By Scott Gilfoid: Billy Joe Saunders (26-0, 1 KOs) suffered a hand injury in training this week, and unfortunately, he won’t be able to face Martin Murray (36-4-1, 17 KOs) on the previously scheduled April 14th date at the O2 Arena in London, England.
Instead, the Saunders-Murray fight will be moved to June 23 at the O2. The undercard fight between former WBO lightweight champion Terry Flanagan and Maurice Hooker will no longer be included in the Saunders-Murray card. Those two fighters will find a different date. The injury to Saunders and the loss of the Flanagan vs. Hooker fight to the card is unwelcome news, because it’s not a great fight between Saunders and Murray. That’s a mismatch. You can argue that the Flanagan-Hooker fight was the best thing the Saunders-Murray card had going for it.
The timing of Saunders’ injury will be viewed by boxing fans as being suspicious, as there’s a chance the Saul Canelo Alvarez vs. Gennady ‘GGG’ Golovkin 2 rematch won’t be taking place on May 5th due to the Mexican star testing positive for clenbuterol. If Canelo receives a suspension by the Nevada State Athletic Commission for his positive test for the PED, Golovkin will need an opponent for his next fight, and he’s already said that he wants to fight Saunders next for his WBO middleweight title. As such, the rescheduling of the Saunders vs. Murray fight to June 23 must be viewed as tentative and not a fixed date. If Canelo does receive a suspension, Golovkin will immediately be looking to fight Saunders, and that’s a much bigger payday for Billy Joe than what he’ll be getting against Murray. Saunders is ready for the Golovkin fight if Canelo is put on the shelf by the Nevada Commission. From Golovkin’s position, you almost must see him going in a different direction. Even if the Commission doesn’t suspend Canelo, Golovkin likely doesn’t want to have to potentially face a guy that has cycled on clenbuterol and has a big edge over him in Canelo. The best thing for Golovkin to do is walk away from the Canelo fight, and rescheduled it in September when he knows for sure that he’s clean and no longer benefitting from the PED. If Canelo is tested constantly by VADA up until September fight, it would be worth it or Golovkin to take the fight with him at that time. But if Golovkin faces Canelo on May 5th, he could be facing a guy that used clenbuterol to get ready for the fight. That’s not good for Golovkin. Saunders is the perfect position to get the Golovkin fight now.
As for Saunders’ hand injury, he reportedly suffered it during a training session. Not much is known about the particulars of the injury. There are no x-rays that have been shown to the boxing media to verify Saunders’ hand injury.
If the Saunders-Murray fight does take place on June 23, it’ll be on the same card as light heavyweight contender Anthony Yarde and heavyweight prospect Daniel Dubois. Also, on the card is Ohara Davies.
”I’m gutted for Martin and I’m gutted for the fans,” Saunders said about his fight with Murray being postponed. ”I felt my hand go during a session this week and sought medical advice immediately. Unfortunately I’ve been told that I can’t punch anything for four weeks so we’ve been left with no choice but to withdraw from the date.”
I hate to say it but the hand injury for Saunders does come at a convenient time, doesn’t it? I mean, if Canelo receives a suspension due to his positive drug test for clenbuterol, GGG is going to be looking for a fight with Saunders in May or June. That fight can be made straightaway now that Saunders won’t be fighting on April 14 against Murray. If that happens, you’ve got to feel sorry for the 35-year-old Murray, because this was like a last chance type of situation for him. Murray clearly hadn’t done anything to deserve this title shot against Saunders, which would have been his 5th title shot of his 11-year pro career. Murray came up short in all five world title fights, but just to be given that many chances at a title. I don’t think I’ve ever seen another fight get 5 title shots. Murray has been very lucky until now. If the Saunders-Murray fight does take place on June 23, then good on Murray, but I have doubts that it will. I have a feeling that Saunders will be GGG’s next opponent, and that the Murray fight will be canceled. That doesn’t mean that Saunders won’t look Murray’s way later on down the road. It just means that it might not happen until after he faces Golovkin. I don’t think Saunders beats Golovkin. I don’t care how good Saunders looked against a limited David Lemieux. Golovkin is a different story. He now knows how to deal with runners after his fight with Canelo last September. You can bet that if Golovkin faces Saunders, he’ll be cutting off the ring quickly on him and taking his legs away with stabbing body shots.
A lot of boxing fans would be interested in GGG vs. Saunders. It’s not the same fight obviously as Canelo vs. Golovkin, but it’s still a very good fight for the fans. Saunders is coming from a career best win over Lemieux last December, and his career has been given a big push. Before that fight, Saunders was looking like food for Golovkin. It was viewed as a future mismatch. Things have changed in the minds of a lot of boxing fans, who feel that Saunders has a real chance of beating Triple G. Personally, I don’t see it happening. Lemieux looked awful against Saunders, and that fight doesn’t prove that BJ can beat a much better fighter like Golovkin. The only thing Saunders proved is he can beat a guy that was already beaten by Golovkin, Joachim Alcine and Marco Antonio Rubio.
Saunders-Murray might take place on June 23, but I suspect that it won’t if Canelo receives a suspension. I think Saunders will jump at the chance to fight Golovkin at that point, and we’ll see a fight between those two happening in May instead of Canelo-GGG. That would be hilarious though if Golovkin takes the Cinco de Mayo date for a fight between him and Saunders.