Frontline diary: Emotional Snaith snaffles area title

Andrew Harrison
24/04/2017 9:35am

Ferryhill's Billy Snaith (pictured left with Jeff Saunders Jr.) relieved Hartlepool's Daniel Cope of the Northern Area welterweight crown in Sedgefield on Saturday. Andrew Harrison brings us his ringside observations...

There are more titles in boxing currently than in any time in history and so it seems strange that area championships, once held in such high esteem, have been largely neglected in recent years (and none more so that the Northern Area editions in Britain, with only two of the fifteen titles currently held by active fighters).

And so it was heartening to see Ferryhill's Billy Snaith overcome with emotion after relieving Hartlepool's Daniel Cope of the Northern Area welterweight crown after a bad tempered ten-rounder in Sedgefield on Saturday – underlining the importance of a contest that could lead to a renaissance of area title showdowns across the region.

Snaith, 5-0, thumped out a steady 98-93 decision win over the one-paced Cope, 6-2-1. His right hand was key and he clipped Cope with a big right hook in round two that helped him to stay on the front foot in enough of the early rounds to build an unassailable lead.

Though the fighters tired after half-way, their competitiveness never dimmed and referee Kenny Pringle had to issue repeated warnings to both men as they wrestled and bumped heads and Cope hit on the break.

Snaith knew he'd won at the final bell, leaping up onto a turnbuckle in the corner before sensibly calming his supporters' ovation of "Easy, easy" in a show of respect to his beaten foe. Cope, backed to the tent top by his vociferous "Barmy Army", admitted to being flat afterwards and had no complaints.

Snaith, 29, currently trained in Fishburn, south Durham, by Jeff Saunders Sr., began boxing 17 months ago with a dream of winning an area title. In beating Cope, 26, he can now look forward to defending it in competitive contests against local rivals such as Tom Whitfield 4-1 (watching ringside) and Lee Mould, 9-1-1.

***

Prospect Jeff Saunders moved to eleven fights unbeaten (6 KOs) with a sweet fifth round KO over Birmingham's Chris Truman for the British challenge belt at junior welterweight.

Former paratrooper and senior ABA champion (at welterweight) Saunders, 25, was relaxed throughout and looked like he might overpower Truman, 32, in the early running.
Truman tried to rough up Saunders, younger brother to 2008 Olympian Bradley (who looked well), in rounds three and four, however, Saunders never got flustered and he folded Truman in half with a left hook to the body in the fifth. The visitor looked over to his corner and shook his head immediately. Able to get to his knees but no further, he was counted him out just after the round's mid-point.

Saunders looks like one of the North East's finest talents alongside Josh Leather, 11-0, who goes up against the brick-fisted Irishman Phil Sutcliffe Jr. next month in Leeds and Tommy Ward, 20-0, who'll challenge British super bantamweight champion James 'Jazza' Dickens on the same bill. Guisborough's Leather, who'll pick up an IBF Inter-Continental title at 140 pounds if he can withstand Sutcliffe, could make for an interesting adversary down the line.

In the meantime, the likes of Anthony Hardy, 9-2 (who brought a lot of support), Darren Surtees, 6-0, and Peter Cope, 14-4 (Daniel's younger brother), would all make for rollicking local derbies (Surtees looks liable to pick up the Northern Area title at junior welterweight in his next fight) while a more long term target (maybe), Sunderland's Glenn Foot, 19-1, challenges Londoner Philip Bowes for the English 140 lbs. title next month.

Saunders seems something of a livewire. He runs, jumps and bounces everywhere and the sight of him hurtling towards me in my peripheral vision made me think I was on the verge of being ejected by security in a case of mistaken identity (I'd taken up position on the main stage, which offered a better vantage point than the usual ringside seat). As I braced in readiness for the hit, Saunders bounded safely past me with his belt slung over his shoulder.

***

The venue was a marquee tent in the grounds of Hardwick Hall Hotel, a popular wedding venue in County Durham situated amid a picturesque country park just off the A1. Fitting then, perhaps, that promoter Steve Wraith should announce a budding new partnership with Lewis Pendleton and Ronnie Rowe of Fighting Chance Promotions (a Gateshead-based outfit) in a bid to pool their resources and pave the way for more local derbies.

Wraith claimed to only have broken even on the event (thanks to Saunders' mother Tracey covering the overheads) and his first show as part of the Fighting Chance team will take place on June 3 in Newcastle.

His swansong as a solo promoter was an enjoyable card in a plush setting. Unhindered by TV, there was minimal delay between each of the seven bouts (which is hugely beneficial in terms of maintaining atmosphere). It was also a bonus to have the prelims fought over four rounds (some of the Eastern European journeyman that were on show are ace survivors and a six or eight round whitewash can quickly suck the life out of proceedings).

***

Hats off to Hetton-le-Hole super middleweight Jordan King, 8-0, who donated his entire purse to Bradley Lowery, the little boy whose battle against incurable neuroblastoma has captured the hearts of a nation. Wearsider King bullied Latvian journeyman Raimons Sneidze, 12-31-2, to win a four round decision, 40 points to 37.