Saunders looking past Murray, targeting Canelo vs. Smith winner

Billy Joe Saunders is seemingly looking past his opponent Martin Murray for this Friday by announcing that he wants first dibs on facing the winner of the December 19th fight between Canelo Alvarez and Callum Smith.

Saunders (29-0, 14 KOs) has a reason for assuming that he’s going to beat the 38-year-old Murray, as he’s facing an older fighter that has repeatedly lost over the years when facing higher caliber opposition.

To say that #12 WBO Murray (39-5-1, 17 KOs) is underserving of a world title shot at this stage in his career is putting it lightly. Murray has done nothing to rate another title shot, his fifth, against Billy Joe.

Saunders, 31, will be making his second defense of his WBO 168-lb title against Murray on Friday night, December 4th, live on DAZN and Sky from the Wembley Arena in London, England.

Billy Joe wants Canelo-Smith winner

“I hope Callum wins [against Canelo]. If he wins, me and Callum can unify, or if Canelo wins, me and Canelo because it would make sense,” said Saunders to Matchroom Boxing.

There won’t be much interest in a fight between Canelo and Saunders from casual boxing fans in the U.S, but the UK fans would like this fight.

Canelo, 30, still needs to defeat WBA Super World super middleweight champion Callum Smith (27-0, 19 KOs) next month on December 19th before any talk of a fight between him and Billy Joe can be taken seriously.

Canelo will likely take on Gennadiy Golovkin in a trilogy match in May 2021 rather than facing another British fighter in Saunders.

For Canelo to choose not to take the GGG match, it would be a sign that he’s harboring bad feelings still of the trash-talking that took place between the two leading up to their second fight in 2018.

There’s certainly a lot more money to be made by Canelo fighting GGG than the WBO belt-holder Billy Joe, who is largely viewed as a paper champion and the weakest link among the champions at 168.

Saunders has literally faced no one in his career other than Andy Lee, a fighter that Julio Cesar Chavez Jr knocked out in 2012, and journeyman Brian Vera in 2008.

As I was saying, Saunders has never beaten anyone remotely talented, and you can argue the only reason he’s the WBO super-middleweight champion is that the World Boxing Organization sanctioned a fight between him and little known German fighter Shefat Isufi for their vacant 168lb title in 2019.

Billy Joe Saunders, Callum Smith, Canelo Alvarez, Martin Murray - Boxing News

Saunders must be impress

“You’ve got Billy Joe Saunders against Martin Murray. I tweeted yesterday that a big statement is required [from Saunders] vs. his [Murray] last roll of the dice, that’s what this fight is,” said Hearn.

“It was a fight that was supposed to happen from what? A year ago, a year and a half ago? Martin Murray should have been crowned world champion at least once in his career, and he hasn’t been.

“This is his last roll of the dice, and I expect a tough fight for Billy Joe Saunders. I said to Billy, ‘Winning is not enough in this fight.

“You’ve got to look devastating, and you’ve got to make a statement to the [168-lb] division. It’s going to be difficult to do that against Murray, who will be so motivated in this fight for many different reasons.

“It could be for the passing of Oliver Harrison, and the fact that he knows this is his absolute last chance,” said Hearn about Saunders needing to look sensational on Friday night.

Saunders’s decision to face the former four-time world title challenger Murray puts him in a position where he absolutely must look sensational for him to come out of the contest looking good.

If Murray forces Saunders to labor hard for a victory, as we saw in Billy Joe’s last contest against the unknown Argentinian fighter Marcelo Estaban Coceres last November, his stock is going to plummet.

Right now, the only things Saunders has going for him is his WBO title and his unbeaten 29-0 record, which is an inflated one.

Billy Joe Saunders, Callum Smith, Canelo Alvarez, Martin Murray - Boxing News

If Saunders is seen having difficulty beating the 38-year-old Murray, it’ll be viewed by boxing fans as the equivalent of a loss. That essentially would destroy any chance of Saunders getting a fight against Canelo in 2021.

No way would Canelo would face someone that won’t attract interest from U.S boxing fans.  Callum is a different story, though.

If he beats Canelo, he likely would have no problem facing Billy Joe, no matter how badly he looks against Murray. As long as Saunders wins that fight, Callum will fight him, and his Liverpool fans will eat up the fight.

With that said, if Callum beats Canelo on December 19th, those two will be fighting an immediate rematch, and Saunders will need to look in another direction.

There’s intense pressure on Saunders to face undefeated Demetrius Andrade, and he’s going to have to take that fight if he doesn’t want to look like he’s running from the American. That’s the overall perception a lot of boxing fans have about Saunders.

They believe he doesn’t want any part of Andrade, and for a good reason. Andrade is a much better fighter than Saunders.

Martin Murray will go all out on Friday

“He’ll throw the kitchen sink at Billy Joe Saunders, and I’m expecting a really good fight,” Hearn said of Murray. “I’m surprised at how so few people give Murray absolutely any chance.

“I see the responses [on social media]. ‘Ah, easy fight for Billy Joe.’ If I’m being critical of Billy Joe, I’m saying, ‘show me a fight at 168 where Billy Joe has looked good.’

“When he won the title [against Shefat Isufi], it wasn’t a good performance. He had a poor performance his last time out [against Marcelo Esteban Coceres last November].

“You know, he flew out late [to Los Angeles], but the fact is, he’s done nothing at 168 that Martin Murray should be looking at saying, ‘Blimey.’

“They fancy it, Martin Murray fancies it, and Jamie Moore fancies it. They all believe they can get Billy Joe Saunders at the right time, and in that environment behind closed doors, anything can happen.

“So I’m looking forward to a good fight on Friday night,” said Hearn.

At the last chance saloon on Friday, Murray will be looking to go all out in his final title shot. Saunders needs to be ready for a highly desperate Murray, and it could be interesting to see how this one plays out.

Murray’s previous world title fights:

  • Felix Sturm – draw 12
  • Sergio Martinez – UD 12 loss
  • Gennadiy Golovkin – TKO 11 loss
  • Arthur Abraham – SD 12 loss

Murray has won his last two fights, beating Rui Manuel Pavanito and Sladan Janjanin. I can’t say I’ve ever heard of either of those fighters, but it kind of shows you the level Murray’s career has sunk to.

Billy Joe Saunders, Callum Smith, Canelo Alvarez, Martin Murray - Boxing News

For him to be matched against those types of unknowns, there appears to be a loss of confidence somewhere. The years haven’t been kind to Murray.

Martin lost to Hassan N’Dam in 2018, and he beat Gabe Rosado by a highly controversial 12 round majority decision in April 2017 in front of his home crowd in Liverpool, England.

Murray’s best non-controversial victory in the last five years came against then 38-year-old Roberto Garcia in 2018.