BEIJING (Reuters) - British teenager Billy Joe Saunders made a confident start to his Olympic boxing campaign by outclassing Turkey’s Adem Kilicci in a welterweight bout on Sunday.
Saunders, an 18-year-old Romany living on a travellers’ site on the outskirts of London, was facing a bronze medalists from last year’s world championships but was on top of his opponent throughout and won a convincing 14-3 decision.
The exciting southpaw’s victory provided some consolation to the British camp after their top prospect, world lightweight champion Frankie Gavin, had to pull out before Friday’s draw for failing to make his weight.
“He’s a well-polished opponent and I beat him by more than 10 points,” Saunders said. “It’s going to be tough all the way but I’ll stick it out”.
Saunders, dreaming of emulating fellow Briton Amir Khan, who was 17 when he went all the way to the lightweight silver medal four years ago in Athens, will be tested in the next round against Cuba’s Carlos Banteaux.
“I’m in a tough draw but I’ll battle it out and do the best I can,” said Saunders, whose great-grandfather was a bare-knuckle prize fighter in boxing booths around the showgrounds of England.
Saunders made a cautious start and led 2-0 after the first round but then gained confidence, hitting Kilicci with great accuracy while proving an elusive target.
Not only did he move sweetly but also showed he had power, shaking his opponent with a left hook in the second round.
British coach Terry Edwards, who guided Khan in Athens, said he was impressed with Saunders, taking part in his first major tournament as a senior.
“It was a mature performance from the youngest member of our team, a tremendous performance,” Edwards said.
“I think he’s a bit more mature than Amir was at his age,” Edwards added. “Amir had quicker hands but he can do it all. He can fight if he has to. He can adapt to all sorts of styles.”
Editing by Alison Williams