Saunders major and minor make master’s birthday a happy one

It was under-pressure coach Terry Edwards’ 65th birthday yesterday and, although his boxers gave him a cake, none of them offered to share it with him after Frankie Gavin’s weight fiasco. But the celebration Edwards most enjoyed was the double success of two unrelated Saunders, light-welterweight Bradley and teenage welterweight Billy Joe.

It was under-pressure coach Terry Edwards’ 65th birthday yesterday and, although his boxers gave him a cake, none of them offered to share it with him after Frankie Gavin’s weight fiasco. But the celebration Edwards most enjoyed was the double success of two unrelated Saunders, light-welterweight Bradley and teenage welterweight Billy Joe.

Both sailed through their opening bouts in a fashion which augured well for the hopes of a squad still stunned by the loss of ‘Funtime Frankie,’ the world champ they saw as their banker for gold.

It is Bradley Saunders,22, a world championship bronze medallist who now assumes the role of leading man and he lived ip to the part with a swift despatch of Ghananian Samuel Kotey, who was left writhing on the floor and needing medical attention 36 seconds from the end of the first round from a wind-sapping body shot. It was the second time he had been knocked down, the first by a clubbing right to the head.. “I saw his body was wide open so as I’d hurt him with the same punch early on so I went for it,” said Saunders.

Namesake Billy Joe, was equally impressive. The baby of team ,known as Billy The Kid, who comes from a family of travellers in Hertfordshire and is the great-grandson of a bare knuckle champion, fought with a maturity beyond his 18-years to comprehensively outpoint Adern Kilicci, a world champion ship bronze medallist, 14-3.



It was a performance reminiscent of the then 17-year-old Amir Khan’s opening display in Athens and like Khan, there is a cute precocity about the way he operates which brings early optimism that he could go all the way to the finals. Edwards described his win as “tremendous,” adding: “This was a mature performance from a youngster in his first major tournament. In fact I would say he is even a bit more mature than Amir was at this stage. He’s a tough kid. He can box-fight and is very adaptable.”

That was evident from the start. The bullish young southpaw grew in confidence with every round, notably the third in which he forced the vastly more experienced Turk on the back foot and controlled every area of the ring.



Stalking his opponent out of a crouch, Saunders produced a fluency in punches thrown from waist-high and footwork which suggested he had been watching videos of Muhammad Ali. He seems the likeliest of lads for 2012, if he is not lured into the professional ring, as Khan was, should a medal come his way at the end of these Games.



Next up for him is the last 16 on Thursday is the Cuban Carlos Suarez, the current Pan-American champion, which may seem like bad news. But the good news is that Saunders has beaten him before, albeit on a count-back decision in Bulgaria earlier this year “It was tough last time but this will be harder,” he says. Bradley Saunders also faces an opponent he has previously defeated, Frenchman Alexis Vastine, whom he outscored in the world championships.



With middleweight James DeGale'ss victory on Saturday, plus a couple of byes and then small pool of super-heavyweights, Britain have four of their seven remaining boxers already in the last 16. “I couldn’t have had a happier birthday,” smiled Edwards. But he must know that from now on it won’t be a piece of cake.

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