Saunders wins British strap

  • Last Updated: December 15 2012, 23:28 GMT

Billy Joe Saunders overcame the toughest test of his professional career against Nick Blackwell to seize the vacant British middleweight title at London's ExCel tonight.

Billy Joe Saunders: New British champion

The 2008 Olympian registered a gripping 117-112 116-113 115-114 victory on the scorecards, but was forced to dig deep to defend his Commonwealth belt against the former unlicensed fighter.

Saunders, 23, took a right hook to the temple at the end of the third round and came under more pressure from the economical but effective Blackwell in the fourth.

Blackwell's main weapon was his left hook to the body, but while he was throwing the harder shots he was being outworked by the busier Saunders, who caught the eye with some slick combinations.

The final round was a thriller with the rivals trading blows and although Blackwell edged the exchanges, Saunders had done enough to clinch a victory that was closer than the scorecard suggests.

On the same bill, Liam Smith secured the vacant Commonwealth light-middleweight title with a comprehensive points victory over Steve O'Meara.

The 24-year-old from Liverpool floored O'Meara in the opening round and remained in control throughout a one-sided encounter, extending his unbeaten record to 14 fights after the judges awarded him a 116-112 118-110 116-112 decision.

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