Top British middleweight prospect Billy Joe Saunders was physically tested by a game and very durable Nick Blackwell tonight in London, but got through the fight with a decision win to capture the vacant British title, and retain his Commonwealth belt. Saunders won on scores of 117-112, 116-113, and 115-114.
Saunders (16-0, 10 KO) is likely better for the experience tonight, as Blackwell (12-2, 6 KO) gave him a good fight for 12 hard rounds, when many likely expected a more dominant effort from Saunders, who did clearly deserve the win. Blackwell's only previous loss was to current world contender Martin Murray in June 2011.
"I think this was dead what I needed. We're all prospects at the end of the day. The difference is, we're different levels. We're the same age, same weight, but we're different levels. I'm 23, they're 23, but I'm British and Commonwealth champion," Saunders said after the bout, speaking of Blackwell, and the likes of John Ryder.
Saunders also called out Chris Eubank Jr again after the fight, which is turning into a bit of a press rivalry in the UK. It's not quite DeGale-Groves level, but it might get there.
Our live coverage of Groves-Johnson continues here, with the main event up next.