Billy Joe Saunders retained his WBO super middleweight title and may have sent Martin Murray into retirement, winning a one-sided decision today in London.
Saunders (30-0, 14 KO) won on scores of 118-110, 120-109, and 120-109. Bad Left Hook scored it a complete sweep for Saunders at 120-108.
The 31-year-old Saunders maybe didn’t do anything hugely eye-catching in this fight, but he was in complete control the entire way and looked sharper than he has in other fights at this level. Murray (39-6-1, 17 KO) came up short in a world title fight for the fifth time, and the second time where he had no argument when it was all over, which he readily admitted.
“I got beat by a better man,” Murray said. “We never let him find a proper rhythm, but he was doing just enough. He’s a quality fighter, the better man won on the night.”
Asked about retirement, the 38-year-old Murray didn’t fully commit, because he’s a fighter and he knows another offer could well come, but he sounds pretty ready to move on.
“I was gonna retire two years ago, but I knew there was a big fight left in me, another world title shot,” he said. “Five times in a world title fight, five times — mate, I’m not gonna get six. I just wanna spend time with my family now. I don’t know, never say never, but yeah, I think that’s it. I tried.”
Murray said that his back had “gone out” on him a couple of weeks ago, and that it flared up again around the eighth round. He stressed it wasn’t an excuse and that he had it in as close to top shape as possible, and put it more on getting older and the demands of the sport.
“It’s taking a lot of wear and tear on my body now. I’m ready for a good rest now, mate,” he said. “I could’ve been double weight world champion if the judges and better luck were on my side, but it never worked out that way.”
Saunders wasn’t fully happy with his performance, and credited Murray with being able to hang on at various points in the bout. He admitted to feeling some rust after 13 months out of the ring, but he was quicker, looked stronger, and was the better fighter in this one.
“He’s a cunning old fox and he knew how to tie you up well. It’s not a performance I’m going to be shouting peoples names about,” Saunders said. “I probably needed the rounds, to be honest with you. The main thing is I’m 30-0, let’s see if I can make a big fight and get up for it.”
“The stamina was there, but the timing was a bit off,” Saunders added. “There was a bit of ring rust, a little bit of rhythm lacking.”
Promoter Eddie Hearn, meanwhile, used his interview time to push strongly the idea — if not directly to Saunders, but more to the public — that Saunders needs to stay in shape and be ready for a big fight next.
“It’s important the momentum continues. He’s got to be a pro now, he’s got to train over Christmas, he’s got to keep his weight down, he’s got to be ready,” Hearn said.
“We can’t waste the opportunity to find out how good he really is, and we’re not yet seeing it because he’s not mixing with the elite of the elite. Golovkin, Canelo, Callum Smith, Demetrius Andrade, it must be one of them next. Otherwise, we’re wasting our time and he’s wasting his career.”
Saunders said he’s up for any of the names mentioned, and that while he wishes Callum Smith the best against Canelo Alvarez on Dec. 19, if Canelo wins, that is Saunders’ main target, as it will be anyone’s.
James Tennyson TKO-1 Josh O’Reilly
This is going to sound really crummy toward O’Reilly, who flew in from Canada and took his shot at glory, but O’Reilly had no business in the ring with Tennyson, no business in a WBA eliminator. This was a brutal mismatch. The 29-year-old O’Reilly (16-1, 6 KO) came in with a very protected record and should not have been here. It was as predictable as it was one-sided, too, being honest. O’Reilly was down twice and finished off in 2:14.
Tennyson (28-3, 24 KO) is a flawed fighter, but seems to have settled in nicely at 135, has legit heavy hands, and is fun to watch. He’s now in line for a shot at a WBA belt, the real one held by Teofimo Lopez and the secondary one held by Gervonta “Tank” Davis. He’s not gonna fight Lopez, probably, and he likely won’t fight Tank, either, because you can’t sell Davis-Tennyson on PPV and Davis wants to fight PPV from now on. Eddie Hearn admitted that Tennyson needs higher level fights, at least one more, before going in with a top fighter.
What could happen is Tennyson winds up fighting Rolando “Rolly” Romero — who ridiculously holds the ridiculous interim WBA belt that has absolutely no reason to exist — if Tank vacates his secondary belt at some point, which he might because he’s got a real belt at 130, too. The WBA said after Romero’s robbery win over Jackson Marinez that they’d “study” the possibility of ordering a rematch, but more likely than not the organization just wanted to say that and wait for people to forget about it. Considering it happened three-and-a-half months ago and nobody talks about it anymore, that would be a mission: accomplished.
- Shannon Courtenay TKO-7 Dorota Norek: Courtenay moved down to 118 for this fight, after failing (by a lot) to make 122 last time out, which may seem wild, but it seems more a full, serious focus on conditioning and everything. Shannon looked good here, weathering the wild, slap-happy flails of Norek (6-2, 1 KO) early and then just taking over. Courtney (6-1, 3 KO) had the much better technique, much better skill, and once Norek was past her lone idea, it was a wrap. Courtenay clubbed Norek down on a right hand in the seventh round, and although the Polish fighter got up, it was over, and Courtenay successfully bounced back from her first loss back in August against Rachel Ball. She said she felt good at the weight and plans to stay here.
Shannon Courtenay DROPPED Dorota Norek pic.twitter.com/YDC9T9Yuny— DAZN Boxing (@DAZNBoxing) December 4, 2020
- Donte Dixon PTS-6 Angelo Dragone: A learning fight for Dixon (5-0, 3 KO), a 20-year-old featherweight from Sheffield, who took this one on a score of 58-56, but without any controversy. Two rounds about the most you could give Dragone (5-2, 0 KO), a 30-year-old Welshman who has now lost two straight but came to fight and gave a good effort. Fun six rounds.
- Lerrone Richards PTS-8 Timo Laine: Being honest, I didn’t get to see a lot of this one as it went head-to-head with the Spence-Garcia weigh-in, but general consensus seems to be that while Richards (14-0, 3 KO) definitely won every round, and the score was 80-72 here, there remains real reason to be concerned about his ultimate upside, if you’re hoping for him to maybe be a world title guy. He can box, there’s no doubt, has some slickness and fights smart, but the lack of pop will be an issue against top guys at 168, at least in theory. But the European title? Yeah, he could do that, and that is Eddie Hearn’s target for early 2021.