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Billy Joe Saunders beats Nick Blackwell to keep Commonwealth middleweight title and win British belt

Classy Saunders beats Blackwell to add British belt to Commonwealth title

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UPDATED:

02:54 GMT, 16 December 2012

Billy Joe Saunders retained his Commonwealth middleweight title and added the vacant British belt to his growing collection with a unanimous points win over Nick Blackwell.

The former Olympian, who remains undefeated after 16 professional contests, was forced to dig deep during the middle rounds but his class was reflected by scores of 117-112, 116-113 and 115-114 on the judges' cards.

Blackwell, who was fighting for the British strap for the second time, provided a stern test for the 23-year-old, but faded in the second half of the fight.

Champion: Billy Joe Saunders celebrates with his belts after victory over Nick Blackwell

Champion: Billy Joe Saunders celebrates with his belts after victory over Nick Blackwell

Saunders, 22, was fighting for the fourth time in a busy 2012 but only once had he been pushed, when winning a unanimous decision over Bradley Pryce in June.

In winning the vacant Commonwealth strap in April, Tony Hill was brutally dispatched in just 30 seconds at the Royal Albert Hall.

Unbeaten Australian Jarrod Fletcher last slightly longer when he made the trip to London but only until the second round when he too was stopped.

Blackwell's only previous defeat meanwhile came against world title challenger Martin Murray who faces WBC champion Sergio Martinez in Argentina next spring.

The 22-year-old emerged via the unlicensed circuit, winning all 18 of his fights before turning professional in 2009.

Since losing to Murray last summer, Blackwell had stopped his four subsequent opponents, most recently Mikheil Khutsishvili in May.

After a tense opening to the first round, Saunders began to exert control, landing with several flurries while Blackwell struggled to manoeuvre himself into position with his jab.

Saunders' pressure punching looked to be
taking its toll but Blackwell began to find his range towards the end of
the third stanza as he took advantage of Saunders' low right hand to
land several effective jabs.

Growing in confidence, the Trowbridge fighter began to move downstairs with his left hand and by the fourth round, an evenly-matched contest had developed.

And as a thrilling fight reached the
halfway stage, Blackwell was producing the more eye-catching
combinations as Saunders was forced on to the ropes and his right eye
began to redden.

Resistance: Blackwell put up a strong defence but Saunders deserved to take the fight on points

Resistance: Blackwell put up a strong defence but Saunders deserved to take the fight on points

Saunders' rod-like right jab proved effective in keeping Blackwell at bay in the seventh but the challenger was intent on stalking his opponent around the ring and had no hesitation in trading toe-to-toe.

Having boxed just one round since March, Blackwell began to tire in the eighth session as Saunders regained control of the bout. Although the ninth round was punctuated by solid jabs from Blackwell, it was the champion who stretched his lead on the scorecards with ever-more punishing combinations.

Aside from sporadic attacks to the body, Blackwell was also second best in the tenth round and was repeatedly beaten to the punch in round 10 while missing with shots of his own. Saunders took his foot off the gas in the penultimate round, perhaps aware that hearing the final bell would assure him of victory.

But Blackwell threatened to spoil the party in the last round as a punishing body shot momentarily stopped Saunders in his tracks but a barnstorming final two minutes failed to deliver a knockout blow.

Saunders was pleased to have been taken 12 rounds.

'Nick was very, very game and those rounds will hold me in good stead for the future. I've moved on to the next level,' he said.

Earlier in the evening, Liam Smith and Steve O'Meara both played their part in an enthralling contest for the vacant Commonwealth light-middleweight title, with Liverpudlian Smith winning by unanimous decision.

One of four boxing brothers, the 24-year-old looked set for an early finish when a left hook to the body had O'Meara, 28, on the canvas as the bell went for the end of the opening session.

The home favourite beat the count and showed no ill-effects but Smith's superior work rate and punishing blows saw him open up a commanding lead.

Despite trailing by large margins, O'Meara was far from outclassed and had plenty in reserve to contribute to a thrilling final round in which both boxers went toe-to-toe.

But having been unable to land the knockout blow, O'Meara lost for the third time in his career by scores of 112-116, 110-118 and 112-116.

Tough test: Blackwell impressed in defeat as he took Saunders to the final bell

Tough test: Blackwell impressed in defeat as he took Saunders to the final bell

Tony Conquest lost his unbeaten record, and his WBO International cruiserweight belt, when he was knocked out in less than two minutes by Neil Dawson.

Conquest started brightly but just as the contest was warming up, he was floored by a sharp left-right combination to the head and failed to beat the referee's count.

Bradley Skeete delivered the best performance of his career to win the Southern Area welterweight title with a fourth-round stoppage of Chas Symonds.

Skeete struggled to a laboured points victory over journeyman Peter McDonagh in September but produced a vastly-improved showing against Symonds.

Boxing behind the jab, the 25-year-old floored his opponent in the second round courtesy of a vicious left hook to the body.

Symonds, 30, had no trouble beating the count but Skeete began to land his right hand with alarming regularity and by the fourth round, Symonds' left eye was almost closed shut.

The doctor cleared him to continue but yet another right hand delivered Symonds to the canvas for a second time and although he again rose quickly, the contest was waved off.

Crowd favourite Frank Buglioni enjoyed yet another early night when Ciaran Healy retired on his stool with an injured back at the end of the second round.

The rising star from Enfield enjoyed his fifth stoppage from seven fights – a left hook to the body doing the damage, sending the Irishman to the floor before his corner called it a day.

Finally, Mitchell Smith needed less than four rounds to stop Estonian Igor Chuev in his fifth super-featherweight contest.

Smith, 20, had his opponent on the canvas in the third session but Chuev beat the count and although his corner threw in the towel seconds later, the referee opted to continue the contest.

But he did wave it off towards the end of the next round as Smith extended his unbeaten record.

England go to Nagpur, back to where it all started for Alastair Cook and Monty Panesar

England go to Nagpur, back to where it all started for Cook and Panesar

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UPDATED:

23:29 GMT, 11 December 2012

England's last Test at Nagpur was at the city’s old venue, but it was the start of a new era with Alastair Cook flying in from an A tour in the Caribbean to score 60 and 104 not out on his debut.

It was also Monty Panesar’s first Test, which he marked by claiming Sachin Tendulkar lbw as his maiden wicket.

The first of many: Monty Panesar celebrates bowling Sachin Tendulkar in 2006. He accounted for the Little Master Twice in Mumbai

The first of many: Monty Panesar celebrates bowling Sachin Tendulkar in 2006. He accounted for the Little Master Twice in Mumbai

First Test

(Nagpur, March 1-5, 2006)

England 393 (Collingwood 134) and 297 for 3 (Cook 104no).

India 323 (Kaif 91, Hoggard 6-57) and 260 for 6 (Jaffer 100)

Match drawn

The Little Master later signed the ball, writing on it: ‘To Monty, once in a blue moon, never again mate.’

England’s third debutant in a game that ended in a draw was Somerset’s Ian Blackwell, who scored four runs, failed to take a wicket with his left-arm spin and was never picked again for his country.

First of 23: Alastair Cook celebrates his maiden Test century in Nagpur

First of 23: Alastair Cook celebrates his maiden Test century in Nagpur

The good news for England’s seamers was that Matthew Hoggard returned first-innings figures of 30.5-13-57-6.

Martin Murray to fight Jorge Navarro for vacant WBA interim middleweight title

Murray gets shot at unbeaten Navarro for vacant WBA interim middleweight title on Hatton undercard

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UPDATED:

20:18 GMT, 7 November 2012

Martin Murray will fight for the vacant WBA interim middleweight title against unbeaten Venezuelan Jorge Navarro on the undercard of Ricky Hatton's comeback at the Manchester Arena on November 24.

The 30-year-old from St Helens has endured a frustrating year after drawing with then world champion Felix Sturm last December.

Murray has had only one fight since then, a points win over Frenchman Karim Achour in June, but hopes to get back on track with victory over Navarro.

Dangerous fight: Murray

Dangerous fight: Murray

'This is a dangerous fight,' he said. 'It has been tough getting an opponent, but Navarro is the only fighter ranked in the top 10 willing to fight me.'

Murray held the British title until recently and was ordered to face Commonwealth champion Billy Joe Saunders but that clash failed to materialise.

Subsequently, Murray was stripped of his title and Saunders will instead face Nick Blackwell for the vacant strap at the Excel Arena in London on December 15.

Since drawing with Murray last year, Sturm lost his WBA Super title to Australian Daniel Geale but he is set to be stripped of his newly-acquired honour after opting not to fight regular champion Gennadiy Golovkin.

Murray is ranked third by the WBA, four places above his younger opponent, and will hope that victory later this month will propel him into contention for title challenges.

Navarro has been a professional for six years but has fought just 12 times, stopping 10 of his opponents early with his last victory coming against Javier Gonzalez in August.