Best yet to come from Beijing-bound boxer

PUBLISHED: 17:52 04 March 2008 | UPDATED: 21:24 26 October 2009

Billy Joe Saunders

Billy Joe Saunders

TEENAGE Hatfield boxer Billy Joe Saunders has secured his place at the Beijing Olympic Games this summer. The 18-year-old welterweight cemented his spot by beating Slovakia s Pavol Hlavacka 20-10 on Saturday at the AIBA European Olympic qualifying tournam

TEENAGE Hatfield boxer Billy Joe Saunders has secured his place at the Beijing Olympic Games this summer.

The 18-year-old welterweight cemented his spot by beating Slovakia's Pavol Hlavacka 20-10 on Saturday at the AIBA European Olympic qualifying tournament in Pescara, Italy.

Saunders, who lives on a caravan site on the outskirts of Hatfield, had narrowly missed out on automatic Olympic qualification last Friday.

The Hoddesdon Boxing Academy star lost, unjustly in many quarters, to Ukrainian Olexandr Stretskyy 15-13 in a semi-final bout.

Billy Joe bounced back from that blow, which ended a 29-fight winning streak, to qualify by defeating Hlavacka in the 69kg bronze medal match.

A delighted Saunders said: "I was more relaxed. Somehow the pressure was off me after yesterday (Friday) when I lost my winning streak.

"I'll go back and learn from yesterday's (Friday's) loss. I'll be a much better fighter when I get to Beijing.

"This is the fittest I've ever been."

The young fighter was quick to heap praise on those who have helped him in his sporting achievements so far.

He said: "I want to thank my club coaches Danny Hoy and Sam Leo, Danny has been with me all my career, and particularly to thank (GB head coach) Terry Edwards.

"He made me work really hard the last 15 months.

"Believe me, I wouldn't be here without UK Sport Lottery funding. I've done it."

The Herts pugilist became the seventh British fighter to book a ticket to Beijing with his box-off victory.

Coincidentally, there are two B Saunders who have secured places to box at the Olympics - Billy Joe Saunders and Brad Saunders.

GB head coach Terry Edwards said: "I'm now going to name all my boxers B Saunders.

"Everyone has taken special note of Billy Joe this week and they are right to."

Despite Saunders' incredible success in making it to the Beijing Games, Edwards does not think we have yet seen the best from the Hatfield teenager.

He added: "There's plenty to come from Billy.


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