BILLY JOE SAUNDERS claimed his second WBO title when he outclassed Shefat Isufi over 12 rounds at Stevenage’s Lamex Stadium to win the super-middleweight belt. Scores of 120-108, 117-111 and 118-110 confirmed his dominance.
It was effortless from the opening round for Saunders, whose supreme ability all but embarrassed the willing Albanian. Saunders, 29, hurled blows from inside and out, showing off his fistic education with zipping punches that exposed his opponent’s dubious world title credentials.
Bar a brief moment of unrest in the sixth, when a right hand from Isufi caught Saunders off balance – rather than hurt him – it was one-way traffic.
In truth, it was hard not to be impressed by the Hatfield star such was his superiority. It flowed from his feet, gathered pace from his waist and did a merry dance via audacious punches from both hands. The Briton’s blows, which suckered Isufi into all manner of errors, highlighted the gulf in class and underlined the need to see Billy Joe in with someone of far greater ability. Whether or not he’s a legitimate 168-pounder, though, remains to be seen.
“I’ve moved up from middleweight because none of them [Gennady Golovkin and Canelo Alvarez] will fight me,” said Saunders. “Golovkin and Canelo are pussies for my style, I really thought I was going to get those fights [before now].”
It brings to end a difficult period for Saunders. In December 2017, he looked sensational when he dominated the fancied David Lemieux in a defence of his old WBO middleweight title before a series of mishaps – to put them mildly – thwarted his progress. Injuries, horrendous YouTube videos depicting him teasing drug addicts before failing a drug test himself, all threatened his reputation as one of Britain’s best.
One hopes that’s all behind him now. He remains a very special fighter.
On the same bill, heavyweight hope Joe Joyce exposed the ageing bones of former contender, Alexander Ustinov. Giving away nine years to the 42-year-old, Joyce – a new recruit of trainer Adam Booth – set about his opponent with impressive care and attention, at least by his bombastic standards, before forcing the stoppage in the third round.
A right hand, launched from distance, wobbled Ustinov, already cut from a clash of heads, in the opening round and was the orchestrator of the accurate attacks in the second. Joyce, exhibiting better head movement than ever before, found room for the finish in the third when he positioned Ustinov and clattered him with a left hand.
Ustinov fell to the floor and referee Victor Loughlin reached the count of 10. Onwards and upwards for 33-year-old “Juggernaut” who might be as ready for the elite as he’ll ever be.
In support, a keenly fought battle that unified the British and Commonwealth super-bantamweight titles. saw the classy Brad Foster scrap his way to a 12th round stoppage win over the always gutsy Ashley Lane.
Foster was in control from the opening round, pinging in overhand shots – a short right hand in particular caught the eye and wobbled his man – yet Lane, never short of effort, refused to be overawed. It was all beyond him by the end, though.
He attempted to claw his way back, round after round, yet Foster’s work was superior and, as the fight approached the end, the favourite poured on the pressure.
It was easy to feel sorry for Lane after he appeared to take a low blow before a huge, and legitimate, right hand sent him careering to the mat. The subsequent attack was on point, and the referee’s stoppage spot on, despite the final bell sounding moments after the official stepped in. Foster is yet to reach his level and is one to watch.
Also impressive was 20-year-old Willy Hutchinson. Picking his shots like a veteran, the Scottish light-heavyweight prospect took apart Ondrej Budera in three rounds to cruise to 8-0 (3).