Billy Joe Saunders to Defend Super Middleweight TItle Against Martin Murray

WBO super middleweight champion Billy Joe Saunders will defend the title against Martin Murray this Friday in London.

Updated: Dec. 2, 2020 • 1:50 PM ET

London will host this weekend's WBO super middleweight title fight.

The WBO super middleweight title will be on the line this Friday, as champion Billy Joe Saunders will defend his belt against fellow English fighter and former title challenger Martin Murray in London.

Saunders (29-0, 14 KOs) hasn’t fought since November 2019 when he defeated Marcelo Esteban Coceres by 11th-round knockout in his first title defense. While Saunders made his United States debut in that fight, securing the victory in Los Angeles’ Stapes Center, his second title defense will come from the comforts of home.

Saunders, just 31 years old, has been a two-weight world champion, previously holding the WBO middleweight title from 2015 to 2018. In his career, he has key victories over Shefat Isufi, David Lemieux, Willie Monroe Jr, Artur Akavov, Andy Lee and Chris Eubank Jr.

Saunders and his team struggled to find an opponent amidst COVID-19 travel restrictions and other fighters already having matches scheduled. Names such as Canelo Alvarez, Demetrius Andrade and Daniel Jacobs came up, but those talks fell flat. According to Saunders, Murray was the next logical choice.

“All of the big names were really tied up, so I looked down at the list,” Saunders said in a sit-down with Matchroom Boxing. “Martin Murray has challenged for a world title four times, this is his fifth. There’s history there.

“He’s a Brit. Listen, I’m a man to my word. He got his fight, and whether this is his last fight or it’s his big uproar and he pulls off the upset, he’s got his chance.”

Saunders was linked to a fight with Murray in 2018, but it was believed that Saunders was holding off for a bout with Gennady Golovkin. So that slice of history between Saunders and Murray should add a bit of drama to the fight.

Saunders explained his relationship with Murray a little further.

"Martin and I were supposed to fight twice before, but it didn't happen either time,'' Saunders said via ESPN. "He said some stuff and so did I — so let's see who can back it up. I'm enjoying training with Mark Tibbs. He's incredibly knowledgeable in the sport of boxing, and we are working on new stuff that we will show on the night."

Overall, Saunders is simply grateful that he can end 2020 in the ring.

"I am very happy to be defending my WBO world title again," Saunders said. "I haven't boxed for a year and I really do miss being in the ring. I can't wait to have my 30th professional fight and finish the year with a bang before a big 2021.

“The coronavirus pandemic has affected everybody in many ways, and it has had a big impact on the sport of boxing. The Canelo Alvarez fight falling through was very frustrating for me but now the journey continues in December."

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Murray has challenged for a world title three times in his career, coming close to becoming a champion in two fights but ultimately failing to get his hand raised. He most recently challenged for the WBO super middleweight title in 2015, but lost to Arthur Abraham by split-decision. Since then, the 38-year-old Murray has gone 7-2 and is happy to once again find himself challenging for a title.

"I'm really looking forward to getting back in there and fighting for another world title," Murray said. "The big fights definitely bring out the best in me. This year has been a good year for me personally.

“It seemed like all the stresses of life were taken away, so I really enjoyed being able to relax a bit more and spend even more time with my family."

As far as having previously been linked to a fight with Saunders, Murray said, "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," he said. "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."

Murray’s last key victory came in 2017 when he defeated Gabriel Rosado by majority-decision. Can he find some sort of magic against a younger, undefeated champion who is trying to prove that he belongs with the elite?

• How to watch/start time: The main card can be seen this Friday on DAZN at 7 p.m. EST

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