Boxing: Barnsley scrapper’s brave performance.

Ben Wager
Ben Wager

Barnsley’s Ben Wager earned an army of new boxing fans tonight,

The light-welterweight put up a brave show against undefeated Tom Stalker, at Manchester.

Stalker beat the South Yorkshireman 59-56 on points after six rounds.

It was closer than many pundits had expected.

Wager, 24, who started the night with a W9 L5 D1 record, should be proud of his performance.

Liverpool’s Stalker, a 30-year-old southpaw, moved to a W9 L0 record.

Local trainer Carl Greaves tweeted: “Just arrived at the venue I’m hearing ben wager was very unlucky not to get the decision over olympian tom stalker.”

Wager is back in action on September 5 at the Metrodome, Barnsley.

* Tyson Fury has withdrawn from this evening’s clash with Alexander Ustinov after his uncle and first trainer was taken seriously ill, it has been announced.

Fury had initially been due to fight Dereck Chisora at Manchester’s Phones 4 U Arena this weekend but after Chisora was forced to pull out through injury on Monday, 37-year-old Belarusian Ustinov was brought in as a replacement.

However, that heavyweight fight will not take place either now after Fury’s uncle, Hughie, was taken to hospital.

A statement from Queensberry Promotions read: “Tyson Fury has withdrawn from his heavyweight contest tonight against Alexander Ustinov after his uncle and first trainer, Hughie, has been taken seriously ill into hospital.

“Tyson’s uncle and trainer Peter took the decision to pull him out of the fight rather than risk his health by sending him into the ring with his mind not focused.”

Promoter Frank Warren added: “I’m very, very, disappointed for the fans. After Dereck Chisora pulled out because of his hand injury, we worked very hard to secure a world ranked opponent in Ustinov.

“It’s sad that his uncle Hughie is in a serious condition and our thoughts are with him.

“The show will still go ahead and as before it’s a great card with Billy Joe Saunders, Liam Smith, Terry Flanagan and Jack Catterall and Nathan Brough all in title action. We will be announcing the rescheduled date for Chisora v Fury next week.”

Ustinov, who has won all but one of his 30 fights, was helping Chisora prepare for the British showdown and inflicted the broken hand during sparring that forced Warren to search for a replacement opponent.

* Billy Joe Saunders’ dream of becoming the first traveller to win a world title proved to be alive and well as he despatched Emanuele Blandamura to win the vacant European middleweight title.

At just 24 years of age the 2008 Olympian has already established himself as the country’s best at domestic level, owning the British title.

Topping the bill in Manchester after the heavyweight match between Tyson Fury and Dereck Chisora was scrapped, he made another significant step up, stopping his Italian opponent in the eighth round to claim the respected continental belt and move himself a step closer to a world title crack.

Saunders (19-0, 10KO wins) was eager to impress against 34-year-old Blandamura (22-0, 5KOs), who was unbeaten coming in but having never faced anyone of note.

The southpaw looked slick as usual in the opening stages at the Phones4u Arena and a southpaw right looked hurtful in the second, only for Blandamura to bounce back with an immediate counter.

Saunders seemed to be boxing within himself and was well ahead by the middle stages, though he did not have it all his own way.

The Brit’s occasional bolo punches were decent but rarely built upon, though his timing was impressive as usual.

The action livened a little in the seventh as Saunders - who had failed to knock out his four previous opponents - engaged in more of a fight with Blandamura, himself with an unintimidating stoppage record. A southpaw one-two landed on the Italian nicely but that was easily the highlight.

It all changed in the eighth. After another scrappy period, Saunders pulled out a sublime right hook to leave Blandamura senseless on the ropes.

The Englishman, smelling blood, charged forward and landed again as French referee Robin Delpierre moved in to administer a standing count. However, the Italian corner threw the towel in when they saw their man in dire straights and the official waved the fight off.

On the undercard, Liam Smith pulled out a shot from nowhere in the sixth to keep his British light-middleweight title against midlander Jason Welborn.

Welborn, from Rowley Regis, had been impressing the crowd with his intelligent pressure until Scouser Smith uncorked a lovely right to the body from which Welborn could not recover.

Walsall’s Martin Gethin failed to reclaim the vacant British title when he was stopped by unbeaten Mancunian Terry Flanagan due to a hurtful injury to his right ear.