Bradley Saunders: North East 'deserves' to host world title fights
Sedgefield boxer Bradley Saunders says recent North East success means it is time to host big fights in the region.
Darlington fighter Stuart Hall ended the area's 25-year wait for a world champion by lifting the IBF world bantamweight belt in December.
Saunders, 28, fights on the undercard at Newcastle Arena in March when Hall defends his title against Martin Ward.
Saunders' Spanish fresh start
Saunders turned professional with promoter Frank Warren in 2012 and moved to Marbella in an effort to avoid out-of-the-ring issues.
In 2009, he was arrested over white powder found in his garden, but released without charge.
A year earlier, he told journalists he was "relieved" to exit the Beijing Olympics" as he was homesick.
"It's time to bring title fights back. The North East deserves something to be proud of," Saunders told BBC Tees.
"My days of going up and down the country are over. I don't want to rob the region of top-quality boxing."
Next month, Saunders takes on 34-year-old Irish light-welterweight Paul McCloskey - an experienced boxer who has won 24 of his 27 professional fights.
He was beaten by Amir Khan three years ago in a controversial bout that was abandoned after six rounds because of a clash of heads.
But the southpaw has only fought once in the last 18 months - a defeat by Dave Ryan on the undercard of Hall's December triumph.
"This is a step up but a fight I'm more than capable to be in," Saunders said.
Saunders' professional record
- Jason Nesbitt, February 2012 - won by technical knockout
- Danny Dontchev, April 2012 - won when opponent retired
- Kevin McCauley, July 2012 - won by unanimous decision
- Ivan Godor, September 2012 - won by technical knockout
- Peter McDonagh, November 2012 - won on points
- Michael Kelly, July 2013 - won by technical knockout
- Gareth Heard, October 2013 - won by technical knockout
- Gyorgy Mizsei, November 2013 - won by technical knockout
"I've been badgering my promoters for someone experienced.
"If I wanted, I could just be fighting stiffs and moving up the ladder.
"But I don't want that - I'm either good enough or I'm not."
In contrast to McCloskey's sparse activity in 2013, Saunders took on Michael Kelly, Gareth Heard and Gyorgy Mizsei between July and November - beating all three by technical knockout.
That followed a long spell out of the ring because of injury.
In November 2012, Saunders shattered the metacarpal bones in his left hand during a fight against Peter McDonagh.
He suffered the same problem prior to the 2008 Olympics.
"My hands are perfect now. I'm looking after them a bit more now with extra strapping," said Saunders - who is enjoying life in Spain.
"Training has been great and I'm well ahead of track.
"In Marbella, I wake up to the sun shining and feel great.
"I was a bit selfish dragging my family, especially my little lad, over there because, honestly, I didn't think of them.
"But my son is learning bits of Spanish and everyone loves the place - it's the best move I've ever made."