Middleweight world titleholder Billy Joe Saunders and former lightweight world titlist Terry Flanagan, two of England's top fighters, will have world title bouts on the same card on April 14, promoter Frank Warren announced Friday.
Saunders will make the fourth defense of his 160-pound belt against countryman Martin Murray and Flanagan, who vacated his lightweight belt in October in order to move up in weight, will face Maurice Hooker for one of the junior welterweight belts vacated by Terence Crawford last fall.
Warren said he would announce the venue for the bout and other details on Thursday.
Saunders (26-0, 12 KOs), a 28-year-old southpaw, is coming off the finest performance of his career on Dec. 16, when he fought outside of the United Kingdom for the first time. He traveled to Laval, Canada, right outside of former middleweight titlist David Lemieux's hometown of Montreal, and rolled past him in a dominant decision victory.
Now he will face 35-year-old battle-tested contender Murray (36-4-1, 17 KO), who has won three fights in a row since suffering a lopsided decision loss to countryman George Groves, who went on to win a world title.
"Martin Murray is a good fighter and I have got the greatest of respect for him. But he's in the way of what I'm aiming for this year and that is to become undisputed middleweight world champion," said Saunders, who would like to face the winner of the likely May 5 rematch between unified middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin and former champion Canelo Alvarez. "He's coming to try and win my world title and I'm sure it's going to be a good fight."
Murray is no stranger to word title fights but he has yet to win the big one as his record is 0-3-1. He was held to a controversial draw against then-middleweight titlist Felix Sturm in Germany in 2011; traveled to Sergio Martinez's home country of Argentina in 2013 and lost a heartbreaker via close decision in a middleweight championship fight in which he dropped Martinez; got knocked out by Gennady Golovkin in the 11th round of a one-sided middleweight title fight in 2015; and lost a split decision challenging Arthur Abraham for a super middleweight world title in Germany later in 2015.
"I rate Billy Joe as a fighter. He's one of slickest out there and he is coming off of a great win and will be very confident," Murray said. "But I'm very confident. This is my time to become world champion, as it's the only thing I have left to do. I've fought everyone and, in my opinion, at middleweight I have only one genuine loss which is against Gennady Golovkin, who is the best out there.
"I don't count Martinez or Sturm as genuine losses because of the scorecards. But this time around, in my first world title fight at home, as we are both British fighters fighting on home soil, I know the best man on the night will get the win and leave the arena as world champion."
Flanagan (33-0, 13 KOs), 28, stopped Jose Zepeda in the second to win a vacant lightweight world title in 2015 and made five defenses, most recently a unanimous decision over Petr Petrov last April.
"Hooker is a very good, unbeaten fighter," Flanagan said. "He fights on the back foot and looks to catch you from distance. However, I'm very confident I'll be able to deal with anything he throws at me to become a two-weight world champion. Winning this fight will prove I'm a legitimate 140-pound fighter. I'll be looking to unify the belts later in the year."
Flanagan will be coming off a one-year layoff when he faces Hooker (23-0-3, 16 KOs), 28, of Dallas.
In Hooker's most significant fight, he was awarded a controversial draw against former lightweight world titlist Darleys Perez in November 2016. Most thought Perez was the clear winner. Hooker has pounded out two 10-round decision wins in a row since to get ready for his first shot at a world title.
"I'm looking forward to coming to the UK to fight Flanagan and to become world champion," Hooker said. "We are both undefeated fighters and I'm sure it's going to be a fantastic fight."