NEWLY-CROWNED WBO Intercontinental light welterweight champion Bradley Saunders will return to the ring next month to defend his unbeaten record against durable Frenchman Christopher Sebire.

Having won all ten of his bouts since turning professional, Sedgefield’s Saunders will take on Sebire, who has won 23 of his 31 contests, on the undercard of Derek Chisora and Tyson Fury’s British, European and Intercontinental heavyweight title fight in Manchester on July 26.

Saunders claimed the WBO’s Intercontinental belt when he stopped Finland’s Ville Piispanen in just 81 seconds at Newcastle’s Metro Radio Arena earlier this month, a success that catapulted him into the top 12 of the world light welterweight rankings.

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A victory over Sebire could see him move into the top ten, with his French opponent having taken both Chris Jenkins and Bradley Skeete to the final bell already this year.

Sebire lost both fights on points, but underlined his durability as he matched both Jenkins, a former Prizefighter champion, and Skeete, the WBA Intercontinental welterweight champion, for long periods.

The 29-year-old’s most recent outing saw him record a second-round stoppage against Serbian number one lightweight Nemanja Krstin, and Saunders is expecting a tougher examination than he experienced on the undercard of Stuart Hall’s unsuccessful world-title defence against Paul Butler.

“Sebire is bigger and stronger as he’s fought at welterweight and up at light-middleweight, so maybe he’ll take me a few rounds more,” said Saunders, who is now based in Marbella. “He’ll be coming to win like he always does so I know that I won’t have to go looking for him which will make it exciting for the fans.

“He is a very tough guy who goes the distance with everybody. Sebire has taken Skeete and Jenkins the distance so I’ll be looking forward to getting in there and doing some rounds with him.”

Saunders, who fought at the Beijing Olympics during his amateur career, is targeting a world-title shot within the next year-and-a-half, and is already eyeing the likes of Ruslan Provodnikov, Juan Manuel Marquez and Lucas Matthysse, who currently occupy the top spots in the WBO rankings.

“The new WBO world rankings are out and Team Saunders are on the move,” he said. “Straight in at number 12 and there are some top names for me to be in there with in these next 18 months.

“Now that I’m ranked in the WBO, the world title is in my sights, but I want to get some more rounds in so I can get some experience in the bag and show people what I can do in the later rounds. I get even stronger as the fight goes on and can do some real damage.”