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Billy Joe Saunders: I would be disappointed if I blew Martin Murray away in one round

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Billy Joe Saunders explained he hoped to get a tough fight against Martin Murray despite the coronavirus pandemic, having last fought in November 2019.

The WBO super middleweight title holder had been due to face Saul "Canelo" Alvarez in May, a fight which did not materialise, and Saunders is just pleased to be back in action.

“I just want to get one in before the end of the year,” he said.

“There’s a lot of fighters struggling to get out. I’ve had a major disappointment. The Canelo fight fell through in May. On Friday we’ll rock and roll.”

Facing Murray has attracted criticism from some who wanted a bigger name for the fight, but Saunders refused to underestimate his opponent.

“If you want to go on professional experience, he’s had more fights than me,” he argued.

“He’s challenged for the world title four times. He should have been world champion in two of those fights. I’ve promised him a chance.

“There’s always a risk I could get in there and get knocked out in one round. There’s a risk to people’s lives. I haven’t overlooked Martin. I’ve trained myself the best I can for the date.

“I know he doesn’t lay down, I can’t afford that kind of performance.”

Looking beyond Friday’s fight, the 31-year-old boxer admitted he would be keen to take on the winner of Canelo vs. Callum Smith.

“I’ll leave that to MTK and Eddie Hearn but I would love the winner of that,” he said.

He will be without coach Ben Davison for this fight, and has instead returned to Jimmy Tibbs, his former coach from 2008-2017, though the switch does not appear to be permanent.

Saunders explained that the impact of the coronavirus had forced the change, saying, “Lockdown came, I was having no luck. Ben Davison, it was hard for him to travel and it wasn’t fair for me to drag him over the world.

“I don’t want to go to someone fresh and new so I went back to Tibbs.”

Having seen his hopes of a fight with Canelo escape him for the foreseeable future, Saunders explained why he was not prepared to be rushed into a match-up with the Mexican.

“I said if the fight was in December I would be ready, but my fight only got announced five weeks ago. They [Canelo’s camp] had all that time and didn’t get in touch with me, so they clearly don’t want the fight.

“You have to win convincingly and I will be on it until May. If it’s not May, I will be pushing MTK for a big fight, it has to be a unification fight, whatever it is.”

Of his opponent, Saunders believes that 38-year-old Murray will have felt frustration that the pair had failed to meet on two previous occasions, when a calf injury to Saunders put paid to both fights. He refused to apologise for his decision.

“Martin has his own mind,” he said.

“He’s prepared how he wants to prepare, whether he wants to train on emotion, grit or experience. He has to find a way to beat me and that will be difficult for any fighters on the planet.

“I can sense frustration from Martin’s camp. We had two fights that fell through. If I get injured now, I can’t put my title on the line. It means everything to me.”

After over a year without a fight, Saunders wants to make sure he gets plenty of time in the ring, and Martin has held his own with some of the best fighters in the division, despite failing to win a world title so far.

“I would be disappointed if I went in there and blew him away in one round,” he said.

“I need rounds for next year. I need to get in there, in the real thing, to go into the big fights next year.

“To get over that bridge I need to beat Martin Murray. He’s not one of those fighters you can ever completely right off.”

The Saunders-Murray fight is Friday, on Sky Sports in the U.K. and on DAZN in many other parts of the world, including the U.S. Click here to learn more about DAZN in your region.

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