Billy Joe Saunders insists that he hasn’t overlooked four-time World Title challenger Martin Murray as he prepares to put his WBO Super-Middleweight crown on the line for the second time.
Hatfield star Saunders (29-0, 14 KOs) was on the verge of securing a mega fight with Mexican pound-for-pound icon Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez earlier this year before the coronavirus pandemic turned the sporting world on its head and scuppered his shot at greatness.
Saunders, who was scheduled to face Murray twice in 2018, has expressed his desire to take on the winner of Alvarez vs. Callum Smith in a huge unification battle in 2021, but the 31-year-old two-weight World Champion has refused to underestimate St Helens man Murray.
“I just want to get one in before the end of the year,” said Saunders. “There’s a lot of fighters struggling to get out. I’ve had a major disappointment. The Canelo fight fell through in May. On Friday we’ll rock and roll.
“If you want to go on professional experience, he’s had more fights than me. He’s challenged for the World Title four times. He should have been World Champion in two of those fights. I’ve promised him a chance.
“There’s always a risk I could get in there and get knocked out in one round. There’s a risk to people’s lives. I haven’t overlooked Martin. I’ve trained myself the best I can for the date. I know he doesn’t lay down, I can’t afford that kind of performance.
“Martin has his own mind. He’s prepared how he wants to prepare, whether he wants to train on emotion, grit or experience. He has to find a way to beat me and that will be difficult for any fighters on the planet. I can sense frustration from Martin’s camp. We had two fights that fell through.
“I would be disappointed if I went in there and blew him away in one round. I need rounds for next year. I need to get in there, in the real thing, to go into the big fights next year. To get over that bridge I need to beat Martin Murray. He’s not one of those fighters you can ever completely right off.”
Martin Murray believes it is finally his time to land a World Title at the fifth attempt when he takes on undefeated WBO Super-Middleweight World Champion Billy Joe Saunders in Friday’s main event at The SSE Arena, Wembley, shown live on Sky Sports and DAZN.
Four-time World Title challenger Murray (39-5-1, 17 KOs) stands in the way of unification fights for Saunders in 2021, and the St Helens man is more determined than ever to finally land a World Title of his own and put his rivalry with Saunders to bed after their scheduled meeting in 2018 fell through twice.
“It’s a difficult fight, like all my big fights,” said Murray. “Billy Joe offers me something different. He’s kind of like Sergio Martinez, obviously younger and slicker. I’ve been training for it. I’m ready for it. I’m confident. All the little setbacks I’ve had in the past have been building to this. I feel like it’s my time.
“There was no bad blood really between me and Billy to be honest, it was just a lot of frustration after he pulled out twice. That got left where it was, but we’ve definitely got some unfinished business. I’m expecting a hard fight and Billy Joe to be at his best, so I’ll be ready.”
Despite his age, Murray believes that he is more than fit enough to compete with Saunders, who is seven years younger than him. Asked if he believes the age difference is important, he said, “I don’t. I look after myself between fights.
“I do a lot of training, eat right. I’m a young 38. I know there’s a big win in me. Everyone’s writing me off. There’s no pressure on me. But I know that I rise to the big occasions. You’ll see the best of me.”
Murray has suggested that his rival had an easier route to a World Title than his own career had given him. Saunders landed the WBO Middleweight crown against Andy Lee in 2015, and then WBO 168lbs Title against Shefat Isufi in 2019, whilst Murray fell short against Felix Sturm, Sergio Martinez, Gennadiy Golovkin and Arthur Abraham.
“He’s not fought the opposition I’ve had. If I’d had fought the people he’s fought, I’d have a World Title. I’ve done it the hard way.”
Murray, who hasn’t fought since he outpointed Sladan Janjanin at the Olympia in Liverpool back in November 2019, also admitted that the coronavirus pandemic had led him to believe that his career may have been brought to a premature end.
“I thought, ‘It’s ruined my career.’” he added. “I almost called it a day. I thought it could finish my career. I’ve always believed in myself, there’s always been hope, and I thought that it was going to finish my career, and it’s ended up making it.
“It would be nice to finish the year on a high, and for my career I’ve worked for a World Title and I’ve been in some lonely places. I’d never have believed it but here we are.
“I had an unhealthy obsession with winning a World Title. No one has won one from St Helens. Now I am a lot more relaxed about the situation. On Friday, I really do feel it’s my time.”
Saunders vs. Murray tops of big night of action in London, Belfast’s James Tennyson (27-3, 23 KOs) meets Canada’s Josh O’Reilly (16-0, 6 KOs) in an Eliminator for the WBA Lightweight World Title.
Watford Super-Bantamweight Shannon Courtenay (5-1, 2 KOs) looks to return to winning ways against Poland’s Dorota Nurek (6-1, 1 KO).
Derby’s Zach Parker (19-0, 13 KOs) takes on Spain’s Cesar Nunez (17-2-1, 9 KOs) for the WBO International Super-Middleweight Title.
New Malden Super-Middleweight talent Lerrone Richards (13-0, 3 KOs) makes his Matchroom debut against Finland’s Timo Laine (28-14, 12 KOs).
Southampton’s Lewis Edmondson (3-0) clashes with Manchester’s John Telford (11-2-1, 2 KOs) over six rounds at Super-Middleweight and finally exciting Sheffield Featherweight Donte Dixon (4-0, 3 KOs) meets Welshman Angelo Dragone (5-1) over six rounds.