The Friday Faceup

WBO world champ Billy Joe Saunders

Some quality action is in store this weekend in both the UK and USA.

First up, is the Matchroom promotion behind closed doors at the SSE Wembley Arena tonight (Friday) featuring Britain’s WBO world super-middleweight (12 stone/168lbs) champion Billy Joe Saunders against domestic rival Martin Murray from St Helens, NW England.

The 31 year old Saunders (29-0, 14 KO’s) has been inactive since last November and been marking time during the COVID pandemic trying to secure a marquee bout with Mexican sensation Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez.

That chance ultimately went to the more widely recognised divisional lead Callum Smith and Saunders will have to defend successfully to keep on track for the massive fights. The Hatfield, Hertfordshire man’s record is excellent and his stock still high but inactivity has been the Achilles heel of his pro career so far.

Murray (39-5-1, 17 KO’s) gets his fifth ‘world’ title opportunity which is something of a modern record. The 38 year old has fallen short against top fighters in Felix Sturm, Sergio Martinez, Gennadiy Golovkin  and Arthur Abraham. This will surely be his last chance but he will give it his all, as he always comes to fight. Murray narrowly lost some of those title shots and will feel rightly aggrieved if he fails to secure a world strap from an excellent career.

The smart money though is on Saunders to score a clear points victory out of his very effective southpaw stance.

The card will be televised in the UK live on Sky Sports Main Event & Arena from 19:00 GMT and on DAZN in the US.

Saturday (5th) sees Queensberry Promotions’ turn at the historic Church House, London (again behind closed doors) with the eagerly anticipated contest between Anthony Yarde and Lyndon Arthur for the Commonwealth light-heavyweight (12st 7lb/175lbs) title.

The full boxing card will mark Hall of Fame promoter Frank Warren’s 40th anniversary as a professional promoter and is headlined by a quality match between two fighters who both at aged twenty nine have major title aspirations.

Londoner Yarde (20-1-0, 19 KO’s) narrowly lost to Sergey Kovalev in August of last year in the Russian’s backyard in a WBO world title challenge. A significant step up in level at the time. Despite a horrific personal year as a result of the pandemic ‘The Beast’ Yarde has managed to rack up a couple of KO victories either side of the lockdown.

‘King’ Arthur (17-0, 12 KO’s) from Manchester is entering his peak and an extremely confident and ‘live’ challenger. At 6′ 2″ he will pose a big target for the slightly shorter but more powerful looking Yarde. Their recent common opponent is Dec Spelman whom Arthur decisioned and Yarde managed to stop. This may provide a form guide but it promises to be an excellent ‘pick-ems’ fight.

The card will also feature two up and coming prospects from Maidstone, Kent, SE England. Sam Noakes at lightweight and Dennis ‘The Menace’ McCann at bantamweight. Both are early in their stage of development but remain undefeated and look to have promising futures ahead.

All fights will be televised in the UK on BT Sport 1 from 19:30 GMT with the estimated ring walk for the main event at 22:00.

Last but not least, is the long awaited return of Errol Spence Jr against Danny Garcia for ‘The Truth’ Spence’s IBF and WBC world welterweight (10st 7lbs/147lbs) titles. Aside from the obvious quality of the protagonists the intrigue in this match is a first sign of Spence’s ability (or not) to recover professionally from his horrendous car accident last year.

Spence (26-0, 21 KO’s) is the more quality operator of the two being ranked in The Ring magazine’s pound-for-pound listings and holding two versions of the world title. Garcia (36-2, 21 KO’s) is a former double-weight world champion and at 32 years old known in the UK for his victory over Amir Khan.

This again should be an excellent contest and a real ‘gut check’ for the 30 year old Spence to see how much the layoff has affected him and whether he can fulfill the outstanding potential he’s shown to date. He holds excellent victories over Kell Brook, Mikey Garcia and Shawn Porter and remains on the verge of superstardom. Much as to whether he is ready for the ultimate test against Terence Crawford at welterweight will come from a victory and the manner of it in this fight. It promises to be a quality contest either way.

The card will be shown live in the UK on the subscription channel Premier Sports 1 from 02:00 GMT Sunday morning and on Fox PPV in the US.

Enjoy your fight weekend.

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