Billy Joe Saunders' great grandfather was a bare-knuckle champion of the Gypsy fairground booths and Billy Joe is being tipped for boxing stardom of a more conventional kind - by winning an Olympic welterweight medal with a pair of gloves on his fists.
Billy Joe, who is 18, and lives with his family on a Gypsy caravan site on the outskirts of Hatfield in Hertfordshire, boxes out of the Hoddesdon Club, is already being compared with Amir Khan since he has moved from the junior to the senior ranks six months ago.
Since that time he has won 26 bouts out of 26, culminating in the gold medal at one of Europe's most prestigious tournaments in Bulgaria, where his four scalps in the space of four days included that of the highly rated Cuban No 1, Carlos Bantuer. His performance earned him the boxer of the tournament award.
Billy Joe was originally selected for Britain's Olympic development squad for the 2012 London Olympics, but he has now been fast-tracked into the 2008 "podium group".
A top-three finish will guarantee him a place in Beijing alongside the four British boxers who have already qualified via the World Championships in Chicago last October.
Let us cross our fingers for this young champ from the British Romani-Gypsy Community and hopefully he will not only make it to Beijing but bring home gold for the country and for our People.
Go – Billy Joe – Go!
© Michael Smith (Veshengro), March 2008