Billy Joe -Saunders 29(14)-0–0 vs Martin Murray 39(17)-5-1
12 x 3 Mins for WBO World Super-Middleweight Championship
After over a year out of the ring, the enigmatic Billy-Joe Saunders returns with a voluntary defence of his WBO world title against compatriot, Martin Murray.
Saunders and Murray were twice scheduled to fight for the WBO middleweight title back in 2018. Both contests were cancelled due to injuries sustained by Saunders. The withdrawals naturally aggravated Murray, who questioned if Saunders was truly injured, or whether his motivation for retraction was to rustle up an undisputed contest with then pound-for-pound number one, Gennady Golovkin.
Fast forward almost three years to the current day, and the two men’s paths have reconverged due to the impact Covid has had on the sport.
Saunders, who was due to fight Canelo in May before the pandemic struck, was in desperate need for a dance partner. Many were despondent when Martin Murray was announced as the fellow to take that mantel but in reality, the fight does make sense.
With budgets reduced and travel affected, Saunders ideallydesired a UK based opponent for Friday’s fight. The realistic options were John Ryder, Zach Parker, Rocky Fielding and Martin Murray.
Ryder’s team were open to making the fight but received no offer. Ryder previously gave Saunders his hardest fight in their first encounter in 2013. Following the Islington man’s performance against Callum Smith, it would never be the simplest fight for Saunders to return to, especially after a year out of the ring. Parker, the WBO number 2, will likely be given mandatory status if he prevails from his bout on theundercard. Parker is a good tidy fighter but isn’t a household name amongst the more casual fans, making it a much harder sell. Rocky Fielding hasn’t fought for other a year, and his previous fight was a year before that. There is also the issue he isn’t ranked by the WBO.
With their history, Murray vs Saunders is a much more sellable fight. Furthermore, Martin Murray has been a stalwart fixture in British boxing for many years. The St. Helens man is a four-time world challenger who should definitely have been a world champion once, probably twice and potentially,thrice, if it were not for dodgy judging.
His five losses and one draw have all come against distinguished combatants, who have at one time or another held the status of world champion. Sergio Martinez, Felix Sturm, Gennady Golovkin, Arthur Abraham, George Groves and Hassan N'Dam are a striking collection of names to have on your resume.
Whatever you say, Martin Murray has been there and done it. He’s an experienced veteran that has faced each style conceivable, with his first world title attempt coming way back in 2011. The fact that Murray has never formally occupied the status of world champion, is frankly criminal.
However, time waits for no man. Sadly, I believe Murray will go down with the likes of Herol Graham, Alan Rudkin, Michael Watson and Jamie Moore, as one of the greatest British fighters never to win a world title.
Murray’s best days are behind him. Not even Murray himself would dispute that. In my eyes, his last remarkable performance came against Arthur Abraham almost five years ago. Since then, Murray hasn’t set the world alight, and his only significant win in recent years came over Gabe Rosado in 2017.
Although he has had a few routine wins, Murray hasn’t looked like the tenacious version of yesteryear. I believe the Martin Murray who fought Arthur Abraham would stand a chance against Billy-Joe, but now, I just can’t see it.
While he is not everyone’s cup of tea, Billy-Joe is an intensely clever back-foot fighter. He makes his opponent work and think for every second of each round, often exhausting them. By the time many fighters have managed to get Saunders against the ropes, he has already countered them a few times and shuffled away. He is not the most exciting, but at his best he is very effective, as he showed with his shut-out victory over David Lemieux.
There are only two ways to beat Billy-Joe Saunders. One is to knock him out. This will prove a challenge for Murray, who has never been the biggest puncher and instead grinds down his prey. Saunders is yet to be hurt as a professional either, making a stoppage even more inconceivable.
The other is to hope he has not prepared diligently. On too many occasions, we have witnessed Billy-Joe suffer from a deficiency of motivation and a lack of discipline. As per his fight against Eubank Jr, the shocker in Scotland against Artur Akavov and Marcelo Esteban Coceres last time out.
Murray will hope Saunders overlooks him, and that he will be able to take advantage of any lax behaviour from Saunders. However, I doubt that will be the case, especially with Mark Tibbs back in his corner, and Saunders in desperate need of a big performance.
Saunders has missed out on the big fights for years, largely due to his own errors. At the age of 31, he doesn't have many years left in the sport. He is coming into his prime and will want to test himself against the best at 160lbs or 168.
Murray is a true fighting man. The only guy to have stopped him is the notoriously hard-hitting Golovkin. He will not go out without a fight, and I expect him to really try and put it on Saunders early to try and make the most of this last hurrah. I expect Saunders to then pull away and leave Murray frustrated. At the age of 38, I just don’t believe Murray will be quick enough to pin Saunders down.
If I am wrong, I will not be disappointed. If anyone is deserving of a rub of the green, it’s Martin Murray. However, realistically, I just can’t make a case for it.
Prediction: Saunders points.
James Tennyson 27(23)-3-0 vs Josh O'Reilly 16(6)-0-0
12 x 3 Mins for Lightweight WBA Eliminator
The furious-fisted Tennyson has an opportunity to stake aclaim for a second tilt at a world title with a victory over Canadian Josh O’Reilly.
Friday's contest is O'Reilly's first-ever fight out of Canada. He will endeavour to rise to the occasion and make a name for himself with a big victory.
Hailing from Ontario, O’Reilly was a runner up in the 2012 Elite Amateur Canadian championships. The 29-year-old holds the North American Boxing Association Lightweight title, which grants him a top 10 ranking with the WBA.
While Tennyson and O’Reilly look strikingly similar, their boxing styles are rather different.
From the footage available on YouTube, O’Reilly appears to be a decent counterpuncher. In the press, O’Reilly affirmed that he believes “Tennyson gets hit too often”. This comment along with the footage available suggests he will likely try and box on the backfoot and time his opponent as he comes in.
Gavin Gwynne attempted similar tactics in Tennyson’s last contest. While the Welshman gave a decent account of himself, Tennyson’s all-action aggressive bravura earned him an emphatic stoppage win over Gwynne.
While ‘The Assassin’ Tennyson is unquestionably a destructive man, he is also very experienced and a well-schooled boxer for the age of 27. A former British, Irish, Commonwealth and European champion, he holds wins over the likes of Martin Ward, Ryan Doyle, Declan Geraghty, Atif Shafiq and Craig Evans. Additionally, Tennyson has the added benefit of previously fighting at world level when he challenged former IBF 130lbs champ, Tevin Farmer. While Tennyson did lose that night, the experience will have been invaluable and will come into play Friday night.
O’Reilly has never competed with anyone close to the level of Tennyson. Plus, the Canadian hasn’t fought for way over a year and is yet to fight out of Canada. He will either rise to the occasion and swim, or sink to the oppressive savagery of Tennyson.
I believe the Canadian will sink.
The Belfast man Tennyson is a wrecking ball, and his 23 stoppages are a testament to the incredible power he commands. He’ll walk O’Reilly down all night, and provinghe doesn’t tire in the later rounds, I fancy him to dismantle O’Reilly, and put himself in pole position for a tilt at a world title in 2021.
Prediction: Stoppage Tennyson late.
Zach Parker 19(13)-0-0 vs Cesar Nunez 17(9)-2-1
10 x 3 mins for World Boxing Organisation International Super-Middleweight Title
Derbyshire man Parker is currently sitting pretty at number 2 in the WBO super-middleweight rankings, behind pound-for-pound superstar, Canelo Alvarez.
Parker may well find himself afforded mandatory status, providing he can get past Spaniard Cesar Nunez on Friday night.
The 35-year-old Nunez hails from Pamplona and was a late-comer to the pro ranks, turning over at the age of 30. So far, Nunez has primarily fought out of his native Spain. The notable names on his record are losses to former WBA regular champ, Vincent Feigenbutz who stopped him in the 8th, and 15-0-0 Top Rank prodigy, Edgar Berlanga, who knocked out Nunez on the Commey vs Lopez card last year.
Parker is relatively unknown amongst the casual fans. The Sauerland promoted man hails from Swadlincote, and last fought on the Quigg vs Carroll card before lockdown. On that occasion, he stopped Australian Rohan Murdock in eleven rounds.
A former British champion at 168lbs, Parker is probably best known for his controversial SD win over Daryll Williams two years ago. Parker will hope to use this platform on Friday to exhibit his talents to a larger demographic.
At just 26, Parker has a lot of promise. Although he has a lofty ranking within the WBO, one certainly wouldn’t say he is ready for the likes of Smith, Ryder or Saunders. He requires exposure, and some more learning fights before he advances to that next level.
I believe that’s what Nunez is. A learning fight. A gatekeeper, for those looking to progress to fringe world level. An impressive performance over Nunez will stand Parker in good stead to progressing. I suspect he will look to outbox Nunez, utilising his youthful legs to come in and out of range. If he can do this, I imagine he will be able to stop his Spanish adversary late on.
Prediction: Parker late stoppage.
Shannon Courtenay 5(2)-1-0 vs Dorota Norek 6-1-0
8 x 2 mins Super-Bantamweight Contest
Following her loss at the hands of Rachel Ball last time out, Courtenay returns with a decent test in the form of Norek. Ball has since gone on to win the WBC 'Interim' title. There was not much between Ball and Courtenay in their contest, with Ball’s knockdown of the ‘Baby-Faced Assassin’ proving pivotal on the referee’s card.
While Ball could be in line for a shot at the full world title, Courtenay will hope to force a rematch with the Midlander, providing she triumphs over Norek.
On paper, Norek could provide a stern test for Courtenay. The Pole has only lost once, a close points decision to home fighter Fatima Dudieva in her native Russia. Norek has also competed at both amateur and pro levels in MMA, winning her only pro fight.
I expect her to be tough, come forward and aggressive, just like Courtenay, who is yet to participate in a boring fight. Their styles should gel into a fan-friendly tear-up.
Despite her limited experience, Courtenay managed to win the Haringey Box Cup as an amateur. The Watford based brawler could easily have taken the decision over Ball on another night and should take comfort in the impressive performance Ball posted last time out against Jorgelina Guanini.
Courtenay’s previous performance exhibited the improvements she has made whilst training in Adam Booth’s gym alongside fighters like Mick Conlan and Josh Kelly.
I have faith that Courtenay will have learnt from her loss and will be eager to set the record straight with Ball. To get that opportunity, Courtenay will know she cannot afford a slip up against Norek and should have enough in her arsenal to rise to the challenge. Having said that, I anticipate Norek making Courtenay work intensely for every second of the fight.
Prediction: Courtenay points.
Lerrone Richards 13(3)-0-0 vs Timo Laine
8 x 3 Mins Super-Middleweight Contest
Fresh from signing with Eddie Hearn and Matchroom, former British champion Lerrone Richards is back in action when he fights Finnish fighter, Timo Laine.
‘Sniper the Boss’ Richards was mandated to defend his 168lbs British championship against Willy Hutchinson, but vacated in pursuit of other pastures. Like most, Richards has suffered from inactivity induced by the pandemic.
Now trained by Dave Coldwell, Richards has a routine runout over Laine. Providing he navigates his way past Laine, as he should, a sensible fight to make would be Richards vs Parker for the WBO mandatory if Parker also wins his fight.
Laine was a very last-minute addition to the card. He’s been in with some decent opposition like Tommy Langford and FedorChudinov, but in reality, given the late nature at which this fight was made, I don’t anticipate him posing much of a threat to Richards.
Richards isn’t the biggest puncher in the division, and I believe he will benefit from the rounds the longer the fight goes. Therefore, I expect him to take home a points victory.
Prediction: Richards points.
Donte Dixon 4(3)-0-0 vs Angelo Dragone 5(0)- 1-0
6 x 3 Mins Featherweight Contest
Sheffield based Dixon makes the third appearance on Sky of his fledgeling career when he faces off against Welshman, Angelo Dragone.
Dixon is well thought of, and certainly caught the eye of his manager alongside MTK, Billy-Joe Saunders. The 20-year-old is still a relative novice but looks to be a huge puncher at 126lbs.
A milkman in his day job, the ‘Italian Stallion’ Dragone is a respectable step up in class for Dixon. Dragone has experience with 24 amateur bouts under his belt. He is coming to win, and will surely try his utmost to capitalise on this golden opportunity to impress in front of Sky cameras.
However, if Dixon can live up to the lofty opinion Saunders has of him, he will need to do the business on Dragone. It will be interesting to see how Dixon rises to the occasion, but I feel he should have enough to pull off an impressive victory.
Prediction: Dixon stoppage.
Lewis Edmondson 3(0)-0-0 vs John Telford 11(2)-2-1
Edmondson, like Dixon, is managed by Billy-Joe Saunders and MTK. He is a confident young man, who certainly talks a good game. He has a step up in class when he takes on John Telford.
The contest presents a quick turnaround for Edmondson, who only fought three weeks ago, taking a points victory over Scott Williams.
Edmondson was a fantastic amateur and narrowly missed out on the Rio 2016 Olympics. Like his mentor Saunders, he trains alongside Mark Tibbs. He will hope to make a massive statement of intent with a dismantling of Mancunian Telford.
Telford, a challenger for the Central Area middleweight title, certainly has experience as a pro. A win over Edmondson would do wonders for his career, so I expect him to put it on Edmondson.
However, the Southampton man Edmondson has fought the best as an amateur. I anticipate him to emulate his mentor Saunders, and box to a good win on the back foot.
Prediction: Edmondson points.
By Aaron Ludford