By Anson Wainwright
On Saturday evening, Billy Joe Saunders looks to bridge the gap between British and world level when he faces Emanuele Blandamura for the vacant European middleweight title.
The opportunity to impress isn’t something the 24-year old former 2008 Olympian intends to pass up.
“I’m pleased that I’ve got the European title next,” Saunders told BoxingScene.com last Thursday “I’ve finally got my chance and I’m going to take it with both hands.”
It is 10-months since Saunders last fought, the longest of his pro career.
"My hand injury was a tendon that went. It occurred in the Ryder fight," explained Saunders "it weakened it from there. It just happened through the Ryder fight then I was out jogging and tripped over and that’s what really caused me the pain.
"Thank god a surgeon in Liverpool fixed it for me and now we’re ready to rock and roll with it."
Saunders looks to put the injury behind him and continue his progress having impressed over the past couple of years.
During that time “The Caravan Kid” has won the British and Commonwealth titles, along with the fringe WBO International trinket.
Though Saunders is keen to fight the best, he says he wants to make one more defense of his British title to win the Lonsdale belt outright.
“I’ve got one more to do. That’s my intention,” he said “I’ll have the European title and some lucky Englishman might have the chance to fight for the European, WBO (International), British and Commonwealth titles.”
Saunders (19-0, 10 knockouts) is currently ranked by all four sanctioning bodies WBC (No. 5), WBA (No. 13), IBF (No. 8) and WBO (No. 3).
With Saunders-Blandamura headlining the BoxNation event from the Phones 4u Arena (formerly M.E.N Arena), Manchester - the card will also feature Liam Smith looking to make second defense of his British junior middleweight crown again Jason Welborn, while up and coming Terry Flanagan takes on seasoned Martin Gethin for the vacant British lightweight title. The stacked card will also see Chris Eubank Jr. featured in a 10-round special attraction, unbeaten lightweight Liam Walsh continues his development and Ronnie Heffron and Liam Williams meet in an intriguing ten round junior middleweight bout. Eddie Chambers, Bradley Saunders and Tom Stalker also see action. The broadcast will begin ay 7.00 p.m. in the UK.
BoxingScene.com - On Saturday you face Emanuele Blandamura for the vacant European middleweight title?
Billy Joe Saunders - I’m pleased that I’ve got the European title next. I’m sure he is too, but I’ve waited a long time for this and I’ve finally got my chance and I’m going to take it with both hands.
BoxingScene.com - When you have watched Blandamura, what do you see in terms of his strengths and areas of weakness?
BJS - I think it’s all got to be on the night, I know he’s not going to bring his old self and I’m not gonna bring mine, we’re gonna bring our A-game. I think that mines gonna be better on the night to be honest. I know full well he’s strong, and that he comes forward and that he has a good workrate so it’s all to play for on both sides. I’m just preparing for the best Blandamura and I’m sure he’s preparing for the best Billy Joe Saunders.
BoxingScene.com - It will have been 10-months since the Ryder fight, why have you been inactive for that long?
BJS - It was all down to a hand injury. I needed a little bit of time off anyway because I was in the ring for six hard 12-rounder's and it took it’s toll on me and it ended up being 10-months and here we are today.
BoxingScene.com - What would you say about the hand injury?
BJS - My hand injury was a tendon that went. It was hard, there wasn’t a lot I could do about it I just had to get on with it. Thank god a surgeon in Liverpool fixed it for me and now we’re ready to rock and roll with it.
BoxingScene.com - Was it an injury from the John Ryder fight?
BJS - Umm yeah it occurred in the Ryder fight, it weakened it from there. It just happened through the Ryder fight then I was out jogging and tripped over and that’s what really caused me the pain.
BoxingScene.com - So how long did that injury keep you out of action?
BJS - That stopped me for a good six, seven months.
BoxingScene.com - Your last fight was a grudge match, you outpointed John Ryder?
BJS - It was an ok performance from me but I had five hard twelve rounder's on the spin before that fight. I trained for eight weeks, then it went back to purse bids, then Frank Warren won the purse bids again. Then I was due to box Gary O’Sullivan 10 weeks after, so I went into a 10-week training camp, that was 18-weeks and I boxed well. Then I had a week off and went back in the gym for 10 weeks and over-cooked myself. Out of 100 percent I was 65 percent and I still won on the night and that’s all it boils down to.
BoxingScene.com - This fight will be for the European title but you’re also the British and Commonwealth champion. You have one more defense to win the Lonsdale belt outright?
BJS - I’ve got one more to do. That’s my intention. I’ll have the European title and some lucky Englishman might have the chance to fight for the European, WBO (International), British and commonwealth titles.
BoxingScene.com - So possibly rematch with Ryder or even Chris Eubank Jr.?
BJS - Yes, definitely. Listen I’m not one for ducking anybody. If they’re up for the fight I’d love to fight the best I can find.
I beat John Ryder, and Chris Eubank Jr. runs scared, we all know what he is. They know not to get in the ring with me. I’m doing nothing but maturing, I’ll get nothing but better and better all the time and I’m ready for anyone in Britain now.
BoxingScene.com - You train with Jimmy Tibbs and his son Mark. Jimmy’s been around boxing for many years, tell us a little about working with them?
BJS - Yeah Jimmy’s worked with all the best and it’s nice for me knowing I’ve got an experienced man in the game. He knows my abilities and he thinks I’m capable enough and that gives me good self belief in it’s self.
BoxingScene.com - You're from the travelling community, can you tell us a little about that?
BJS - I use my house when I’m in training camp, but I’m born and bred in the travelling community and that’s where I’ll be staying for a long while. I’ve got my family on there (the site). It’s all a tight knit family on there.
BoxingScene.com - As one of the young guns at middleweight, what are your thoughts on the division?
BJS - I reckon the division is one of the strongest out there. You’ve got (Miguel) Cotto’s who’s moved up beating Sergio Martinez. You’ve got loads. You’ve got Martin Murray, Matthew Macklin, you’ve got GGG.
I think there’s five of us (British fighters) out there and the first one to get a world title is gonna go on to achieve big things.
BoxingScene.com - I’m sure you’re not looking past Blandamura but how far do you feel you are from the top guys in the division?
BJS - Golovkin is a bit in front of everybody, I think with Golovkin I can afford to wait for him. He’s a good fighter, he’s the best on the planet. Any other middleweight I’m ready now.
BoxingScene.com - Gennady Golovkin fights Daniel Geale on the same night of your next fight. How do you see that fight going?
BJS - I reckon it’ll go about eight rounds and Golovkin to take him out in about eight or nine.
BoxingScene.com - You stopped Jerrod Fletcher in two rounds a couple of years back, he faces Daniel Jacobs on August 9, it’s a fight I’m sure you have your eye on?
BJS - No I haven’t really got my eye on it, I beat him, finished him, done him in two rounds. Got nothing else to worry about him. I’m sure that we’ll bump into other, I’m sure he’s more keen to bump into me than what I am to him. I’ve done him in two rounds and I can do it again in two rounds.
BoxingScene.com - How do you see Jacobs-Fletcher going?
BJS - I can see Jacobs outboxing him.
BoxingScene.com - In closing do you have a message for Blandamura?
BJS - He’s gonna lose his unbeaten record and I’m gonna send him back to Italy with a few pizza boxes!