Today's card at the Phones4u Arena in Manchester, England, underwent some major changes in the last week, as the main event shifted from Tyson Fury vs Dereck Chisora II, to Fury vs Alexander Ustinov, and then early today, Billy Joe Saunders was bumped to main event status against Emanuele Blandamura, but fight fans still got some action this afternoon, with Saunders capturing the European middleweight crown.
Saunders (20-0, 11 KO) got a fair challenge from Italy's Emanuele Blandamura (22-1, 5 KO) before stopping his opponent on a monster right hook and a couple of follow-up shots late in round eight, with referee Robin Dolpierre calling a halt to the bout at 2:58 of that round. Blandamura, 34, acquitted himself nicely against a talented young fighter, while Saunders, 24, added the European title to his collection, having already held the British and Commonwealth belts.
It's expected that Saunders will spend a few more fights at this level before potentially starting to test the waters toward a run at a world title, but a possible money fight opponent is already out there, too. Chris Eubank Jr improved to 17-0 (12 KO) with an easy first round TKO win over Ivan Jukic (19-3, 12 KO), another opponent with a decent-looking but empty record lined up to pad the 24-year-old Eubank's record. In terms of development and experience, Eubank is still a good bit behind Saunders, but the two have talked a lot in the press about one another, generally an indication of a slow burn toward a possible fight. That could come up in 2015, but seeing it happen by the end of this year is probably asking too much. Eubank still has that domestic level to get through, if he'd like to be a British and/or Commonwealth champion himself.
Liam Smith (17-0-1, 7 KO) retained the British junior middleweight title with a sixth round knockout of Jason Welborn (15-3, 6 KO). Welborn gave a courageous effort but was simply overmatched against Smith. It became something of a dirty affair toward what turned out to be the later rounds of the fight, before Smith finished things with a brutal body shot.
Terry Flanagan (25-0, 9 KO) picked up the vacant British lightweight title with a win over battle-tested Martin Gethin (24-6-1, 11 KO), who retired from the bout after seven rounds when his corner stopped the contest after a brave but ultimately fruitless seventh round stand.
Junior middleweight prospect Liam Williams improved to 10-0-1 (5 KO) with a one-sided shellacking of Ronnie Heffron (15-2, 5 KO) in an eliminator bout. Williams is now in line to face Liam Smith for the British 154-pound title. Heffron's corner stopped the fight after six rounds.