WBO Super Middleweight champion Billy Joe Saunders too much for durable Martin Murray in lone 2020 bout; retains title via one-sided unanimous decision
LONDON (December 4, 2020) — Undefeated WBO Super Middleweight champion Billy Joe Saunders experienced little trouble successfully completing his second title defense against four-time challenger Martin Murray. Saunders improved to 30-0 with a lopsided decision over Murray (39-6-1, 17 KOs) in the main event of a Matchroom Boxing show staged at SSE Arena, Wembly which streamed live on DAZN.
In the mid-rounds the champion threatened to add to his 14 career KOs in a couple of spots. Murray’s slow first round start extended past the first two rounds, and by the time he appeared ready to compete Saunders’ control of the action quickly bottled up his offense. The punishment mounted quickly, referee Phil Edwards ruled against an apparent Saunders knockdown in Round 4, and Murry spent most of the subsequent rounds fighting through frustration.
With the bout clearly decided late in the fight’s second half, Murray’s corner continued encouraging the 38-year old to make what could likely be the last of a respectable career. Saunders quickly answered any signs of an attempt to start a rally. He busted up the challenger before letting up the final 20-25 seconds of the bout. The two warriors quickly resolved their in-fight differences, which both were warned for at least twice, before the announcement of the cards made the defense official. Scores of 120-109, 120-109 and 118-110 keep Saunders as a viable opponent for a couple of lucrative bouts, including a shot at the winner of Canelo Alvarez vs Callum Smith on December 19. Smith, the No. 1-ranked Super Middleweight, currently holds the WBA and Ring Magazine championships.
Saunders started out as the slightly more aggressive fighter in Round 1. The undefeated southpaw popped his right jab, and attempted to touch Murray’s body. Murray feinted a lot but rarely engaged.
The action remained slow through most of the second stanza. Murray continued with his foot and upper body feints, but rarely saw targets he desired. Saunders caught Murray with a short counter shot inside as Murray came a little too close before retreating.
Murray inched his way forward in Round 3. Saunders’ activity increased, he threw punches more often, but several landed on Murray’s high guard. The champion scored well, stayed alert on defense and gradually found his rhythm. He split Murray’s guard to land a right uppercut.
Both fighters threw their jabs to open Round 4. Murray stepped forward to land a straight right hand. The champion scored with a 1-2 combination that ended with a left hand that fazed Murray with just under a minute to go. Moments later a right hook and flush straight left hand had Murray in trouble along the ropes. Murray fell forward and went down to the canvas, but referee Edwards felt that some wrestling on Saunders’ behalf helped him get there.
Saunders picked up the pace more in Round 5. He worked his right jab and tried to mix in some angles to figure out a route around Murray’s high guard. Murray’s offense only made rare appearances the entire stanza.
Saunders opened Round 6 with a pair of blocked jabs, but he landed a left hook to Murray’s body as he slid to his right. Saunders switched to orthodox for a few seconds just under the 2:00 mark. Signs of Murray’s frustration started to surface. The champion fussed at him following a blatant low blow, and Edwards stopped the action to admonish both men for trash talking. He also instructed them to keep the action clean.
Murray rallied for a portion of the first minute of Round 7. His pace declined sharply, and Saunders went back to work, craftily setting up openings for powerful left hands. The champion received a warning for using his shoulder to land a left hand that snapped back Murray’s head.
Murray walked forward in Round 8, but Saunders hands remained busy and accurate. The challenger pressed his way inside to take big rips at Saunders’ body. The action stopped after Saunders landed an obvious low blow. The two started growing increasingly physical, but the champion continued to get the best of the exchanges.
Going into the fight’s final third of the rounds, Saunders’ control of the fight was firm. Murray withstood the punishment but he failed to offer much in return. The two warriors tapped gloves after a grueling round in a sign of mutual respect.
Saunders started the 10th round slowly as Murray pressed forward punching sparingly. The champion picked it back up after the first minute, he jabbed and worked up and down. Murray continued to slow down.
Saunders dictated the action to start the first championship round. Long stretches elapsed without Murray attempting to throw a meaningful punch. Saunders picked him off almost at will and capped off the round with a right uppercut that lifted Murray’s head.
The champion clearly looked like the fresher fighter at the top of the 12th round. Saunders pressed Murray, still giving an honest effort, working up and down. Murray landed a straight right to Saunders’ body at about the :33 mark. The two-punch combination represented the challenger’s final output. Moments later Saunders moved far outside and Murray sighed to acknowledge the champion’s decision to shut it down a little early.
All photos by Mark Robinson/Matchroom