623 days. Nearly 15,000 hours.
That’s how long County Durham’s Bradley Saunders (12-1, 9KO) has been out of the squared circle.
Once touted as a future world champion, Saunders has endured injury problems beyond belief. A frustrating disqualification loss to Renald Garrido was his last appearance in the ring and much has changed for the decorated amateur.
“I’ve been out 18 months just living a normal life you know? Going out with me’ Mrs, having a bit of food. A glass of wine – or a bottle. Going out with the boys and living a normal life. I’ve never really (had that). Being through boxing, I’ve been boxing since I was 8 years old and I’ve enjoyed the time off but overall… I’m sick of being normal now so I’m gonna have to get back!”
Saunders proudly flew the flag for the North East and looked to be the breakout star they had pined for. Now, he has relocated. Basing himself in London, he has linked up with renowned manager/trainer Peter Sims. Saunders had dealt with Sims’ previously and has now put pen to paper on a 3-year deal. “I’ve always been close to Peter. I’ve seen him over in Spain, I’ve talked to him at all the shows and he’s got loads of people my weight.” Sims’ stable includes Tyler Goodjohn, whilst his brother Tony trains Conor Benn, Ohara Davies and obviously 3-weight world champion Ricky Burns.
An amateur career spanning over 200 fights has meant Saunders has grown up through the rigours of Team GB schedules. This last 18 months have helped him re-focus, looking at what truly matters to him and taking into account the toll boxing has on the body. “I’ve never had a rest, it’s been training and training. One Christmas I got beans on toast for Christmas Dinner! I was on GB… well I think I was one of the longest kids ever on GB. I was an amateur too long in fairness, but I was on £500 p/w tax free. Some professionals now will train for 3 months and not even get £500 so it made perfect sense to me just to stay amateur.”
Bradley Saunders knows he will have his doubters. He knows he has to gain momentum. But he also knows that life is more than boxing – something he has learned since his last fight and the launching of his succesful business. Now, Saunders is hungry to succeed. He is determined to fulfil his potential and feels better mentally, than ever.
“That’s me being deadly serious. I’m thinking about getting in there and fighting the best, whenever I can. Get in there and destroy everybody. I’ve been showing people what I’m capable of my whole life, I can do it as a professional.”
Stuck in Marbella for camps at various times, Bradley is enjoying home comforts and feels at peace with familiar surroundings. Those Spanish summer evenings had an impact on the family man (who has a younger brother Jeff, currently 11-0, 6KO). It didn’t take long for him to reveal what he missed the most, “Nandos! There’s no Nandos over there. I’ve come back and the tickets, I’ve come back here now and now everyone is seeing me, talking to me… I had 190 this morning and Peter said they’ve gone!”
Fighters are often accused of fighting for the wrong reasons. Saunders is crystal clear in his expectation. “I’m not coming back for money. I’m coming back because there are fights out there I want and titles out there I want! I’m not coming back for the money. Other times I was doing it for the money…”
The success of his company, the fire burning once again after a year-and-a-half away from the sport ingrained in him and his family have all sparked a new found passion for boxing.
“I’ve decided to get back into me’ boxing because I love it and I always have! As long as me and my little boy are gonna be financially sound… chuck me in with them! I’ll fight anyone.”