Billy Joe Saunders returns on Friday, Dec. 4 (DAZN) to defend his WBO super middleweight title against battle-hardened veteran Martin Murray from London, headlining a Matchroom Boxing event at The SSE Arena, Wembley.
Saunders (29-0, 14 KO) is a big favorite by the odds, with fans and pundits, and all of that, while most expect Murray (39-5-1, 17 KO) to just be too old and past his best days to get the job done this time.
Is there an upset chance? Will Saunders roll into a bigger bout next in 2021, possibly against the Canelo-Smith winner?
Our staffers make their picks.
Martin Murray was kind of low-key one of my favorite fighters of the 2010s. Four world title challenges, three that could easily have gone his way, none did. If justice had been done, at least in my opinion, Sergio Martinez would have never made it to hobbling into a fight with Miguel Cotto, because Martin Murray beat him in 2013. We would think of Murray so much differently had he gotten the nod in Argentina that night. Or in Germany against Felix Sturm in 2011 or Arthur Abraham in 2015. But he didn’t get any of them, and at this point, he’s 38. One figures if it were going to happen, it would have by now.
AND YET! And yet...he’s got the shot against Billy Joe Saunders. Murray is being understandably written off. His style, especially aged, is too basic for the talented Saunders, most will think. I do not discount this analysis of Murray. What I question is not Murray, but Saunders. Yeah, he had that one night against David Lemieux. What else? Nearly sputtering out down the stretch in close wins over both Chris Eubank Jr and Andy Lee. Edging out nods over Nick Blackwell and John Ryder before then. A win over Artur Akavov that Saunders willingly admitted was a lousy performance. And yeah, he stopped Marcelo Coceres last year, but after great trouble in a fight nobody saw any differently going in than this one. I say Saunders is inconsistent pretty frequently, but it dawns on me that really, he’s quite consistent. It’s downright common that he wins by the skin of his teeth; what has been very rare is Saunders displaying some great, elite-level ability.
Look, boxing is a cruel sport in general, and unforgiving to age. Saunders should win this fight, and if he’s at what is really his nearly mythical “best,” he should cruise. But he didn’t cruise against Coceres. It’s not often he does cruise against tough opponents, even when he’s expected to have a major skill advantage. Murray is full determination, full spirit, a pure fighter...
Fuck it. Murray SD-12
It’s hard for me to think of this fight as much more than a stay-busy fight for Saunders. Murray’s a tough guy and whatnot but he’s 38 years old and has proven throughout his career that while pretty good, he’s just not good enough to beat world championship level opponents. Perhaps Murray’s one saving grace here is Saunders’ penchant for fighting down to the level of his opposition at times, which may give Murray a shot to get something done.
I just don’t see it happening, though. Saunders’ footwork is much too adept for someone like Murray and I think Saunders could really put on a show here if he wants - or he might just cruise to an uninspired decision. That seems like a distinct possibility as Saunders performs better against better competition, but either way I think Saunders takes this fight on the cards. Saunders UD-12
How to Watch Saunders vs Murray
Patrick L. Stumberg
It’s rare to get a matchup with such a clear distinction between protagonist and antagonist. Murray is a hard-nosed, hard-luck veteran who by rights should have had a belt around his waist by now. Saunders, by contrast...well, I’d call him a tit, but people tend to enjoy watching tits. Character, karma, and entertainment value don’t mean a damn thing compared to what’s on the scorecards, though, and it’s hard to see Murray’s straightforward grinding getting through Saunders’ awkward style when he lacks the firepower to make his brief windows of opportunity count.
Murray’s key lifeline here is Saunders’ inconsistency; the same man who made David Lemieux look flat-out pathetic also went life-and-death with Marcelo Coceres last time out. Still, even a struggling Saunders should be sufficient to stink his way to victory. The only question is whether it’ll be a controversial split or 12 rounds of cruise control. Saunders UD-12
If boxing had a heart, then Martin Murray would walk away from the Wembley Arena on Friday night with a world title at the fifth time of asking. The St. Helens fighter is honest, likeable and has had a fantastic career spanning 45 contests over 13 years. But boxing’s heart is as black as the night, and aged 38 Murray won’t be expecting any handouts from the sport. Saunders struggles to get up for fights that aren’t, well, Andy Lee, Eubank Jr or David Lemieux. The southpaw has remained unbeaten and relatively untested throughout his stop-start career and is surely biding time before a Canelo opportunity in 2021. Saunders is slick and should be able to keep Murray at bay on the end of his jab throughout the evening. I’d like to see Murray be able to mix it on the inside but it’s unlikely. This should be a routine defence for Saunders, even if he’s not completely at the races. Saunders UD-12