Bradley Saunders headed home from Newcastle Arena with a present for his son Leyton and a warning to the rest of boxing’s light-welterweight division.
The 28-year-old from Sedgefield always knew victory over Ville Piispanen would elevate him to No.8 in the WBO rankings.
But nobody saw the manner of it coming.
The Finn is a durable fighter, with 150 rounds under his belt to Saunders’ 39. Despite having gone in with some of the best in Europe, only a bleeding nose, against Giuseppe Lauri in 2008, had stopped him going the distance – until Saturday night.
Just 81 seconds into the contest, Saunders hit him with a devastating right-handed body punch. Piispanen had not even left the floor by the time the referee had counted to ten. It was the eighth knockout of Saunders’ ten-fight career and won him his first belt, the vacant WBO Inter-Continental light welterweight title.
“Boxing’s a very short career and I want to make the most of it,” said Saunders. “I’m in my prime and I don’t want to be chasing British titles. I want to deal with these people so I can look back and tell my little boy about it.
“He’s got a belt now and I want to show him photos of me fighting Erik Morales and being in with the best in the world. That’s what I want.”
Curtis Woodhouse and Willie Limond have been dodging Saunders, acutely aware of what he could do to them.
“I’m past caring about who I fight so long as I become No.1 in the long run, I’m not bothered,” said Saunders, who is managed by Frank Warren’s son Francis.
“I can say who I want to fight. But you know what? It doesn’t happen.
“I’ll fight whoever I can. Whatever makes sense as a fight, my matchmaker will get us fixed up and I’ll fight. And if they stand there for long enough, they’ll get that.
“I can’t fix up title shots as easy as that. The public might think so but it doesn’t happen like that. I’m getting well guided.
“I’m fighting better opposition all the time and doing things to people that no one else is doing. With my world ranking I can hopefully move on now. I want some big names, like DeMarcus Corley or Erik Morales. I’m a good fighter, so I should be in good fights.”
Earlier, West Rainton’s Tommy Ward passed the toughest examination of his fledgling unbeaten career to outpoint Michael Ramanelesta 59-55.
Ward’s brother Martin suffered disappointment at the same venue in March when a cut eye from an early clash of heads saw his world bantamweight title fight with Stuey Hall declared a technical draw.
Martin was an anxious spectator at ringside on Saturday, not only because Tommy was bleeding from his left eye in the featherweight contest, but also because of the way Ramanelesta pushed him. The Preston-based fighter started with a 50-50 record, but looked a far better fighter than that.
For the first time in his professional career Newbiggin-by-the-Sea’s Lewis Scott did not record a knockout, but Mariusz Biskupski caused him few alarms in a 40-37 points win.
Josh Leather edged a furious six-round battle with Tommy Carus 58-56, while Hetton-le-Hole’s Jordan King enjoyed the second-fastest of the night’s six stoppages, two minutes, 13 seconds into round two.
There was a points win for Rhys Evans, and Dave Allen and Jason Cunningham stopped their opponents inside the distance. Unbeaten Chris Eubank Junior showed all the class and arrogance of his father, who posed for photographs in the ring between rounds, the referee finally stopping Stephan Horvath after his fourth standing count in two rounds.