Billy Joe Saunders advances to 30-0 (14) after a one sided decision victory in his second defense of the WBO 168 lb. title. He was declared the winner by a margin of 120-109 twice and 118-110 in a dominant performance from the opening bell. Martin Murray falls to 39-6-1 and with this defeat has now come up short in his fifth attempt at a world championship title. Though he has not retired in the wake of this defeat, it is likely we have seen the last of Murray especially at the championship level. Saunders when interviewed by DAZN said that he needed this fight to go rounds to shake off the rust from a twelve month layoff . In the back of everyone’s minds however was this contest being an audition for the Alvarez sweepstakes. With Canelo coming back to DAZN to face Callum Smith it appears DAZN is still courting the pound for pound star. Saunders was already set to face Alvarez earlier this year prior to all the COVID-19 shutdowns. Now that Alvarez has become a free agent he has the ability to go wherever he wants to face whoever can bring in the cash. When Canelo was in his DAZN contract he had a good stable of opposition from Saunders, Andrade and Golovkin but now he can also face Plant, Benavidez and Charlo. Saunders was fighting to put his name to the front of that list of strong opposition.
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Did he earn the Alvarez fight?: Based on my scorecard and the official scores it was a thoroughly dominant victory on the cards. Saunders was never in any danger in the fight and maintained complete control. I was impressed with the way he fought on the front foot and took the fight to Murray. He put his punches together well when he had Murray pinned on the ropes. I was very impressed with the way he set up the right uppercut to get underneath Murray’s guard. Was it the most exciting fight? No not exactly and I think that has always been my gripe with Saunders. Outside of his impressive victory against David Lemieux he always seems to either fight down to the level of his opponents or do just enough to shade each round and coast when he feels the decision is secured. By the eighth or ninth round the British commentators were calling for the fight to be stopped to protect Murray and were trying to gauge the body language of Jaime Moore in the corner. If Saunders went up another gear in his attacks he likely would have gotten the job done inside the thirty-six minutes and that would have been a very impressive statement. Based on his performance I don’t think he earned the fight however given his popularity in the UK and the UK market it is likely he did enough to secure the fight. Though his brash talk that does not meet his in the ring persona it is enough to sell the fight in the UK where it will likely be PPV.
What Scenario do I prefer?: Ideally I would like to see Saunders and Andrade face each other given their unfinished business from 2019. The two were set to face off when a prefight drug test scuttled the contest when Saunders popped for a performance enhancing drug that he protested. Both men are WBO titlists, southpaws, undefeated, slick counterpunchers, and they have bad blood. Andrade has since called out Saunders following the victory Given both have a history of not being the most exciting in the ring and failing to secure big fights I think they should trim the fat of contenders and face one another to provide clarity for the top level fights. If Canelo is to defeat Smith I would prefer a fight with Benavidez next.
Saunders’s chances vs Canelo?: Saunders for the past few years has been seen as a boogieman for Alvarez given his footwork, speed and punch accuracy. I think a few years ago when Saunders defeated Lemieux by a landslide decision he was a serious threat to Alvarez and a solid contender for Golovkin. Based on his last few performances I do not like his chances against Alvarez. While he has good ring craft I think Alvarez is quick enough to slip the jabs and crosses from Saunders and wade his way inside with hard counterpunches. Saunders was a lot heavier on his feet in this fight and if the trend were to continue he would be an easy target for Alvarez to track down and score on. I would pick Alvarez by comfortable decision at this moment. If Saunders could get on the outside and make it a mobile and defensive fight he can make it interesting in a dull slow paced affair. I’m not sure if Saunders still has the ability to do that.