscene caught up with O’Meara in his dressing room post-fight, where he began by commentating on his opponent’s 12-28-2 (4) ledger. “Looking down his record, I think it’s deceiving because he’s a lot better than his record suggests. If you look down it, he’s actually got some good wins, he beat Max Maxwell and he’s only been beaten by the top boys, and some of them he gives a hard night. He looked in good shape, so I wasn’t taking anything for granted. It was probably looked upon as a tune-up fight, but I knew I still had to go in there and do the job.”
After scoring two first-round KOs against Ryan Toms and Nathan Wiese, Steve said that a lot of people had been expecting another early night. “Everyone was saying, ‘Oh it’s going to be a first round job’, and I was saying, ‘No, no, I don’t think so, he’s a tough guy, so I’ll do very well to get him out of there’. I’d hit people at the start of my career and some of the journeymen used to laugh in my face. They’re definitely not laughing now, because I know when I hit someone, they’re feeling it, and it’s a nice feeling.
“I’ve had it (the power) for quite a while now and it’s showing off in the ring. I feel like when I’m in there, it’s a matter of time before I hurt someone. He took some good shots in the first round. And I did actually think after I hurt him in the first, ‘This could happen again’.”
Steve continued: “Because I thought I hurt him in the first, in the second I probably went for the big shots and when I went back to the corner Jimmy (McDonnell) said ‘You’ve got to calm down. There’s no rush. This guy, you can catch him, but the main thing is I don’t want you to get hit. Box nice, and it’ll all come together’ — and it did. I was probably looking for the right hand too much in the second, and then, exactly what he says — he reads it perfect — I stepped back a little bit, and it came together.”
What’s next in line? “It’s unlikely I can fight for the British by the end of the year, because (Brian) Rose and (Sam) Webb are fighting,” O’Meara admitted. “(Erick) Ochieng has vacated the English, so who knows, maybe I’ll get a crack at the English title before the end of the year. And maybe a shot at the British after that. That’d be ideal. I feel like I’m beyond the Southern Area level. I feel like I’ve shown it. I’m ready for the big guns so to speak. There’s been a few setbacks, but luckily I haven’t wasted time. I’ve still been in the gym, working hard on everything, improving all the time, so I’m a better fighter than I was last year. I was ready last year, and now I’m a better fighter. Hopefully there’s good things to come.”
Canning Town’s 22-year-old Billy Morgan beat “Syrian Rubik’s Cube” Youssef Al Hamidi over eight-twos in their rematch. Al Hamidi was devilishly hard to catch clean as always, and is almost certainly the most frustrating and elusive journeyman in the country. He is also possibly the most dangerous, holding a win over current British lightweight champion Anthony Crolla and losing very narrowly to John Murray in a fight that many thought the Syrian won.
Morgan, now 7-0 (0), won every round on referee Jeff Hinds’ scorecard by staying composed and keeping a decent work-rate from behind his long jab. Morgan spoke to Boxingscene post-fight.
“I knew coming into this fight that I wasn’t going to stop him, so I never intended to. You see when I caught him with a good right hand, a few of those right hooks to the body hurt him, but I knew not to step up because if I step up and throw a barrage of punches, and he turns away and I go through the ropes it makes me look silly.”
“The aim was to get the eight rounds out, see how I do, and I’m over the moon with it,” Billy grinned. “The main goal for me is to move my way up to twelve-round fights. I did eight rounds there. I know they were eight-twos, but it’s eight rounds on record and to get through the eight rounds was great. Working with someone like him, it’s just about getting the rounds in. The first time I boxed him, I was over-eager to hit him. I was missing him with the jab, missing him with right hands, missing him with everything. But tonight, it worked fine. Couldn’t quite get me hooks off and me uppercuts off, but he wasn’t there to be hit. As soon as I hit him, he was gone.”
“Dean (Powell) said that we’ll have another few eight rounders, and this time next year we’ll fight for the area title,” Morgan stated. “I’m over the moon with that. Just building. If I had someone who’d stuck with me tonight through those eight rounds, I would have stepped up more, worked him more and got him out of there, but he didn’t want to stay in there. Not much I could do. I know people are questioning my punching power but I know it’s there, I’ve seen it in sparring.”
I wondered why it’d been scheduled for two-minute as opposed to three-minute rounds? “I’m not too sure,” Billy replied. “Dean said the other week it’d be twos and Jimmy and Mark (Tibbs) were happy with that. I felt a little bit disappointed because it felt like a backwards step, but I spoke to Dean and he said it’d benefit me — it’s a learning curve, and I’m over the moon with it.”
Twenty-one year-old Gary Corcoran beat journeyman and fellow traveller Billy Smith over four in their rematch to move to 4-0 (1). Corcoran was aggressive and positive from the off, and seemed to trouble the vastly experienced Smith, 13-121-2 (0), a number of times. Using a stiff jab, Corcoran worked his way close and unloaded with straight right hands to the head and left hooks to the body.
Gary told Boxingscene that he was more than satisfied with his night’s work. “I was very pleased with my performance,” Gary stated. “I was working well off my jab. I threw the left hand to the body, landing good body shots, but I need to keep bringing them in more. I hurt him a few times but I let him off. Next time I won’t be doing that, I won’t let anyone off.”
“My next fight will be six rounds, so it’ll be better for me,” Gary said assuredly. I do [six-rounds] all the time [in the gym] so there’ll be no problem. You’ll see me stopping a lot of people over six.”