BRADLEY Saunders could be the North East’s next world champion after taking only 81 sensational seconds to collect his first professional belt, writes Roy Kelly.
And proud promoter Frank Warren says he will deliver a world title fight for the 28-year-old, from Sedgefield.
Saunders knocked out Finland’s Ville Piispanen with an explosive left to the body in Newcastle on Saturday night to clinch the WBO Inter-continental title.
His 10th straight victory – and eighth by stoppage – has moved him up the World Boxing Organisation’s rankings and will put him in the frame for at least an eliminator.
Warren, at ringside to watch one of his other rising stars, Paul Butler, become the IBF bantamweight champ by outpointing Darlington’s Stuey Hall, knows a thing or two about light-welterweights.
The promoter, who took Ricky Hatton and Amir Khan to the top at the 10 stone division, has no doubts Saunders (pictured) can, and will, do it.
“To win a world title, you need to be special,” Warren said. “It’s a very tough division Bradley is in, but I think he’s got the ability to go all the way.
“If he keeps doing what he did there, I’ll make sure he gets the opportunity for it – I do think he’s capable of winning a world title.
“I thought it was a tremendous punch.
“Bradley is looking more and more the business every fight he has.
“He is exciting and he can punch – that was a great stoppage.”
Warren and his promotional outfit, Queensbury, have made lucrative offers to the owners of the British and Commonwealth belts.
To the frustration of one of the leading figures in British boxing, neither Curtis Woodhouse nor Willie Limond will say yes.
“Bradley will fight anyone,” said Warren.
“But it’s very disappointing that Curtis Woodhouse and Willie Limond, the British and Commonwealth champions, refused very big purses to fight Bradley.
“Bradley’s got the goods.
“I’ve heard people say ‘he’s 28’, but that’s to his advantage he’s very mature.
“Just look at the sort of shots he throws, you don’t see guys having the confidence to throw those punches until they’ve had something like 15 fights.
“He’s been throwing those punches since the start of his career.”
Saunders took Piispanen apart in brutal fashion.
He began brightly, his jab finding the shaved tattooed head of the Finn and then just a minute into the bout he drove in a devastating left to the body.
Like George Groves seven days earlier at Wembley, he never looked like getting up.
“Going off his record, I never thought it would end like that,” Saunders explained. “The shot I got him with I’ve been working on in the gym.
“When he was talking to me after the fight he said ‘I’ve heard stories you can punch but, blow me, no one has ever hit me with anything like that before’.
“He’s never, ever been stopped like that – I have blown him away in under a round.”
That 81 seconds of magic has put him in the WBO mix. “I just want to go in one direction, to the top,” he said.
“I’m not in this sport just to be a boxer, I want to be number one.
“If I didn’t think I could be number one then I wouldn’t be doing it.”