Billy Joe Saunders
Billy Joe Saunders [right] aims to win the British middleweight title when he faces Nick Blackwell at the Excel Arena [Reuters]

Billy Joe Saunders is confident that he can go one better than his domestic rivals by becoming the first British fighter to win a world middleweight title since Jason Matthews held the WBO crown more than 12 years ago.

In that time there have been a number of challengers falter, while in recent years we have seen a succession of British and irish fighters fall cruelly short as Darren Barker, Matthew Macklin and Martin Murray have all been left frustrated.

Murray has another opportunity to claim the evasive world title when he faces the conqueror of Barker and Macklin; the physically intimidating Sergio Martinez. The Argentinean previously stopped both challengers in the 11<sup>th round and will be looking to do the same against the Manchester fighter.

While this trio of talented fighters have all fallen agonisingly short, Saunders has been slowly making waves on the domestic scene and he now has the opportunity to claim the British middleweight title on Saturday night at London's Excel Arena.

The home of so much success for our Olympic boxers earlier this summer, Saunders is confident of making it another memorable night by landing the British title in what could be a stepping stone to great things in the next 12 months.

"If he [Nick Blackwell] comes out looking to have a fight then I will make a quick statement and he'll get knocked out, but I think his camp will advise him not to get too involved and to stay on the back foot," said a confident sounding Saunders who is maturing in to a highly skilled and powerful boxer.

"If he tries to come in and have a fight then he'll get knocked out and if he tries to box then he'll get outboxed. I'm not being big headed as if the knockout comes then it comes, but I could do with the 12 rounds to be honest. When you move up in class you need those tough rounds under your belt, no matter how much sparring you do, it just isn't the same."

Saunders was expected to have a tough night back in September against the previously undefeated Australian Jarrod Fletcher, but the 29-year-old southpaw could not live with the precision and power of the Brit's punches and the fight was stopped in the second round.

With his confidence burgeoning he truly believes that more titles will come after Saturday. The European belt, which is now vacant but was most recently held by Grzegorz Proksa, is one target for Saunders, but it is world strap which he desires, and he is confident of delivering.

"I believe that I am what the English scene is missing as we've seen these guys all have a crack but no-one has been able to rip that title away and I believe I can do that," added Saunders. "I am gaining more experience and I think I could go to their back yard and return a world champion, in fact I'm a million percent sure I will be a world champion."

We have all heard boxers exude confidence and self-belief but there is a determination in the voice of Saunders that makes you believe every word he says. After six rounds of shadow boxing, in which you see his God-given ability as he effortlessly switches from orthodox to southpaw, his excitement grows as the subject of a super-six style tournament is breached.

With so many world class operators in the middleweight division, fans and fighters alike have been calling for a competition similar to the one that saw Andre Ward crowned the finest super-middleweight in the world.

"I would definitely be interested in that. Facing all those guys, like Barker, Macklin and Murray would be brilliant, and I tell you what, I would definitely win it."

The 23-year-old has time on his side but he is in no mood to be patient. With Genneady Golovkin and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr also pushing for world title opportunities, Saunders can see a time when the current generation of champions are pushed aside.

"I reckon within 18 months there will be a new breed coming through and there will be some really good fights," states Saunders. "My main objective is to win the British title, as I have wanted for that for as long as I have been in boxing, but I'm only young and I'll soon be ready for the world stage. Believe me, there is much more to come."

The belief in his quality is shared by his promoter Frank Warren who has also stated that he believes Saunders will be ready for a world title opportunity in 2013.

"His last fight, his title defence, was really impressive. He just took the guy apart," Warren told the Hertfordshire Mercury. "Billy's found some maturity and if he comes through his next fight then next year is going to be a very big year for him and we'll be looking for a world title fight."

Each fighter knows that there next bout is always there most dangerous and they cannot afford to look past a single opponent. Should Saunders come through Saturday's test against Blackwell then there is every reason for special celebrations this New Year. 2013 could be a very important 12 months in the life of Billy Joe Saunders.