Saunders defends WBO title with comfortable points win over Murray
Billy Joe Saunders made the second defence of his WBO Super Middleweight title (PIC: Jayne Karmin Oncea)

Billy Joe Saunders produced a dominant display to see off the challenge of St Helens' Martin Murray and defend his WBO Super Middleweight title at Wembley Arena. 

In just his second defence of the crown having stepped up from Middleweight in 2018, the Hatfield southpaw won a convincing unanimous decision verdict with cards of 120-109, 120-109 and 118-110. 

In doing so, Saunders extended his unbeaten professional record to 30-0, and laid down a further marker in the bid to unify the division in 2021. 

  • Classy showing sets Saunders up for mega fight

The bout lived up to many pre fight expectations, in that Murray stood firm and continued to wear his heart on his sleeve despite being faced with a champion eager to stake his claim as to why he should be in the conversation for supremacy at 168lbs. 

Saunders needed to put on a show in order for that conversation to kickstart, and to an extent, he did just that.

A fluid combination of uppercuts and shots to the body of the North West fighter allowed the Hertfordshire man to take a firm grip of the contest in the opening exchanges.

Saunders consistently picked off his opponent across the duration of the 12 rounds with accurate, well-timed shots, showing evidence of a much needed sharpness heading into what could be a monumental 2021.

A near punch-perfect outing's only flaw was the lack of a stoppage, and to Murray's credit, the latter never seemed to be in too much danger of that scenario coming into play through a mixture of a typical Martin Murray determination and the steely grit to finish what may well be his last ever professional fight on a high.

The only hint of a potential early ending occurred in round four, where Murray fell to the canvas under pressure from Saunders but wasn't ruled a knockdown by referee Phil Edwards.

Edwards had a relatively busy night at Wembley, being on hand to break up a number of holds and near head clashes in a handful of scrappy exchanges. 

Speaking to broadcaster Sky Sports following his winSaunders gave an honest assessment of his performance, taking into account the knockdown that wasn't called, and was full of praise for his durable 38-year-old opponent. 

"I've been out over a year and it's like boxing in the cemetery.

"I like to perform for the crowd and I tried to set a rhythm but he is a cunning old fox and he ties you up well.

"I probably needed the rounds going into the New Year and I hope he has a good Christmas and he goes back to his family. The main thing is I'm 30-0.

"It was a clear knockdown. That could have changed the entire fight, if it was called a knockdown."

  • "Let's get the big names out there"

Saunders went on to mention that his next outing "has to be a big fight", with his claims arriving on the back of fellow British Super Middleweight champion Callum Smith being the man selected to defend his own WBA crown against one of the pound-for-pound elite in Canelo Alvarez on 19 December.

"It's very important for me to stay in the gym now because I'm not getting any younger. Let's get the big names out there. I need a big fight to get up for it, I don't want to sit in the dressing room, singing and dancing."

  • Murray's last dance at elite level?

Defeat on the night made it five unsuccessful world title shots for Murray, and he admitted in his post-fight interview that any future aspirations of ever securing world honours are all but over.

"Five times for the world title, five times. I am not going to get six. I am 38, I just want to spend time with my family now- never say never, but I think that's it. I tried.

"It's taken a lot of wear and tear on my body, never say never but I am ready for a good rest."

A decorated domestic and continental fighter, the St Helens man has come agonisingly close to securing that elusive world strap, but it has never quite fallen his way. 

He was involved in a controversial draw with Felix Sturm before suffering a debatable defeat to Sergio Martinez. Following that was his first ever stoppage defeat; a 2015 loss to the imperious Gennady Golovkin. 

His fourth shot was a split decision loss to Arthur Abraham on the latter's home German turf, with the last of his attempts resulting in a resilient yet unsuccessful display against Saunders.

"I had a colourful past before I turned pro. When I turned pro, I said I wanted no regrets, and I've done that. I could've been a double-weight world champion if the judges or luck was on my side but it didn't work out that way."

  • Explosive Tennyson heads chief support

Belfast's James Tennyson put the lightweight division on red alert as he produced a stunning first-round knockout of Canadian Josh O'Reilly in the chief support of the evening.

In an eliminator for Teofimo Lopez's WBA Lightweight title, Tennyson floored his opponent twice before wrapping up a superb performance just two minutes and 14 seconds in from the first bell. 

The Northern Irishman will be hoping to go one better at 135lbs, having fallen just short of securing a world crown back down at Super Featherweight against Tevin Farmer in 2018.

Bantamweight Shannon Courtenay returned to winning ways thanks to a seventh round stoppage victory over tough Polish opponent Dorota Norek. Courtenay importantly got back in the win column on the back of her defeat to recently crowned WBA champion Rachel Ball at Matchroom's Fight Camp in August.

Elsewhere on the undercard, Lerrone Richards moved to 13-0 in the Light Heavyweight division, banking eight rounds in a straight forward victory over Timo Laine.

Donte Dixon overcame Angelo Dragone in a six-round Featherweight encounter, and Lewie Edmondson scored a third-round TKO victory over John Telford in another Light Heavyweight tussle.

 

  • CARD RESULTS

  • Billy Joe Saunders def. Martin Murray via UD (WBO Super Middleweight title)

 

  • James Tennyson def. Josh O'Reilly via first-round TKO (WBA Lightweight title eliminator)

 

  • Shannon Courtenay def. Dorota Norek via seventh-round TKO (Bantamweight)

 

  • Lerrone Richards def. Timo Laine (Light Heavyweight)

 

  • Donte Dixon def. Angelo Dragone (Featherweight)

 

  • Lewie Edmondson def. John Telford via third-round TKO (Light Heavyweight)

 

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