By Charles Brun: Billy Saunders not only needs to win tonight in the title defense of his WBO super-middleweight strap against Martin Murray but also smash him to get the attention of Canelo Alvarez.
(Photo credit: Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing)
The type of victory Saunders, 31, needs tonight is the kind that we saw against David Lemieux in 2017. That was the last time that Saunders has looked good in the ring, and it’s unclear whether he can still perform at that level.
Saunders (29-0, 14 KOs) needs to break from his usual spoiling style of fighting, show some aggression for a change and look to dominate the 38-year-old Murray, who is saddling up to the last chance saloon.
Billy Joe and Murray are fighting tonight on DAZN and Sky at the Wembley Arena in London, England.
Saunders wants Canelo
Murray (39-5-1, 17 KOs) comes into the fight tonight with a two-fight winning streak since his loss to Hassan N’Dam, and it’s obvious that he needs to roll back the years to have any chance of beating Billy Joe.
The former four-time world title challenger Murray has been picked by Billy Joe and Matchroom Boxing as his opponent to give him a showcase opportunity.
Unlike some of the contenders in the WBO’s rankings, Murray isn’t a threat to beating Billy Joe. In other words, the slow-moving Murray is made to order for Saunders, and he’s someone that he can potentially look good against.
After two consecutive mediocre efforts from Saunders at 168, he needs to look good tonight against Murray for him to attract interest from Canelo Alvarez, who he hopes will give him a fight in 2021.
“I’m in this to unify the divisions and pick out the best at the weight,, but I haven’t had the chance to do that,” Billy Joe said to Sky Sports. “I feel like I am avoided.
“I have to deal with Murray accordingly and professionally,” Saunders said. “The only step there is left is Canelo or to unify with anybody with a title.”
The question is, will beating a bottom dweller fighter like Murray be a good enough win for Saunders to impress Canelo Alvarez? I mean, if Saunders wants to wow Canelo, he’s going about it the wrong way.
Fighting Murray clarifies that Saunders lacks the self-confidence to face one of the talented 168-pound contenders like Edger Berlanga or David Benavidez.
Those are the types of fighters that Saunders should be facing for him to impress Canelo and make him want to give him a fight. By facing Murray, Saunders has practically put himself in a no-win situation.
Billy Joe won’t receive credit
If Saunders defeats the old-timer Murray and looks good, boxing fans will say it was because the guy is ancient and completely over-the-hill. If Billy Joe struggles to beat Murray, which is likely, he’ll ruin any chance he has of getting a fight against Alvarez.
It’s already a terrible fight for Canelo if he were to choose Saunders because he’s an unknown with the U.S casual boxing fans, and the people that know him in the States see him as a spoiler type of fighter.
Realistically, Saunders has no chance of unifying the 168-lb division if we’re to go on how he performed in his last two fights against Marcelo Esteban Coceres and Shefat Coceres.
Saunders doesn’t pack enough power at 168 to compete with talents like Canelo, Callum Smith, David Benavidez, or Caleb Plant. Those fighters would likely have a field day against the 31-year-old Billy Joe, and it wouldn’t be pretty.
It’s crucial that Saunders get the Canelo fight in 2021, because if he doesn’t, he’ll need to face Callum or Demetrius Andrade. Those guys will likely beat Saunders and ruin his dreams of facing Canelo and Gennadiy Golovkin.
Hearn: Saunders must dominate
Saunders’ promoter Eddie Hearn says he needs to shine tonight against Murray for him to have a shot against the big names at 168.
Hearn goes one step further, though, in saying that Saunders needs to look good for the broadcaster to continue to want to show his fights.
In this day and age where fighters need to look good if they want to continue to get air time, Saunders needs to put in an A+ performance against Murray.
Another dreadful effort from Saunders like we’ve seen from him in his last contests could badly hurt his career.
“The pressure on Billy Joe Saunders is that he has to put in a really dominant performance. That’s what people are wanting,” said Hearn.
“The pressure on Billy Joe is not just to win, but put in a statement.”
You have to wish Saunders a lot of luck with his endeavor to make a statement by beating Murray because it doesn’t seem possible.
There are a right way and a wrong way to try and make a statement. The right way would have been for Saunders to pick Benavidez or Berlanga as his opponent instead of Murray. If Saunders could beat either of those guys, he would have Canelo eagerly wanting to fight him.
The wrong way obviously to try and make a statement is a method that Saunders has used by picking a bottom-feeder in Murray with the hope of taking advantage of his advanced age.