News June 2017

Bradley Saunders talks Newcastle return, Garrido disaster and new beginnings


By Michael J Jones

LIVEFIGHT HAS spoken to Sedgefield prospect Bradley Saunders on a number of occasions but a lot has changed since our last interview a couple of years ago. Take a trip back in time 21 months and the Sedgefield star was 12-0 and set to face French hard man Renald Garrido in his first eight-round match.

The fight though proved to be a complete disaster for the former decorated amateur. His brittle hands succumbed to Garrido’s rock-hard head after a few rounds and it was all down-hill from there. With Saunders tiring and powerless to stop the Frenchman’s constant advances, the North East prospect came in head-first to be thrown out in the sixth and lose his unbeaten record in the process.

Following the defeat, subsequent surgery and other outside-the-ring troubles, the former Olympian has thus gone from sure-fire prospect to the fistic “last chance saloon”.

With the above behind him and having benefitted from his first prolonged lay-off from boxing since he was an eight-years-old boy, Livefight spoke to the come-backing fighter ahead of his ring return which is scheduled for June 23rd at the Walker Activity Dome in Newcastle.

“To be totally honest I actually enjoyed being a normal person for a while” admits the 31 year old to Livefight a few days ago. “To be with my family, to do things like go for a meal or go for a drink, was really nice. Some don’t realise but I’ve been doing boxing all my life since I was eight and it’s all-consuming.”

“Eventually though…I became sick of being normal.”

I ask the 12-1 (9) Bradley about that disastrous last match against Garrido way back in September 2015, a defeat which left his reputation seemingly in tatters.

“What a nightmare it was” he sighs after a pause. “I felt I handled him easily the early rounds but my left hand ‘went’ in the third, then my right hand broke in the fourth…can you imagine a footballer trying to play with one leg? That’s just what it was like I had nothing at all to keep him off with.”

“Garrido could tell I was injured and just came after me, and to be fair, I would have done exactly the same in his position.”

Early in the sixth, Saunders got off with some good, clean, shots but none had their usual weight behind them and, each time Saunders would strike, Garrido would come back swiftly and land hard to head and body. More disorganised than hurt, Saunders would suffer his first trip to the canvas when a half-punch/half-slip made him touch down by the ropes.

Once he arose, the bullish Garrido charged. With the seconds ticking down, Saunders dipped low and came up with his head onto the shorter Frenchman’s chin. Garrido reeled back from the foul to bring an instance end to the lively contest as referee Steve Gray threw Saunders out.

“I can’t really explain (the head-butt), I’ve honestly never done anything like that before in my life. I couldn’t hit him back or keep him off so it just happened…it is what it is but, for me, yes I lead with my head but I don’t think it was as blatant as what it was made out to be.”

Amusingly, once the fight was officially called off, Garrido went from slumped over the ropes in apparent agony to running around the ring in wild jubilation.

“Since then, I’ve had operations to both hands and a good rest so I’m hoping they’ll hold up and last for the rest of my career” concludes Bradley hopefully.

To show Garrido is no mug he recently gave Frankie Gavin a good test over eight rounds before being edged 77-75 by the former world title challenger. The teak-tough contender has also yet to be stopped in 34 professional bouts to date.

Back to Bradley Saunders and, aside from his first defeat and surgery, the former amateur stand-out has also had to navigate a lengthy court case which finally concluded the end of last year. Saunders alongside two other men were accused of blackmail but the case was eventually thrown out due to lack of evidence.

“It was an absolute joke, an absolute pile of rubbish” comments Saunders about the false allegations made against him. “A place like here in the North East, people do well and they seem to get targeted with people wanting to bring them down. When it got to court, the judge couldn’t believe what he was hearing and threw the case out straight away.”

“It was ridiculous but I’ve had things like that go on all through my life and thank God it’s behind me now.”

Saunders makes his belated return next week against an opponent to be determined. The fight is made at 10st 10lbs and will be a six-rounder. Saunders is now based in Essex and is being coached by Peter Sims after formerly working with the team in MGM Marbella in Spain.

“The fights made (at 150lbs) and that’ll be good for my first one as I didn’t want to go straight into killing myself making weight” reasons the Sedgefield body-snatcher. “I’ll see how I feel but I’ll probably carry on at welterweight but, if the weight falls off me, maybe I’ll return to light-welterweight.”

“There’s no opponent yet but I’ve heard a few names bandied about. I leave that to my team and just concentrate on the training and making weight. Welterweight is a good division and there’s a lot of good fights to be made there so either division would be fine.”

“I’ve had excellent sparring for this one too, I’ve done some rounds with (former English champion) Tyler Goodjohn and (8-0 prospect) Ted Cheeseman. I also did some work recently with Conor Benn (Nigel Benn’s son who is currently 6-0), which was good too. I’m not going to say who won what as its just sparring but it was all competitive and very good quality work.”

Another bonus from his extended time away from boxing, the former WBO InterContinental champion has also developed his own road maintenance company which specialises in the resurfacing and marking of car parks and other similar facilities.

“My company is called ‘SLS Road Maintenance’ and it keeps me busy day-to-day and gives me the opportunity to travel around the country and meet new people. We’re currently in our second year and things are really looking up for the company as we are building up a strong portfolio of clients including Amazon, Heathrow Airport and The Metro centre.”

“I’m hoping the business can continue to grow and serve as a stable career long after my pro boxing days are behind me.”

And a final word about June 23rd?

“I’d just like to thank Peter Sims my trainer and all of my team and the supporters. The support I get is unbelievable, everything that’s happened and they’ve stayed loyal and got their tickets so I can’t thank them enough.”

“I’ll get this fight out of the way, then I’m off to Ibiza two weeks after on my stag before getting married on August 18th. Me and my partner Stephanie have been together since we were 13 so boxing will be put on hold for a couple of months and then I’ll be back to it.”

“I didn’t want to be an old bitter man one day and say to myself ‘I could have done this or that’. I’m going to give it one more try and see how I get on.”

Boxing can provide a fighter with a bizarre journey with multiple endings. For Saunders, as a former ABA champion and World amateur Bronze medallist, he always seemed destined to be a pro British champion at the very least. The journey was derailed nearly two years ago against Garrido but two or three victories will proceed to erase that memory from fight fans.

Saunders has the amateur pedigree, punching power and talent to still find success in pro boxing…provided those hands hold up.

For anybody needing road maintenance or resurfacing in the UK, contact SLS secretary Kelly on 07583 983690 for a consultation and quote.

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