Southampton’s
Tony Hill insists he isn’t coming to lie down passively when he
confronts touted Olympian Billy Joe Saunders for the vacant
Commonwealth middleweight title at the Royal Albert Hall on Saturday
evening (Catch it live on BoxNation Sky Ch.456/Virgin Ch.546)

A
former junior Olympic champion and multiple national title holder
himself in the amateurs, the 25 year old father of three was making
confident noises ahead of the clash of southpaws, when he spoke to
boxing writer Glynn Evans.

Though
you’ve only had 10 pro fights, you’ve an extensive amateur
pedigree. Do you think that compensates?


Yeah, I’ve
been fighting all my life. I weren’t a bully as a kid but I was
never one to turn a scrap down. Dad was a boxing fan and took me down
the Golden Ring gym. I had the first of my 87 bouts (71 wins) when I
was just 11and I stayed there right through. I won three national
schoolboy titles, two Junior ABA titles plus the Junior Olympics in
Michigan when I was about 16.


In the
seniors I made the ABA semis, losing to Joe McNally (2007) and also
got to the national quarter final stage, losing to Anthony Ogogo
(2009). They were close decisions that could’ve gone either way. No
one beat me hands down.

I also
fought James DeGale, losing on points in a good fight and I beat
(Prizefighter champion) Jon Lewis Dickenson in my last schoolboys
final. I represented England about 15 times, including over in the
USA and in Russia.


What
else has helped prepare you for your Commonwealth title challenge?


Lots
of top quality sparring. I helped Matt Macklin with his prep for the
(aborted) Winky Wright fight and I’ve done a lot with Nathan
Cleverly over the last 12 months. It’s not quite as good as having
fights but it definitely helps prepare you to compete at a higher
level. I must be doing okay because they keep paying for me to go
back.

Your
pro CV lists two defeats, to Matt Hainy and, in your last gig, to
recently crowned European champion Kerry Hope in a British title
eliminator. How do you account for those setbacks?


Hainy was
a ridiculous match; two good prospects facing each other over four
rounds?! Most get to fight journeymen while they’re learning their
trade. But the defeat certainly improved me. I learned the need to
start far more aggressively. Still, I cringe when I think about that
fight. I shouldn’t be losing to the likes of him.


I knew
before the fight with Kerry Hope started that I wouldn’t perform. I
had a few niggles, the usual sharpness weren’t there and I was a
bit weak at the weight. I also underestimated him a bit. He proved he
was no idiot winning the continental title against (Greg) Proksa.


He
caught me on a bit of an off day but I learned more in that fight
than all the others put together. I’d not been past round six
before and got sucked into his fight. I discovered how dedicated you
need to be and how to pace a fight.

Following
a stoppage win on your September 2009 pro debut, you went to the
cards in each of your next five. However, prior to the Hope reverse
you stopped three in succession, including good men Kevin Concepcion
and Paul Samuels. What changed?


Not
much. I’ve always had a punch and stopped well over 20 in the
amateurs which is a high percentage given the class I was competing
in. But I’ve had a few hand injuries, particularly with the thumb.
I stubbed it before the Hope fight and that sucked away some of my
confidence and rhythm.

Given
the defeat in your last fight, were you surprised to get your
opportunity to fight for the vacant Commonwealth title?


I was
certainly happy for the chance but not really surprised because once
you get in the top ten you can always get opportunities. Initially, I
was to challenge Saunders for his Southern Area title then fight for
the vacant English and now the Commonwealth because (Martin) Murray
vacated.


The queue
to face ex Olympian Billy Joe Saunders has been short. Why were you
keen to step up?

Not
much was happening with the British title and I couldn’t see any
better routes to a championship. On my day, I’m confident I can
beat any of the other British middleweights. Why not start with Billy
Joe?

What’s
your assessment of Saunders?


I’ve
seen a lot of him and he’s very talented skillwise, very quick.
He’s blown through everything he’s faced as a pro but the
opposition has been pretty low grade and he hasn’t really been
asked too many questions yet.

Billy
Joe’s not really been pushed since he left the amateurs three and a
half years ago and that’s a long time to go without a proper fight.
He’s going to get one with me.

Saturday’s
fight shall be easily the biggest promotion you’ve been involved
in. Any chance you could be overwhelmed by the occasion?


Absolutely
none. I don’t care if the ring is in your gym or in Las Vegas, it’s
still just a ring. I’ve sold well over 200 tickets. It doesn’t
get much better than topping the bill at the Royal Albert Hall and
I’m really looking forward to it.

How
have you gone about getting yourself in shape for the challenge?


I’ve had
at least five weeks notice and I’ve been preparing at the Millbank
pro gym in Southampton with my trainer Wayne Batten who is also
managing me for this fight. I’ve taken three weeks off from my job
as a bricklayer which I always do before a fight. I’ve followed the
routines I’ve always followed but done a little bit extra and done
it a little bit harder.


I’ve
been sparring (14-1 Australian light-middle) King Davidson who’s a
southpaw, (ex British, Commonwealth and European middleweight
challenger) Steve Bendall who’s been up there plus Chris Eubank
Jnr, a gifted prospect with all the moves and good genetics. They’re
all good men. I’ll be well prepared.

You’ll
enter Saturday’s fight as a 8-1 underdog. Why are you confident you
can spring an upset?


Kerry Hope
was a southpaw and our fight was very competitive. I only lost on a
majority. Would they risk Billy Joe against Kerry Hope right now? I
don’t think so.


I’m
a very sharp puncher and, compared to Saunders, I’m a very big
middleweight. This time, he’ll know he’s been hit. It’s going
to be a shock to him. I’m coming to win.

Promoter
Frank Warren stages the first professional championship boxing event
at the Royal Albert Hall in 13 years this Saturday, sponsored by
Rainham Steel.

Billy
Joe Saunders’ Vacant Commonwealth Middleweight title challenge
against Tony Hill and Matthew Hall’s Final Eliminator for the
British Light-Middleweight against Sam Webb headline the show.

The
undercard features some of the best talent in Britain including
unbeaten welterweight Bradley Skeete; light-welterweight Bradley
Saunders; welterweights Freddie Turner and Dean Byrne and
light-heavyweight Andreas Evangelou.

Remaining
tickets, priced at £40, £50, £75 and £100, are available from:

Ticketmaster:
0844 844 0444

Saunders
v Hill and Hall v Webb is live and exclusive on Saturday 28th April
on BoxNation (Sky Ch. 456/Virgin Ch. 546). Join at
www.boxnation.com