By Alexey Sukachev
Manchester, Phone 4U Arena - It wasn't an easy night for the new European middleweight champion Billy Joe Saunders (20-0, 11 KOs) but the ending was really satisfactory, when Saunders stopped previously undefeated Italian Emanuele Blandamura (22-1, 5 KOs) with two seconds remaining in the eighth round in what was a toss-up bout before that.
Both fighters were undefeated coming into this fight, having won thrice against fellow unbeaten opponents in their recent past: WBO #3, WBC #5, IBF #8 and WBA #13 Saunders has beaten Jarrod Fletcher (12-0) in 2012 and Gary O'Sullivan (16-0) and John Ryder (15-0) in 2013; IBF #14 and WBC #15 Blandamura overcoming 10-0 Manuel Ernesti in 2011, 15-0 Luca Tassi in 2012 and 18-0-1 Marcos Nader in 2014.
Saunders was better in the first and continued his successful run in the second round. He was winning a jab contest, was more aggressive and his reflexes remained sharp, preventing the Brit from taking punishment. Blandamura had a better round three, when he turned more aggressive. Rounds four and fove were mostly even, but then Saunders started to land more, and his punches looked to be better and more powerful than those of the Italian.
Saunders was also better in the eighth round but the end was still shocking: Blandamura was on the offensive when Saunders landed a colossal right hook, which immediately sent the Italian stumbling to the ropes, where two more punches left him defenseless. The referee issued a count as Blamdamura slowly crumbled down in a groggy condition. The fight was stopped immediately after that.
Chris Eubank Jr. (17-0, 12 KOs), accompanied by his legendary father, made very short work of Croatian journeyman Ivan Jukic (19-3, 12 KOs) by annihilating him within a round. Eubank immediately jumped on Jukic throwing his usual bravado out of the window in order to score a quick kayo and he did just that. Jukic was soon cornered, and Eubank Jr. landed a number of uppercuts and left hands, finally sending him down. The Croatian got up only to be sent down again seconds later. Official time of stoppage was 2:40. Eubank Jr. has called Gary "Spike" O'Sullivan, Billy Joe Saunders, Frank Buglioni, Steve Collins Jr. and "all other who are dis-respective to me".
Liam Williams will have a mountain to climb in Liam Smith. The power of the defending BBBofC British light middleweight champion was once again on display in a scintillating sixth-round KO of brave challenger Jason Welborn (15-3, 6 KOs), who has nothing to be ashamed of.
Smith didn't look like a prohibitive favorite (he was indeed) in the first round. As clumsy and inexperienced at this level as he was, Welborn delivered some heat to a slightly lethargic Smith in the first couple of rounds. Not that Smith lost those rounds - he won them on finesse and overall ability, landing well felt punches with ease, coupling them with hardly seen but damaging body blows.
Smith accelerated in the third and in the fourth, starting to beat up Welborn to the punch. The fifth stanza was very dirty with accidental headbutts, not-accidentally initiated by Welborn, and a major low blow by Smith. The end came in the next round and was unexpected but spectacular, as Smith landed a beautiful right hand to the spleen producing a rare right-hand-to-your-body type of kayo. Liam retained his belt for the second time and is now 18-0-1, with 8 KOs.
Former BBBofC lightweight champion Martin Gethin saw his hopes to regain his title being brutally crushed by undefeated prospect Terry Flanagan in round seven. Flanagan, 24, is the new British 135lb champion.
Gethin (now down to 24-6-1, with 11 KOs) moved inside to trade punches with Flanagan in the first, Both combatants rumbled hot near the ropes, and Terry's punches, specifically his left hooks to the body, did more damage than Gethin's shots. Flanagan, 25, went forward and delivered heat in the second round and continued to pound his opponent even being on the defensive in the third. Gethin was doing all he could but that wasn't enough as Flanagan's activity and precision earned him the next three rounds.
Gethin, 30, made a strong start of the seventh, being his best round of the fight. He landed several telling punches and it looked for the moment that Flanagan could be tiring. But it was just an illusion, and what was his best round turned into his last stand. Flanagan fought back with zeal during the last minute of the round and hurt Gethin on several occasions. Martin's corner has seen enough and waved it off during the break.
Flanagan improves to 25-0, 9 KOs. He has acquired a vacant BBBofC British lightweight belt, previously owned by Derry Matthews, who snatched it this May on a split decision from... Gethin. The latter has lost his third in a row (for the second time in his career) - all in minor title fights.
Rising 22-year old light middleweight Liam "The Machine" Williams (10-0-1, 5 KOs) of Church Village in Wales earned his shot at the BBBofC light middleweight title with a dominant stoppage of Ronnie Heffron (15-2, 5 KOs) after six complete rounds.
The Welshman was doing much better than Heffron right from the opening bell. The first was in his favour but Williams did even better in the second round, when he couldn't seemingly miss with his left hooks and right crosses. Heffron, 23, took a huge amount of punishment and also got cut over his right eye. Williams continued to pound Heffron in the third but Ronnie experienced a brief renaissance in the fourth. It was short-lived though as Williams went on to drill his foe with more right hands in the fifth and closed the sixth equally powerful.
Heffron's corner saw enough and stopped the fight after the sixth round rightfully feeling their protege wasn't in good shape to be let fight on. For Williams next is the fight against the winner of Liam Smith (the defending champion) - Jason Whelborn encounter, which takes place later tonight.