Billy Joe Saunders successfully defended the WBO Super-Middleweight World Title for a second time on Friday night, as he nearly swept the scorecards against Martin Murray. Steve Gray and Robert Williams scored the fight 120-109, whille Marcus McDowell scored it 118-110 for the champion from Hatfield. It registers as Saunders’ 30th win as a professional fighter. Murray was unsuccessful once again in a world title fight as his record drops to 39-6-1.
It was a good showing by Saunders, who was sharp over the course of the fight with the jab and caught Murray a few times with power shots. There was no answers from the veteran from St. Helens to show any doubts as to who was the better fighter tonight. The jabs, shots to the body, and the uppercut were the highlights in this bout as Saunders took control early and never let the momentum shift Murray’s way.
By the ninth round, Saunders started to pick up his activity looking for the stoppage win over a man who had not been stopped since 2015. It seemed like it could happen but Murray showed how tough he is and got through the remaining rounds of the fight. By the end it was clear that Saunders was the winner, but both gave lots of respect to each other for getting through the bout.
Despite getting a near shutout on the cards, the champion felt disappointed in his effort. “I wasn’t really happy with that performance,” Saunders said after the win. “I’m not taking anything away from Martin, he came with a good game plan. He got through it. He tucked up and survived well.”
“I can only be a bit critical of myself because I had a bit of ring rust. My jab was there but there was just that bit of snap missing. I was trying to look for stuff when naturally it’s there.”
The rust that he is referring to is from earlier in the year when he was getting himself prepared for a showdown with the pound-for-pound king in Canelo Alvarez. It was scheduled to happen on May 2nd of this year. The pandemic forced that fight to be scratched, and it seemed like Saunders would be sidelined for the year. When this fight was made Saunders was grateful but it is a significant difference to what could have been.
“When you’re in a training camp getting ready for Canelo Alvarez and you’re in the biggest fight of your life, you’ve got that fear factor and everything there, and then the pandemic came and I can only be thankful to be out this year,” he said. “But then you’re back in camp and it’s a defence against Martin Murray, I was pencilled in to fight him twice in 2018. It was sort of like a hard kick in the teeth.”
Saunders moves on to 2021, and he knows that a huge fight could be on his slate. He will have his eye on what happens December 19th as Canelo faces Callum Smith for the WBA super title. The winner could be his opponent next year in a unification bout. While Billy Joe still wants to fight Canelo, he thinks that Smith has a very good shot at being the victor.
“I really do wish him all of the success in that fight. I think he’s got the tools to do the job. If Smith has done his homework and prepared well then I give him a good chance of winning the fight.”
Cover photo by Mark Robinson