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GUEST ARTICLE: Saunders starts season with tough assignment against Murray, while Flanagan focuses on vacant world title challenge against Hooker

By Thomas Lyons

It has just been announced that BT Sports, Frank Warren and Boxnation will deliver another mouthwatering card on April 14 at the O2 Arena in London, which will feature the next defence of WBO world middleweight champion Billy Joe Saunders’s coveted belt. The Hatfield man will be taking on a known contender at world level in Martin Murray, who was last in action against Gabriel Rosado, coming through with the victory by majority decision, in a fight that could have gone either way. Nevertheless, Saunders was superb in his recent defence of the WBO belt in Canada, schooling David Lemieux over 12 rounds and winning comprehensively, to return back to UK soil still as champion. The co-main event to this fight will be for the vacant 140-pound title after former champion Terence Crawford decided to move up to 147 to challenge the world champions in that thriving weight class. The title will be contested between Manchester’s Terry Flanagan who is also moving up from lightweight, after successfully winning the WBO strap and defending it numerous times, to face American Maurice Hooker in a genuine world title fight for the fans.

Saunders has insisted that he wants to remain active in 2018 and has been delivered another world title, and world recognised defence against Murray (36-4-1), whos only been beaten by world class opposition, in George Groves, Artur Abraham, Gennady Golovkin and Sergio Martinez. It been frustrating for Murray to achieve his long-time ambition of winning a world title, but he’ll 100% back himself against Saunders, and for Saunders, he cannot overlook Murray by any stretch of the imagination. Saunders, since moving to the Ingle setup in Sheffield, has in essence been reinvigorated as a fighter and has chased Canelo and Golovkin for a super-fight. He’ll undoubtedly be looking to make another statement in this fight after his masterclass against Lemieux to cement his position as the number one in the division and get one step closer to doing so by getting the winner of the rematch between these two pound for pound stars scheduled for May.

Meanwhile, Flanagan is looking to capture another world title and become a two-weight world champion but the challenge ahead is not one to be underestimated. Rumours regarding this fight between Flanagan and Hooker have circled around since before the New Year came in but now it has been finalised, both parties can get down to business and produce performances that make this a 50-50 scrap on paper. Hooker (23-0 with 3 draws) has had good fights with the likes of Darleys Perez, who’s remembered for his fights with domestic rivals Anthony Crolla and Luke Campbell, and has come into this fight off the back of a good, unanimous points win over Courtney Jackson for the WBO NABO Super Lightweight title, that has pushed him into a position to challenge Flanagan for the vacant title.

For Flanagan, it has been mentioned that Jack Catterall who has moved up the rankings to No.3 with the WBO after capturing the British title against Tyrone Nurse last year, is interested in a fight if both come through their next fight, in the summer. With Flanagan winning another world title, this could set up a huge domestic dust-up later in the year between the two.

Warren has certainly started the year off well with a lot of competition from Matchroom with their delivery of stacked card also. This will follow on from the ‘Untouchables’ card on Feb 3rd and attract a huge audience, having two competitive world championship fights on offer. This coincides with the Frampton-Donaire card on April 21st also, so it appears to be a busy month for the platform certainly.

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