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Billy Joe Saunders wants ‘big names’ after outclassing Martin Murray to retain title

Billy Joe Saunders will target the big names in the super middleweight division in 2021 after retaining his WBO title against Martin Murray.

The all-British showdown went the distance at an empty Wembley Arena (and live on DAZN), Saunders recording a landslide points triumph as he extended his unbeaten record to 30-0. 

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Murray was game throughout but was unable to pin down the elusive champion, who was denied what appeared to be a knockdown in the fourth round when the referee ruled a push.

Saunders’ only problem was a warning in the eighth for a low blow, producing the classier work throughout to get a unanimous decision – two judges scored it 120-109 in his favor, with the other card reading 118-110.

Still, the winner was not too impressed with his own performance even after a prolonged absence from the ring, in part due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I’ve been out over the year now, and this was like boxing in a cemetery,” he told Sky Sports. “I like to perform for the crowd, get up for it.

“I tried to set a rhythm, but he’s a cunning old fox. He just knew how to tie you up well. I guess I’m still getting luckier, every fight I get. 

“Let’s see if I can make a big fight, get up for it and put a shift in.”

Saunders was close to signing for a fight with Saul “Canelo” Alvarez earlier this year — promoter Eddie Hearn revealed the COVID-19 situation scuppered the deal at the last minute — but the Mexican remains a target for 2021, provided he gets past Callum Smith on Dec. 19.

“Everyone wants Canelo — I hope Smith beats him, I hope as a fellow Brit he does it. But, if not, that’s a fight I want in the new year,” the 31-year-old said.

“Let’s get the big names out there — obviously Canelo and Smith are fighting, and there’s [Demetrius] Andrade. I need a big fight to get up for it.”

Murray, meanwhile, admitted retirement was likely at 38 after a fifth failed attempt at winning a world title, albeit he did add: “Never say never.”

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