Billy Joe Saunders, who was meant to face Canelo Alvarez in May of this year but didn’t get that big chance, finally has his next fight set, as he’ll defend his WBO super middleweight title against veteran Martin Murray on Dec. 4.
The fight will be held at Wembley’s SSE Arena, where Matchroom are taking up a residency, and will air on DAZN in the U.S. and Sky Sports in the U.K.
The 31-year-old Saunders (29-0, 14 KO) last fought in Nov. 19, having to rally a bit against Marcelo Coceres on the KSI-Logan Paul card in Los Angeles. He did stop Coceres with a big 11th round charge, dropping the Argentine fighter three times, but had struggled in the fight up to that point.
It was his second serious fight as a 168-pounder, having won the vacant WBO belt against Shefat Isufi in May of 2019. There remain questions about Saunders at the weight.
It’s also noteworthy that these two have been close to fights in the past on two occasions, but neither wound up coming through.
“Martin and I were supposed to fight twice before but it didn’t happen either time,” Saunders said. “He said some stuff and so did I, so let’s see who can back it up.”
“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,” Murray added. “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.”
A former British and Commonwealth champion at 160, the 38-year-old Murray (39-5-1, 17 KO) has challenged for world titles on four occasions, three at 160 and one at 168.
In 2011, he went to a controversial draw against Felix Sturm in Germany, as happened for people fairly often. In 2013, he lost a controversial decision to Sergio Martinez in Argentina. In 2015, he was flat dominated by Gennadiy Golovkin, stopped in the 11th round. And later in 2015, he lost a controversial decision to Arthur Abraham in Germany for a super middleweight title.
There are no less than three occasions where Murray really could have won a world title, and not in one of those “if he’d gotten the chance” ways. He had the chances, and he performed.
The gut feeling is probably that if it were going to happen, it would have happened by now, and Saunders will definitely be the favorite here. But Saunders runs really hot and cold, one of the more inconsistent higher-end fighters in the sport today, and Murray has to figure this is the last shot he’s ever going to get. It could be more interesting than it might seem at first blush, and at the very least it’s not a bad fight given the overall circumstances in the world.
The show will also feature a 154-pound matchup between Kieran Smith (16-0, 7 KO) and Kieron Conway (15-1-1, 3 KO) in which the loser has to start spelling his name the other way.