Saunders pulls out of Murray fight due to injury – again

By Boxing News - 06/03/2018 - Comments

Image: Saunders pulls out of Murray fight due to injury - again

By Scott Gilfoid: WBO middleweight champion Billy Joe Saunders (26-0, 12 KOs) has pulled out of his June 23 title defense against #6 WBO Martin Murray (36-4-1, 17 KOs) and it remains to be seen whether he’ll reschedule. Saunders, 28, reportedly has a hamstring injury that he suffered during training camp.

Saunders was previously scheduled to defend against the 35-year-old Murray in a ‘stay busy’ fight on April 14, but he suffered a hand injury during training and needed the fight to be postponed until June 23. The Saunders-Murray fight was scheduled to take place at the O2 Arena in London, England. Now it’s unclear whether Saunders will elect to reschedule a third time. This is the second cancellation for Saunders for his fight with Murray. Is Saunders falling apart physically at 28 or what?

Before Saunders made his news announcement about his injury, he said this on his Twitter site about wanting to fight IBF/IBO/WBA/WBC middleweight champion Gennady ‘GGG’ Golovkin:

”@GGGBoxing, he knows them legs are getting old. I’ll take the same as I agreed before or winner takes all .”

Saunders pulling out of the Murray fight leaves him free to face Golovkin or Saul Canelo Alvarez in September. That’s assuming that Saunders doesn’t reschedule the Murray fight, which I highly doubt he will. There’s too much money for Saunders to make fighting Golovkin or Canelo Alvarez. Eric Gomez and Oscar De La Hoya of Golden Boy Promotions have mentioned Saunders’ name as one of the potential options for Canelo to fight on September 15, but it’s very likely that they’re not going to use him. They have Gary ‘Spike’ O’Sullivan that they can schedule as the replacement for GGG to face Canelo in September, and that’s a safe fight for their Mexican star. Saunders could make a mess of things if he fights Canelo and beats him or makes him look really bad like Erislandy Lara and Floyd Mayweather Jr. both did.

It this sure does sound like Saunders is eying a fight against Golovkin (38-0-1, 34 KOs), doesn’t it? Why would Saunders make this comment on social media before his injury news was announced? It makes me think that he’s not going to reschedule the Martin Murray fight like he did after he was injured the first time in training for their canceled April 14 fight. It looks REALLY bad that Saunders talked earlier today about being willing to take the same offer as before to fight Golovkin. Saunders speaking about the GGG fight gives some boxing fans the impression that he pulled out of the fight with Murray so he can take the unification match instead. As far as Saunders fighting Golovkin in a “winner takes all” fight, that obviously isn’t going to happen. Neither fighter is going to agree to a ‘winner takes all’ match, least of all Saunders, who would likely be a HUGE underdog fighting Golovkin.

Golovkin’s trainer Tom Loeffler said last week that if the rematch with Saul Canelo Alvarez doesn’t get made for September that GGG would likely be facing his IBF mandatory challenger Sergiy Derevyanchenko (12-0, 10 KOs) next and NOT the 28-year-old Saunders. Loeffler assumed that Saunders would be busy with his June 23rd title defense against Murray, so he wasn’t an option for him. Now that Saunders has pulled out of the fight with Murray, it leaves open the possibility that we could see Golovkin face him for his WBO 160lb title in the next two or three months. If the Golovkin-Saunders fight does take place, it’s likely going to take place by September at the very latest, as GGG wants to fight two more times in 2018. The only way Golovkin can do that is to fight in August or September and then December. So, if Saunders really is injured, he’s going to need to heal quickly to be ready to fight Golovkin in August or September.

Saunders being the WBO middleweight champion will make it possible for Golovkin to sidestep his IBF mandatory challenger Derevyanchenko, who the International Boxing Federation has mandated that he fight by August 3, Since the unification fights take precedence over mandatory defenses, Golovkin could potentially maneuver around the 32-year-old Derevyanchenko to face Saunders instead in his next fight. That fight would solve a lot of problems for Golovkin, because if he faces Canelo in September, he could be stripped of his IBF title for failing to defend against Derevyanchenko. Moreover, it doesn’t appear that Canelo’s promoters are going to give Golovkin the 50-50 purse split that he’s asking for to take the fight against Alvarez.

Here’s Saunders’ announcement about his injury today:

”Apologize for any inconvenience due to injury I had to withdraw from the 23rd. You have your ups in boxing but last 3 months been downs sorry to Martin and the fans be Back soon.”

Murray is just hanging in the wind now, not knowing what’s going to happen to him. You’ve got to feel sorry for him, as he’s been waiting for his title shot for months now and Saunders just keeps getting injured. You can’t rule out this being a legitimate injury for Saunders, considering that he’s had problems since he first won the WBO belt in 2015.

Here are Saunders’ injury problems during his three years as the WBO 160lb champion:

• Hand injury in early 2016, wiping out April 30 title defense against Max Bursak at Copper Box. Saunders said this about the injury: “I’m bitterly disappointed. This is boxing and these things happen.” Saunders’ fight against Bursak wasn’t rescheduled. Instead, Saunders was matched against little known fringe contender Artur Akavov. Saunders’ defense against Akavov came exactly one year after he captured the WBO title. That’s a long time for a champion to take before making his first title defense.

• Muscle injury for Saunders during training for Artur Akavov defense. The fight was supposed to take place on October 22, 2016. Due to Saunders’ muscle injury, the fight with Akavov was postponed until November 26. The fight wound up being postponed until December 3 because of Akavov having problems getting into the UK

• Hand injury for Saunders, causing his scheduled April 14 title defense against Martin Murray to be postponed until June 23

• Hamstring injury for Saunders while training for June 23rd defense against Martin Murray. As of now, the Saunders-Murray fight hasn’t been rescheduled and it’s very much up in the air at this point

As you can see, Saunders has been injured four times during his three years as the champion, which has impacted his scheduled title defenses. Injuries for fighters are obviously a part of boxing, but when you have this many problems that cause fights to be postponed and/or canceled altogether, it’s troubling. Is Saunders brittle?

”Due to an injury suffered by Billy Joe Saunders, unfortunately he has had to withdraw from his June 23rd fight with Martin Murray at the O2 Arena,” Saunders’ promoter Frank Warren said on his Twitter account. ”A full statement on the show will be made tomorrow. We apologize for any inconvenience.”

As far as the June 23rd card goes, it’s unclear which fighter moves into the main event to replace the Saunders vs. Murray fight. This is assuming that the card doesn’t get canceled altogether. Will Warren slide the Anthony Yarde vs. TBA fight into the main event? The unbeaten light heavyweight contender Yarde (15-0, 14 KOs) still doesn’t have an opponent scheduled. Finding someone that is a big enough name to step in and face Yarde on three weeks’ notice won’t be easy. If Yarde’s opponent is a weak one, which is likely, the boxing fans aren’t going to be too excited at coming to see this card. If Yarde can fight someone good, that’s a different story. Unfortunately, there aren’t a good of good fighters that are available to fight right now on 3 weeks’ notice, and I don’t think it would be a good idea for Yarde to face anyone with talent. He’s looked very flawed and beatable in his recent fights. I can’t picture Yarde beating any halfway defense top 10 contender.

Here’s what Martin Murray said on Twitter in response to Saunders’ new injury:

”There’s nothing I can do. I’m obviously gutted. My management team is working on alternatives so hopefully I’ll have a new date in the next couple of weeks. Thanks to everyone for their continued support.”

Saunders insisted after his first injury postponement that he wouldn’t walk away from the Murray fight, as he didn’t want to do that to hi. But if Saunders walks away this time, it’s going to look so bad. Obviously, if Saunders has a chance to fight Golovkin in a unification fight in August or September, it would be hard to turn down the huge money he would make in that fight, but he had a scheduled fight against Murray that he should take care of first. Walking away from the Murray fight will make Saunders look really bad. With Saunders’ injury problems, Golovkin would be taking a major risk in scheduling a fight against him, because if he keeps breaking down in training camp, then what‘s Triple G going to do? Golovkin already had to sit outside of the ring for 8 months after his fight with Saul Canelo Alvarez last September, waiting for a rematch that never came on May 5. Golden Boy wanted Golovkin to wait until May 5 for the rematch with Canelo, which is why GGG didn’t fight last December. Canelo then tests positive twice for clenbuterol and waits until three weeks before the May 5 rematch to pull out. If Golovkin schedules a fight against Saunders, he could be sitting and waiting for a long time for a fight if he keeps getting hurt during training camp. It might be too much of a risk for Golovkin to take the fight with Saunders, because he already missed out on a December fight last year waiting for the Canelo rematch. Golovkin doesn’t need to lose the entire second half of 2018 waiting on an injured Saunders. I’m just saying.