By Jake Donovan
The bout between unbeaten middleweights Billy Joe Saunders and Emanuele Blandamura was already a strong lead-in to the anticipated July 26 rematch between heavyweights Tyson Fury and Dereck Chisora on its own merit. Even more significance is now assigned to the matchup, as the winner will be in line for a mandatory title shot.
"The winner of Saunders vs. Blandamura will be the mandatory challenger for the WBO World middleweight title," promoter Frank Warren announced during a press conference held Thursday in North London.
Peter Quillin currently serves as the defending middleweight titlist of whom Saunders and Blandamura will now be in pursuit.
Securing sanctioning as a title eliminator also aids another cause for Saunders, who - like Fury - is a member of the traveller community.
"There's a race between Saunders and Tyson Fury to see who can become the world's first traveller world champion," Warren commented.
The main event between Fury and Chisora also serves as a final eliminator bout, with the winner to get in line as one of several mandatory challengers awaiting the multi-belted and World lineal heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko.
Moving within one fight of a world title is the type of news Saunders needed after what has been a rough start to his 2014 campaign.
A member of the 2008 Great Britain Olympic Boxing squad, Saunders (19-0, 10KO) has sprinted out to a strong start in the pro ranks. The Brit is the only fighter to date to hang a loss on current middleweight contender Jarrod Fletcher, and was cruising along until a hand injury moved him to the sidelines.
"I saw the doctor one day, and he said my hand was broken," Saunders revealed during Thursday's session.
As a result, Saunders was forced to withdraw from a scheduled appearance on the February 15 bill at the Copper Box Arena which featured wins by Fury and Chisora to set up their upcoming rematch. With so much more now at stake, Saunders has even greater motivation to make a big splash in his 2014 debut.
"Determination to get on and win means I forget about my hand," insists Saunders, who has since underwent surgery to repair his previously busted mitt. "I have to win this fight to become mandatory to the WBO title. (Blandamura) will get beat quite comfortably."
The upcoming title eliminator marks Saunders' third straight fight against an unbeaten opponent, and fourth within in his last six bouts dating back to his aforementioned knockout win over Fletcher. A win over Blandamura (22-0, 5KO) - a 34-year old fighting outside of his native Italy for just the second time, but in his second straight road trip - means yet another undefeated fighter waiting in the wings.
Saunders is more than up for both challenges.
"Looking at his last performance (a 12-round decision win over Lukas Konecny), I'd beat (Quillin) 10 times out of ten," Saunders guarantees.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com, as well as a member of Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox