Saunders made his professional debut on 28 February 2009 at the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham, against Attila Molnar. Saunders looked confident from the opening bell, landing hard combinations which quickly overwhelmed Molnar. In round two, a series of punches that landed flush on Molnar's chin caused the referee to stop the fight and save a dazed Molnar. Saunders won his second fight by second-round stoppage of Ronny Gabel and his third fight, also by second round stoppage, of Matt Scriven. On 9 October 2009, he went four full rounds to outpoint Alex Spitko. On 21 May 2011, he scored an impressive second-round knockout victory over Kevin Hammond. Saunders went on to score wins against Norbert Szekeres, Gary Boulden and Tony Hill, the last of these giving him his seventh professional knockout victory and his first major regional title, the Commonwealth middleweight championship, on 28 April 2012. For his first defence of the title, on 1 June, Saunders went the full twelve-round distance (also a first) against veteran Bradley Pryce, outpointing him comfortably. A then-undefeated Jarrod Fletcher was quickly dispatched in two rounds on 14 September.