By Jack Sumner @Jack_Sumner_
Wembley Arena sees a battle between two unbeaten domestic fighters this Saturday, as Ireland's Gary "Spike" O'Sullivan defends his WBO International Middleweight title against rising star and former Olympian Billy Joe Saunders. Aside from O’Sullivan’s crown and both men’s unbeaten records being on the line, there’s plenty more at stake with Saunders already scheduled to headline a show on September 21st.
That is of the course the eagerly anticipated British title clash with fellow domestic rival John Ryder, again a clash of unbeatens but by far the more high-profile and potentially more rewarding fight. A loss against O’Sullivan might scupper Saunders’ meeting with Ryder at The Copper Box however, or at least cause the event to lose some of its lustre.
Saunders (17-0, 10 KO’s) has been in the public eye since the 2008 Beijing Olympics and five years after turning pro at 18 is on the fringes of joining Britain’s middleweight elite. Should he come through both O’Sullivan and Ryder, the 23-year-old Hatfield traveller believes a world title shot will come within a year and he’ll be in line for even bigger domestic dust-ups with the likes of Matthew Macklin, Martin Murray and Darren Barker.
28-year-old Irishman O'Sullivan (16-0, 10 KO’s) is perhaps not the name that Saunders is, at least not outside of his native Cork, but would make a huge statement with a victory on Saturday against the British and Commonwealth titleholder. The fight represents a step-up in class for both men with only one common opponent thus far to use as a measuring stick, both O’Sullivan and Saunders owning twelve-round points verdicts over Matthew Hall.
Hall had his moments against both men, but Saunders beat the Mancunian far more convincingly than O’Sullivan did, with Hall pushing the Irishman close enough to lose only by a solitary round on one of the judges scorecards.
Of course styles make fights and common opponents don’t always give a good indication of how a fight will pan out. In this particular instance however, I believe it points to Saunders being a level above. It’s no doubt his toughest test to date though and certainly an intriguing encounter unfortunately overshadowed somewhat by John Ryder. Providing Saunders doesn’t overlook O’Sullivan, I think he steps over this potential banana skin with his unbeaten record intact for late September.