USA Boxing

Mar 07 British Gypsy Saunders wins opening bout

Aug. 10, 2008, 6:27 a.m. (ET)

BEIJING (AP) Four years after Amir Khan became a star in Athens, the British boxing team hopes it has found another teenage phenomenon.

Billy Joe Saunders, the 18-year-old welterweight from a Gypsy family, beat Adem Kilicci of Turkey 14-3 Sunday on the second day of the Olympic tournament.

In his first major international tournament, Saunders was every bit as exciting as promised while battering Kilicci, who won a bronze medal at last year's world championships in Chicago.

"He's a well-polished opponent, and I beat him by more than 10 points," Saunders said exuberantly. "It's going to be tough, but I just have to stick it out and give it my all."

Saunders has quick reflexes and remarkable power for his age, though both will be tested in his next fight against Cuba's Carlos Banteaux, who had a first-round bye. Saunders' ring flair is bound to draw comparisons to Khan, now a lightweight title contender after winning a surprising silver medal as Britain's only boxer in Athens in 2004.

"I think that was a mature performance from a man who isn't 19 yet, and against a world bronze medalist," coach Terry Edwards said. "He showed tremendous maturity. Billy is a bit more mature (than Khan), to be honest with you. Amir was a bit quicker with his hands, but Billy is very good with his head, and can adapt to any style."

Demetrius Andrade, the world-champion American welterweight, will make his Olympic debut in the evening session along with light welterweight teammate Javier Molina.

Light welterweight contenders Gennady Kovalev of Russia and Roniel Iglesias of Cuba also opened competition with easy wins. Kovalev beat China's Maimaitituersun Qiong 15-8 in the day's first bout, disappointing the early crowd at Workers' Gymnasium.

The fans were thrilled later by China's Hanati Silamu's impressive 21-4 win over Precious Makina of Zambia, putting two fighters on the inexperienced Chinese team through to the second round even before light flyweight favorite Zou Shiming's first bout.

Hanati is a rising talent after winning a bronze alongside Kilicci at the world championships last year.

"It's quite relaxing because I'm fighting at home," Hanati said. "I am very happy and have no stress."

Johnny Joyce of Ireland pulled an upset in the light welterweight bracket, knocking off Gyula Kate 9-5 after the Hungarian fighter had previously beaten him three times.

"I could see it in his eyes after two rounds that he was surprised that I was still there," Joyce said.

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