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.
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.”