Billy Joe boxes for Beijing ticket

PUBLISHED: 15:54 01 March 2008 | UPDATED: 21:28 26 October 2009

Billy Joe Saunders

Billy Joe Saunders

HATFIELD boxer Billy Joe Saunders will fight Pavol Hlavacka this evening (Saturday) for a place in the Olympics. The 18-year-old Herts welterweight faces the Slovakian for third place in the AIBA European Olympic qualifying tournament in Pescara, Italy. S

HATFIELD boxer Billy Joe Saunders will fight Pavol Hlavacka this evening (Saturday) for a place in the Olympics.

The 18-year-old Herts welterweight faces the Slovakian for third place in the AIBA European Olympic qualifying tournament in Pescara, Italy.

Saunders narrowly missed out on a final spot and automatic Olympic qualification yesterday (Friday) when he unfairly lost his semi-final bout to Olexandr Stretskyy 15-13.

The Ukrainian's spoiling tactics worked and he just edged a close contest to end Saunders' 29-bout unbeaten streak.

Saunders complained afterwards. He said: "The ref didn't do anything.

"I knew the only way I could beat him was to stop him.

"Every body shot I hit him with he made a funny noise.

"If he hadn't been allowed to grab hold of me I would have stopped him."

However, Saunders still has the ability and punches in his armoury to book his ticket to Beijing later today when he enters this ring against Hlavacka for the bronze medal bout.

Hlavacka lost the other semi-final on Friday to Mahamed Nurudzinau after retiring in round two.

Speaking after Friday's defeat, British boxing coach Terry Edwards ominously warned: "Billy will bounce back tomorrow."

The Hoddesdon Boxing Academy product has certainly been the star of the English team in this tournament on the Adriatic Coast.

He has delivered the goods in every bout against vastly experienced and very successful opponents, including a former European amateur champion.

His performances have so impressed the Eastern Europeans that the only tactic they have come up with to beat Billy Joe, known as BJ, is to hit, hold and spoil, meaning Saunders is at the mercy of the referee.

Ukrainian Stretskyy was able to get away with his spoiling tactics on Friday, forcing Saunders to chase his opponent instead of being able to box technically.

Saunders had made a quick start in the first, being two points up, before Stretskyy applied his spoiling tactics, allowing the Ukrainian to win the first round by two points.

Pressure applied by the Englishman in the second and body punches were hurting Stretskyy.

However, the Ukrainian came up with the tactic of turning his back on BJ, who lives on a travellers' site on the A414 near Cole Green, and making out that he had been forced to the floor, bending over and touching the canvass with both gloves.

Eventually, the referee gave Saunders two points for this.

In the third, Billy Joe forced a standing count from a body shot but still was five points behind on the judges' score.

This was a deficit that the British Olympic hopeful had overturned in previous contests in the tournament.

Another two points were sacrificed by the Ukrainian in the final round, but Billy Joe still ended up losing 15-13 to howls of derision from the crowd at the final bell.

The Herts boxer received a deserved ovation, while his opponent was booed for his approach.

To show how unlucky Saunders was, he would have won the 69kg bout had it been a professional contest.

The first round would have been scored even or shaded by the Ukrainian.

The other three rounds would all have gone to Billy Joe.

However, the former national schoolboy champion from Herts will come of age this evening if he can rediscover his winning form and book a place in the Beijing Olympics.


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