A couple of weeks ago Eddie Hearn and Matchroom Boxing announced the return of WBO super middleweight champion Billy Joe Saunders in a defence of his 168 lbs strap against British rival Martin Murray. The bout was received with a level of disappointment from fans, who had been promised for a while that BJS would be stepping up his level of competition in his next bout.
After coming within a few hours of signing a deal to fight the great Canelo Alvarez before the pandemic changed not just the sporting industry, but the whole world, big fights with Demetrius Andrade and Callum Smith were also discussed but failed to come off. Now old foe Martin Murray has been selected for Saunders’ second title defence, and while it may not be the fight many fans wanted, here’s three reasons why it may not be all bad.
All British world title fight
Over the last decade British boxing has enjoyed a number of brilliant all British world title fights that will last the test of time when discussing the greatest fights seen on these shores. From Carl Froch and George Groves’ legendary two fight rivalry that transcended the sport and put boxing British boxing back on the map, to the first all British women’s title fight this August between Terri Harper and Natasha Jonas, these fights almost always seem to deliver. Since Jim Watt finished Charlie Nash for the WBC lightweight title in 1980, through the 1990’s where Nigel Benn and Chris Eubank gave their all across two hectic wars, to the modern day where we could be on the cusp of a mega fight between current heavyweight kings Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua, British rivalries have always captured the publics attention and made for brilliant spectacles. Not to mention the great history of British middleweight fights, this could be the latest on that long list.
History between the two
Another thing that must be considered is the history between the two stemming back to 2018. The two were originally scheduled to meet on the 14th April in a fight billed as the ‘Battle of Britain’, only for Saunders to withdraw due to a hand injury. The event was rescheduled for the 23rd of June but yet again Saunders pulled out, this time citing a hamstring injury, leading to a bitter exchange between the pair on social media. Since then Murray has dropped a decision to former world champion Hassan N’Dam N’Jikam, in which he announced his retirement afterwards, only to then 180 on this decision and return to the ring with two decision victories in 2019. Billy Joe’s career has maintained its hectic nature since the Murray debacle, in which he has failed a drugs test before a scheduled bout with Demetrius Andrade, had his boxing license revoked following an ill judged domestic violence ‘joke’ on social media and captured another world title in another division to become a two weight, two time world champion. The bad blood between the two may just be the reason Murray was selected ahead of other options Rocky Fielding, John Ryder and Zach Parker.
Murray’s world title heartbreak
In what will be Martin Murray’s fifth and almost definitely final world title shot, the St Helen’s man will go down in history as perhaps the unluckiest man in British boxing. Having to go on the road for all four of his title shots thus far, Murray was blatantly robbed in his first and second world title tilts to Felix Sturm in Germany (split draw 2011) and Sergio Martinez in Argentina (unanimous decision 2013) even knocking the latter down in their contest. His third shot came against Gennadiy Golovkin at his most devastating best (11th round TKO 2015) putting up a spirited display in Monte Carlo, and his fourth shot was a split decision loss to Arthur Abraham also in 2015 that could’ve gone either way. Murray has always seemed to find a new gear in title fights, and fresh in the knowledge this is his last chance against a man he doesn’t see eye to eye with, we could see one of the best feel-good redemption stories in not just boxing, but in sport as a whole.