A war of words raged between the two middleweights ahead of Saturday’s enthralling clash, which saw Saunders edge the early rounds with his work rate before Eubank Jr staged a determined late assault.
One judge rewarded the Brighton man’s efforts with a score of 116-113, but the two remaining judges handed tallies of 115-114 and 115-113 to the champion, who celebrated with British, Commonwealth and European belts at London???s ExCel Arena.
“All grudge matches are big fights,” said Saunders. “Whoever loses, they have to shut up. After all the talking up, he’s lost so he has to shut his mouth, get to the back of the queue now and fight whoever he wants. That’s done.”
The Hatfield man had vowed to quit the sport if he suffered defeat, but remains on track for a possible world title shot next year.
“This was a big, big fight. I’ve got big things ahead of me,??? he said. “He’s at the back now, he’s forgotten about.
“I’ve put the pressure on myself – people ask me why I said I would retire if I lost. It’s because if he beats me, am I going to be world champion?
“Fighters like him shouldn’t be beating me.”
The unbeaten 25-year-old expects to land a shot at the winner after Andy Lee battles Matt Korobov for the vacant WBO belt next month in Las Vegas.
???Since I’ve been in boxing all I’ve wanted to be is world champion,” Saunders said. “Good luck to whoever wins out of Korobov and Lee.
“It’s not about who I want to win, it’s who deserves it. You have to go with Koborov, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Lee takes him.
“Lee has very good range and I think Koborov living in Russia, going to America, he’s got a few quid and a bit of fame – maybe he’s taken his eye off the ball a bit.”