FOLLOWING his split decision victory over Chris Eubank Jnr at London’s ExCel Arena last night (November 29), unbeaten star Billy Joe Saunders announced that his fierce rival has to “shut his mouth up now and get back to the end of the queue.” However, he also declared that he has a grudging respect for the 25-year-old Brighton talent after the pair shared 12 tough rounds.

“It was an extremely hard fight,” Saunders, 25, said. “His legs dipped after a shot in the second round and I wobbled him, but after that I got a bit complacent at times, and it was back and forth in the second half of the fight. My jab was working perfectly, but then I started to get involved with him – slugging on the inside. It was very close. He pushed me hard, but I felt I won it.

“We all know me and him don’t like each other, but deep down I respect him as a fighter. You’ve got to have bottle to get in the ring, although I still don’t like him. Fighters like him shouldn’t be beating me. A good technical boxer will figure him out all day long. I wouldn’t say no to a rematch, that’s for sure.”

As the number two-ranked boxer in the WBO ratings, southpaw Saunders can now look ahead to a crack at the winner of Andy Lee and Matt Korobov, who contest that organisation’s vacant middleweight title on December 13.

“All I’ve ever wanted to be since I was a kid is world champion,” the Hatfield traveller stated. “I don’t mind who I face out of Lee and Korobov. I think Lee’s got very good range, and Korobov was a great amateur, but he hasn’t been as good as a professional. To be in a fight like I was against Eubank, when you’re winning then your opponent comes back at you and it’s nip and tuck, I think that’s perfect preparation for a world title fight. I know I have to avoid becoming complacent in the second half of fights now.”

Jimmy Tibbs, the trainer of British, Commonwealth and European champion Saunders, is now adamant that his charge is fully prepared for world level. “I think Billy Joe is ready for Lee or Korobov now,” the esteemed coach opined. “I know he can box better than he did tonight, but he got the job done.

“Well done to Eubank Jnr for his effort. He did well but he’s still got a lot to learn. A big, big puncher would catch him out.”

Read all the action as it happened from the huge Bad Blood show at London’s ExCel