GUTTED Nick Blackwell was left to reflect on a frustrating night in the capital as he was pipped to the British middleweight title by Billy Joe Saunders last night.
The Trowbridge man was considered the underdog against highly-rated Hertfordshire fighter Saunders at London’s ExCel arena but gave the former Olympian his toughest test to date, eventually losing in a harshly-scored points defeat.
‘Bang Bang’ Blackwell, 22, displayed the depth of his extraordinary fighting spirit in a clash of styles against the technical and slick Saunders, but felt that he could have dug even deeper to pull off an upset.
“I feel a bit gutted,” Blackwell told the Wiltshire Times.
“He didn’t hurt me when I was in there and I got him where I wanted to get him but when that happened, I just didn’t let my shots go.
"I started too late and when I picked the pace up in the third round, before I knew it, we’d got to the seventh.
“I wanted to see what he had in the first rounds but I just wasn’t with it mentally really either.
“I know I could have done better and I know I could have won that fight.
“I did prove a lot of people wrong. A lot of people were saying that he was going to stop in me in three rounds and he didn’t hurt me at all.
“I thought that a few of the judges had it a bit far out – I thought I only lost by one or two rounds.
“But he used his jab well and moved well. He did what he had to do so fair play to him.”
Perhaps expecting more power from his opponent, Blackwell was subdued in the opening three rounds, content to simply stand up to Saunders’ lightning-quick combinations.
Towards the end of the third round, the Trowbridge man began to get off his first meaningful shots and was soon hounding Saunders around the ring, firing off powerful hooks and body shots.
The Hatfield fighter was still slick and elusive but his rapid-fire jabs were having no effect on Blackwell, who was breaking through Saunders’ attack and had him bleeding from a cut above the right eye in the sixth.
Before the seventh round, Blackwell gestured to his fans, recognising that was on top, but soon afterwards, Saunders began to stage a rescue operation.
The Trowbridge fighter still remained on the front foot and he was landing some heavy shots, but the Hertfordshire man bounced around the ring, ducking and diving at every opportunity.
Saunders was still unable to do any real damage to Blackwell and he was pinned up against the ropes on a few occasions, but he upped his work rate in the final rounds to ensure that he wasn’t caught with any more Blackwell bombs.
A few seconds into the last of twelve pulsating rounds, the Trowbridge man signalled to his corner that his glove had come untied and as he dropped his guard to return to his corner, Saunders flung a haymaker but, perhaps fortunately, didn’t make proper contact.
The two warriors then went hammer and tong at the finale and when the bell rang, Saunders knew that he had been pushed all the way by the spirited Blackwell.
But the judges’ scorecards weren’t kind to the Trowbridge fighter, and his aggressive domination of the middle rounds didn’t pay off as the Hertfordshire Commonwealth champion took the British title with a unanimous decision of 117-112, 116-113 and 115-114.
MORE REACTION AND PICTURES FROM NICK BLACKWELL’S NARROW DEFEAT TO BILLY JOE SAUNDERS IN NEXT WEEK’S WILTSHIRE TIMES AND ONLINE ON WILTSHIRETIMES.CO.UK