Billy Joe Saunders focused on Martin Murray bout but still has Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez on his mind

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Billy Joe Saunders defends his WBO 12st world title against Martin Murray at Wembley Arena - PA
Billy Joe Saunders defends his WBO 12st world title against Martin Murray at Wembley Arena - PA

Super middleweight world champion Billy Joe Saunders was set to face boxing's most watched star Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez in May this year in a blockbuster fight in the United States. But with Covid-19 putting paid to the encounter, the unbeaten Hertfordshire traveller instead defends his WBO 12st world title against Martin Murray tomorrow night at Wembley Arena.

"I wanted the Canelo fight, but sadly it hasn't worked out, and the only one really worthy of taking the fight who was available was Martin Murray," Saunders said.

"If you want to go on professional experience, he’s got more experience than me. He’s had more fights than me, he’s challenged for the a world title four times.

"I know Martin is coming to fight. I haven't been beaten on UK soil since I've been 12-years-old. I've got a good track record, and I'm going to keep it that way. He's going to bring a good game, but afterwards he can go back to St Helens, take his cash back and have a good Christmas and retire with the family, because that's what I'm planning on doing, retiring him."

While the Saunders-Canelo talks collapsed when the Covid pandemic struck, rival British world champion Callum Smith, No 1 in the division at present, signed a deal to fight the Mexican in Texas on Dec 19. Saunders, not overlooking Murray, has an eye on the outcome in the United States.

“I would love the winner of that fight. If Smith wins that fight obviously there’s a rematch clause but you’ve got to be in incredible shape, mind, health, to beat Canelo.

"I think Callum has got the tools in his box to win but you have to have the right preparation time. You’ve got to go in there with a proper camp and I just don’t think four, five weeks is enough of a camp for that sort of fight. Listen, I hope I’m wrong and I hope he gets the job done.”

For now, though, Saunders must focus fully on Murray. “There’s always a risk. There’s a risk I can go out there and get knocked out in one round, that’s why people watch boxing. There’s a risk that I can go out there and get the job done in one round. I’ve not overlooked him, I’ve just trained and prepared myself as best I can for this date. I know how tough Martin is, I know what he’s going to bring to the table and I know he won’t lie down so I know I can’t afford a poor performance.”

Murray, from St Helens with a record of 39 wins and five defeats, had superstitiously given no interviews until this week, but knows his fifth world title tilt could be his toughest at the age of 38.

"I know how hard a fight it's going to be. I really rate Billy Joe. He's going to be in top condition himself and we're going to lay it all on the line. It's going to be a good fight.

"No British fighter has ever challenged five times in the UK. I believe George Groves four, Frank Bruno four, and I truly believe that there's been a reason why I've picked myself up off the couch when I have felt low, and I've forced myself to get into the gym," explained Murray, physically one of the toughest fighters of the modern era.

"There's been a reason for it and it's for Friday - for me to achieve what no-one else has done in the UK."

I expect Murray to have good early rounds but for Saunders to take over in the contest and retain his crown by wide points decision, or by mid to late rounds stoppage.

Saunders vs Murray is live on Sky Sports on Friday, Dec 4