Billy Joe Saunders beat British Martin Murray by unanimous decision to successfully continue carrying his WBO super-middleweight title at Wembley Arena.
It was the 30th win of his undefeated professional success for Saunders, who entered the world belt fight and rated a heavy favorite of 1-25 by bookmakers.
Saunders took this fight 120-109 120-109 118-110 on the judges’ cards.
Saunder’s Next Fight
The 31-year-old now looks set to win the battle of Callum Smith and Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez on December 19.
“I’ve been out for over a year and it’s like a fist in the cemetery,” said Saunders.
“I like to put on a show to the crowd and I tried to set the rhythm but he is a very clever old fox and he can tie you up well.
“Maybe I needed rounds for the New Year and I hope he’ll have a good Christmas back in his family. The important thing is that I’m 30-0.”
It was the fifth time Murray had not won a world title and a 38-year-old man admitted after that it would be his last fight.
The Saunders brought a controlled and confident show, gaining success with upper cuts and body shots as Southpaw dominated early negotiations.
Murray stumbled into the fourth round and, although no knock was called, the veteran fighter clearly heard a powerful combination from Saunders.
“It was a clear knock,” Saunders said. “That would have changed the whole game, if it had been called a knock.”
Murray was linked with Jjab in the seventh round and was competing everywhere, although he said his back was in the eighth round, but Saunders was the main fighter and went on to score 12 rounds.
Saunders said after that his next “should be a big fight”.
He was close to getting a fight with Alvarez in May before an outbreak of coronavirus.
The Hertfordshire fighter was then declared a Mexican opponent in September, but withdrew from the talks, suggesting he did not want to go to such a war without adequate preparation, or was given a fair amount of money.
Instead, another Briton Smith has agreed to deal with Alvarez for a short time this month.
“It’s very important for me to stay in the gym now because I’m not young anymore,” added Saunders. “Let’s get out the big names out there. I need a big fight to get up, I don’t want to sit in the dressing room, sing and dance.”
What’s Next For Martin Murray?
Saunders said in view of the fight he wanted to “retire” his opponent and, although Murray would not commit to fighting again, he acknowledged that this was his last chance to win the world title.
The 38-year-old has won 11 different belts during his career but the undefeated World Cup has only been proven to be achievable by the St Helens man.
After a heated debate with Felix Sturm and a similar defeat for Sergio Martinez, Gennady Golovkin made the first suspension of Murray’s career back in 2015.
His fourth title, against Arthur Abraham, was won by the Germans at home and finally, five years later, this defeat by Saunders seemed to shatter the English hopes.
Murray feared that the coronavirus had ended his career but returned to the ring after a 13-month absence saying he had one more major battle left.
“Five times to win the World Cup, five times, I won’t get six,” he said. “I’m 38, I want to spend time with my family now – never say never, but I think that’s all. I’ve tried.
“It’s so bad in my body, never say I never but I’m ready to rest.
“I had a colorful history before I became a champion. When I repented, I said I didn’t want to regret it, and I did it. I could have been a world champion twice if the judges or luck were on my side but that didn’t happen.”
On the downside, Belfast striker James Tennyson did a short job for Canadian Josh O’Reilly pulling out the WBA lightweight title, stopping his opponent two minutes and 14 seconds later.
British Bantamweight Shannon Courtenay is back in the first defeat of his professional career in August to block Poland’s Dorota Norek in the seventh round.
The BBC’s boxing expert Steve Bunce: “It was a tough 12 rounds. It was a typical Billy Joe play.
“It was ugly, it wasn’t great, but it was a great, solid show. Martin Murray, even at 38, is not a shell that you can easily blow.”
Former Andy 5 Live Sports Extra world champion Andy Lee: “Saunders has always done what he does, which is enough to win.
“While what we saw tonight wouldn’t be enough to beat Callum Smith or Canelo, when he faces them in the ring it will be a different Billy Joe Saunders.
“He’s going to raise his game. He’s always fighting at the level of the person he’s facing.”