BRADLEY Saunders made a blistering start to life in boxing’s professional ranks - and then set his sights on going all the way to the top.
The 25-year-old stopped experienced campaigner Jason Nesbitt at London’s York Hall on a stunning debut last night.
Saunders, with 183 amateur fights under his belt, was up against a man who was having his 153rd paid outing and had not been stopped in 68 bouts.
And the Sedgefield light-welterweight turned on the style in the famous eastend venue, referee Bob Williams stopping the fight two minutes, 57 seconds into round three.
Saunders, who has signed for Britain’s top promoter, Frank Warren, is in a hurry to match his achievements in the amateurs.
“I want to go all the way to the top, just like I did in the amateurs,” said Saunders, who was a world championship bronze medallist and a Commonwealth Games runner up.
“I hope I can be fast-tracked up there and I don’t think I could have made a better start.
“It’s unheard for anyone to get a six rounder their debut so I think the signs are good.
“I signed for Frank because he’s the best and can take me where I want to go.
“I enjoyed a great first night and I was pleased, but there is more to come.
“I do think I can go all the way and I can go there as fast as they want me to.”
Saunders has watched his fellow Olympians from Beijing experience mixed revues during their pro careers but he intends to outshine the likes of James De Gale, Frankie Gavin and Tony Jeffries.
But this debut would take some topping by any boxer.
The all-action former South Durham star was simply irresistible.
Most new pros suffer from nerves in their first contest and if Saunders had a few butterflies then he did a good job hiding them.
He was out the blocks like a sprinter, going straight on the attack.
Saunders forced Nesbitt back from the start, his jab driving into Nesbitt’s face time and again.
He was accurate and aggressive with a capital A for both.
A stiff left momentarily stunned Nesbitt who sagged back towards the ropes and while Saunders went for the kill, the 38-year-old survived.
The first three minutes were as good a debut round as this reporter has seen, unerring jabs being followed by short hooks to the body and long rights to the head and body.
Round two was equally impressive, a left to the body being followed by an upper cut from same glove and he added an eye-catching left-right-left combination.
Saunders maintained his relentless assault in the third, short right hooks and powerful long rights finding their mark.
Nesbitt go through with a right of his own, the capacity crowd gasping when it connected to the chin of Saunders.
However, it was to be the Brummie’s last hurrah and when Saunders launched a volley of shots in Nesbitt’s corner, referee Williams waved it off just three seconds before the bell.
“In the first I thought ‘he’s going to take some getting rid of’,” Saunders told SportMail.
“My corner were telling me to slow it down and take my time, so I took my foot off the gas a bit and it worked.
“I think the fact that I’ve stopped him speaks for itself.
“Jason always sees it through to the end, whoever he fights, and he never gets stopped
“He’s the toughest man I’ve fought, I hit him with a one-two and I don’t think hurt him, but I damaged my hand!”