Billy Joe Saunders beats Blandamura, wins European crown
Billy Joe Saunders claimed the vacant European middleweight title with a thunderous finish to beat Italian Emanuele Blandamura in Manchester.
The British and Commonwealth champion, 24, struggled to dominate a previously unbeaten opponent but produced a superb right hook in the eighth round.
The overhand shot sent Blandamura, 34, sprawling against the ropes.
Saunders managed to get several more blows away against the dazed Italian before the referee ended the contest.
It signalled a 20th consecutive success for the unbeaten Hatfield southpaw, who had suffered a cut to his left eye in the second round and showed signs of rustiness in his first fight for 10 months.
"My timing was out a little bit but he is a good fighter, he was unbeaten and rated well, and I finished him well," said Saunders.
"There were a lot of things I could pick faults with but I am only 24, I am still learning and getting better all the time."
Saunders, who also holds the WBO International middleweight crown, topped the bill at the Manchester Arena after the late cancellation of Tyson Fury's heavyweight fight with Belarusian Alexander Ustinov.
Fury, 25, was withdrawn after his uncle and first trainer Hughie fell seriously ill and was taken to hospital. Fury's original opponent, Dereck Chisora, pulled out earlier in the week with a fractured hand.
Saunders, from a Romany Gypsy community in Hertfordshire, was happy to contemplate a fight against Chris Eubank Jr, who extended his unbeaten record to 17-0 on the undercard with a brutal first-round stoppage of Croatian Ivan Jukic.
Saunders said: "It's not that I need him. But if people want me to knock him out, I will do it. If he is man enough, we will get it on."
Eubank Jr declared he would "have the British title within the next four months" and father Chris, a former two-weight world champion, believes his son can surpass his achievements.
"In my view he is going to change the game," Eubank said. "It is my duty as a father to make sure I steer him into beating my records - it is something I desire for him."
Asked about the possibility of Saunders fighting Eubank Jr, promoter Frank Warren said: "It is turning into a big fight. We will sit down and look at the options. If the business calls for it, we will do it."
Unbeaten Liam Smith from Liverpool retained his British light-middleweight crown after a huge whipping right hand to the body ended the challenge of Jason Welborn, who was counted out 36 seconds into the sixth round.
Manchester's Terry Flanagan won every round as he took the vacant British lightweight title, Martin Gethin's corner pulling their fighter out at the end of the seventh round with severe swelling to his ear.