Hartlepool boxer Bradley Saunders looks to move career forward with London win

THE DREAM TEAM: Bradley Saunders (right) with coach Peter Cope. Picture by TOM COLLINS
THE DREAM TEAM: Bradley Saunders (right) with coach Peter Cope. Picture by TOM COLLINS

BRADLEY Saunders would “love” to get to box on home soil for the first time as a professional.

But in the meantime, the Hartlepool boxer is happy building up his record and reputation on the road.

The 27-year-old makes his sixth pro appearance, and his fourth in the capital, when he fights Michael Kelly at Wembley Arena on Saturday.

Saunders has won all five of his contests to date, three inside the distance, and should make it six against the battle-hardened Irishman on the undercard of the Dereck Chisora v Malik Scott Transatlantic tussle.

“I’d love to get a fight here,” said Saunders, who trains out of the Gus Robinson Developments gym.

“But it’s fantastic I’m getting to box on these shows.

“The last time I was in London I was on the David Haye v Dereck Chisora card and my last bout in Manchester it was on the Freddie Flintoff bill.

“This is another massive show and at Wembley, which will be a great place to fight.”

It will be a big night for the Sedgefield light-welterweight, not just because of the iconic venue which has staged fights like Alan Minter v Marvin Hagler, Lennox Lewis v Oliver McCall and Frank Bruno v James ‘Bonecrusher’ Smith.

Saunders is boxing for the first time since appearing on another heavyweight’s show – Andrew Flintoff’s first and only fight in Manchester last November.

“Freddie” was the star attraction that night at the MEN Arena but, from a boxing perspective, a 78-74 win from Saunders over Ireland’s Peter McDonagh was a significant event.

Saunders, accustomed to three or four rounds in a glittering amateur career, not only came through the eight rounds, he did so with style and no shortage of heart, given he’d broken his left hand on the Galway fighter’s head.

“I shocked myself beating him as easily as I did,” said the former world bronze medallist.

“I went in there thinking ‘could this be a fight too?’ after looking at his previous results and who he’d been in with.

“I think I shocked him too – the last time I saw him he said ‘Bradley, you have nothing to worry about, you are one of the best kids I’ve ever been in with’.

“That gave me a boost but I’m just looking to pick up where I left off.”

But Saunders warned that there could be a more “cautious” approach as he feels his way back into the fight following a seven-month injury absence after surgery to his troublesome hand.

Like a footballer coming back from a broken foot and blasting a shot for the first time, the Frank Warren-managed light-welter knows his injury will be in the back of his mind.

While he has trained intensively and thumped the bag in the gym – and sparred numerous rounds – doing it for real in a fight with lighter gloves is a different proposition.

“It’s harder,” he explained.

“You need to be precise and look where you are hitting, you have to avoid elbows, hips and skulls.

“You can’t just go throwing shots if the other fighter is coming in putting his head down.

“I need to take my time and have a good look. You might see a more cautious performance.”