Replacing Chisora-Fury as the main attraction, Saunders knocks out Blandamura capping off a fine show, Peter Wells reports
By Peter Wells:
If ever there was a time for an undercard fighter to step up and steal the show, it was last night as headline acts Tyson Fury & Dereck Chisora both ended up off the card, leaving the undercard fighters with an extra chance to make an impression.
And several made a lasting imprint with several notable performances. Terry Flanagan announced himself on the British scene with a sensational tactical display against Walsall tough man, Martin Gethin, and Liam Williams made a similar imprint with a thoroughly dominant retirement victory of Ronnie Heffron.
Billy Joe Saunders and Liam Smith also scored spectacular knockouts, while Jack Catterall destroyed Nathan Brough in 2 rounds off camera. Chris Eubank Jr also got his simple job done in quick fashion.
On the projected main event, Billy Joe Saunders 20-0(11) had to think his way carefully through his contest with Emanuele Blandamura 22-1(5), before scoring a stunning one punch knockout in the 8th round.
Saunders claimed the European Middleweight title with a hard lead right hook which sent Blandamura sprawling across the ring and into the ropes. The referee initiated the count but Blandamura’s senses were splayed.
Up until the emphatic stoppage, while in front, Saunders was forced to dig deep into his tactical abilities, avoiding quick bursts of punches from the Italian. Saunders’ work between Blandamura’s spurts was enough to keep him ahead at the time of the knockout, but the fight ending punch sent out a statement that a points triumph would not have done.
The battle of Orthodox (Blandamura) and Southpaw (Saunders) made for an intriguing contest that looked as though it could be set alight at any moment, both looking to land while also being very wary of what was bound to come back.
Saunders took his biggest scalp of his career and is now determined to get Chris Eubank Jr in the ring later this year.
Liam Smith 17-0-1(7) retained his British Light Middleweight title for the 2nd time as he stopped the impressive Jason Welborn 15-3(6) in 6 rounds.
While ultimately at the end of a brutal right hand to the body that left him out for the count, Welborn more than gave Smith his fair share of problems in the early stages. For me taking rounds 1 and 2 as his intelligent attacks off the back foot seemed to catch Smith slightly unawares.
By the third Smith began to suss the Black Country fighter out, working the jab well and going to the body on a regular basis. Welborn remained game, but he was now being outgunned by the power and accuracy of Liverpool’s Smith.
In the 6th round a brutal right hand downstairs kept Welborn down for the count, as he suffered a similar fate to the one he met against Frankie Gavin down at Welterweight. Smith will be more than happy shredding the rust with a good stoppage win, while Welborn can take encouragement from a gallant display.
Terry Flanagan 25-0(9) finally was given the chance to prove himself on the big stage in a packed domestic division, retiring an injured Martin Gethin 24-6-1(11) after 7 rounds for the British Lightweight title.
Gethin, a known slow starter, was never allowed into the fight as Flanagan fought the perfect tactics throughout. The 7th was by far Martin’s best round before a left hook to the ear brought back a recurring injury for the former British champion. Gethin’s left ear ballooned up and he realised the extent of the injury straight away, having no choice but to retire at the end of the session. It was the same injury he suffered last year at the hands of Ammeth Diaz.
Prior to the ending, Flanagan has fought wonderfully off the ropes, snapping Gethin’s head back with uppercut and turning Gethin with hard hooks before controlling the centre of the ring.
Gethin would have been more than happy to see Flanagan so eager to lie on the ropes, but it was by choice and now you can see why. He made sure that the slower Gethin suffered more in those close knit exchanges.
Flanagan began to use full use of the ring as the fight moved into the 5th and 6th rounds, using the jab and solid left crosses down the middle to halt Gethin as he came in.
Gethin didn’t work enough on the ropes and was punished for his lack of activity throughout the 7 rounds.
Terry Flanagan looks to have a bright future and will hoping for clashes with British rivals, Derry Matthews and Anthony Crolla as well as others in the near future.
In the opening bout of the BoxNation card, Wales’ Liam Williams 10-0-1(5) set himself up for a shot at Liam Smith with a 6th round retirement victory of the more experienced Ronnie Heffron 15-2(5).
Williams came out the blocks with bad intentions, catching Heffron with a hard right hand early that had the home fighter back-pedalling. It was a high output from Williams but very little wasn’t finding the face of Heffron who looked stunned at Williams’ start.
A cut over his right eye made things far worse for Heffron who was in trouble again in the 2nd. The aggressive Heffron bravely continued to come forward but his lack of a jab kept things simple for Williams who had far better timing. Heffron would come up short and Williams would counter with hard rights and left hooks.
The 4th and 5th were much better for Heffron as Williams’ tempo tailed off slightly. Williams was backed up easily as Heffron’s work rate still wasn’t high enough.
That slight change in momentum was halted in the 6th as Williams re-instated his dominance with a chopping uppercut hurting Heffron late in the round. His corner seeing their fighter was taking too much punishment pulled Heffron out, giving Williams a huge win to announce himself to the boxing public.
Elsewhere Eubank Jr 17-0(12) destroyed Ivan Jukic 19-3(12) in one round and Liam Walsh 16-0(11) stopped Kevin Hooper 15-3(3) in 4 rounds.
In another stunning performance, Jack Catterall 9-0(5) destroyed Nathan Brough 11-1(2) with a stunning uppercut that left Brough out for the count.