EVEN if there was frustration felt by the two boxers at the top of the bill at the Metro Radio Arena, Saturday night could not have gone any better for three other North-East fighters.

While Stuart Hall and Martin Ward woke up yesterday suffering from a severe case of anti-climax, the other leading boxing names from the region on the show further enhanced their reputations.

As well as Jon-Lewis Dickinson becoming the first Tyneside boxer to win the Lonsdale belt and Sunderland's Kirk Goodings retaining his English lightweight crown, County Durham's Bradley Saunders made more people sit up and take notice.

Loading article content

Saunders was unstoppable in his ninth pro contest and he turned in his best display so far to extend his unblemished record since turning his back on a glorious amateur career.

Despite facing his toughest opponent to date, Cumbernauld's Mitch Prince simply had no answer to the power and precision of Saunders' hands and movement.

Prince, only defeated twice from his 16 contests, was put down twice inside the first round. He never really recovered and was stopped with just 1min 10sec of the fourth round on the clock.

Saunders, who had been due to face Paul McCloskey before the Irishman pulled out through injury, was delighted with his display in front of more than 1,000 of his fans. Now it is all about the next step.

“People will take notice of me, that's what I want,” said Saunders. “I was always told as an amateur to stop winging them in. Now it is the total opposite. It is a tough sport. I have lived a bit of a wild life and I fight like I have lived.

“That kid there is the best person I have fought. I dropped him three, four even five times. He got up and that's when I thought I was in a fight. But everything I threw I landed. It's probably my best performance.”

Saunders' rapid rise through the ranks has created problems for his manager, Frank Warren. Finding an opponent to face him has been difficult, but Sedgefield's former South Durham ABC man is desperate for a shot at the big time. On the evidence of Saturday's display, he deserves it.

“Curtis Woodhouse is a nice lad and is the British champion,” said Saunders. “Somebody asked him the other day 'who is the best 140lb fighter in Britain?' on Twitter. Curtis involved me in the conversation and put #BradleySaunders. He didn't need to do that.

“I have knocked two middleweights out in the last two weeks sparring with 15oz gloves on. It's not for me to find an opponent. It's Frank Warren's job.

“But why would I just want to exist as a boxer? A lot of boxers were around when I was a schoolboy, they are still there now and are no further forward. I don't want to be like that, I want to do it. Let's do it. I am 28-year-old and I want to do it. I would like to fight in the North-East again, I love that.”

Saunders is expecting to do just that later this year, with a return to the Metro Radio Arena likely on June 7. That could also be the night when Dickinson returns to the ring, having retained his British title.

The Birtley boxer's greater strength proved too much for Rotherham challenger Neil Dawson, who was eventually stopped after 2min 33sec of round ten after a series of left and right blows.

Dickinson has got the taste for more glory, but he will not be just throwing himself in to the ring with somebody for the sake of it.

“I'm not going to make a decision now, I will wait and see what happens, speak to Ronnie (Rowe) my coach, and my manager Gary Barr and see what we want to do,” said Dickinson, who never looked in any trouble against Dawson.

“If there's the right money offer to fight for the British I'm happy to defend it again. I'm not fighting for pennies though. I think I've proved I'm worth getting paid well. Some of the fights I've been offered were not worth talking about.”

There was also celebration for Goodings. The Wearsider gradually wore down Fishburn's Gary Fox and eventually forced a stoppage 2min 33sec in to round eight following a series of head shots.

It was an entertaining battle, with Fox starting brightly, but Goodings' progress continued and he has lost just one of his opening 11 pro bouts.

In the other main fight of the night, Birmingham's Olympian Frankie Gavin retained his Commonwealth weltwerweight title with a points win over Namibia's Sacky Shikukutu, despite being put down in the second.