Harry Pratt

Saunders wins Commonwealth title with first-round KO

Undefeated British middleweight Billy Joe Saunders took just 32 seconds to stop countryman Tony Hill, and claim the vacant Commonwealth title, at London’s Royal Albert Hall on Saturday.

In an eye-catching display, 22-year-old Saunders (13-0, 9 knockouts), from Hatfield, Hertfordshire, demonstrated his potential to be a genuine contender with a first-round knockout of an opponent not renowned for crumbling at the first sign of trouble. In his previous outing, Hill (8-3, 4 knockouts) went the distance with Kerry Hope, now European titleholder.

But caught flush by a left and right combination only 15 seconds into the contest, the Southampton southpaw staggered and then stumbled before finding himself pinned on the ropes – and unable to defend himself as ruthless Saunders produced a powerful follow-up assault.

It was some statement from the young Englishman who, having suffered a serious hand injury shortly after turning pro four years ago, has been waiting impatiently to make his mark on the domestic scene.

“I caught him on the counter, with one over the top, and it went from there,” Saunders said. “I reckon I’m a very good finisher – up there with the best in finishing – and that’s what I’ve just done in there. He was hurt and the referee was right to stop it.”

Promoter Frank Warren was certainly impressed and predicts great times ahead for the classy southpaw he first spotted at the 2008 Olympics.

“He is only a young guy. He’s 22. As long as he keeps his feet on the floor, he’s going all the way – and will be the first traveller to do it,” said Warren. “You can see all the potential is there and now we’re channelling that through. He’s a great talent. Stay focused, and I promise you, he can win the world title.”

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