Billy Joe Saunders is happy to put his world title crusade on hold to try to settle a score with rival Chris Eubank Jr.
The 24-year-old traveller continued his rise towards global honours in Manchester on Saturday as he claimed the European middleweight title with an eye-catching stoppage of previously unbeaten Emanuele Blandamura.
Despite being nicely placed among the world rankings and having achieved far more than the talented Eubank so far, Saunders is willing to step down a level and settle the issue having been riled by the extrovert on social media.
“I’m ready to fight at world level now,” said Saunders. “I’m not saying I’m ready to beat Miguel Cotto (WBC champion) or Gennady Golovkin (WBA), but I could go up against Sam Soliman (IBF) now.
“Peter Quillin, the WBO champion, is fighting Matt Korobov first so that’s one for the future but I’m ready for Soliman. No disrespect, because he beat Felix Sturm, but he’s 40 years old now and not getting any younger. I’d take that.”
Saunders admits Eubank has got under his skin. The 2008 Olympian has an impressive 20-0 record with 11 knockouts and has won British, Commonwealth and now European titles. Eubank, meanwhile, is still a relative novice and a first-round blow-out of poor Ivan Jukic on the same card took his record to 17-0 (12KOs).
“It’s something I want to get off my chest,” he said. “Eubank was on Twitter the other day slagging me off and going on.
“I should just tell him to get in the queue, but I’m a proud man and he can’t say he’s going to knock me out and then go out and knock out a bum in one round.
“We’re the same age, we’ve had more or less the same number of fights. But I hold all these belts and he holds a bottle of water in his hands when he leaves the ring.”