MARTIN Murray says he rates Billy Joe Saunders as a boxer but is confident of taking the WBO middleweight title off him when they meet at the 02 Arena in London next month.

For the 35-year-old Fingerpost fighter April 14 will present a fifth, and probably final, shot at winning the world belt he has always dreamed of.

In his previous attempts, Murray drew with Felix Sturm in Germany in 2011, lost to Sergio Martinez in Argentina in 2013, fell to Gennady Golovkin in Monaco in 2015 and was defeated by Arthur Abraham in Germany later the same year.

Standing in his way on this occasion, for the first time, is a fellow Englishman – and one that is seven years younger as well as being undefeated with 12 knockout successes from his 26 fights.

Saunders, from Welwyn Garden City, is a southpaw too, but Murray is not phased.

“I’ve met him on the boxing circuit, you tend to meet everybody, and he seems like a nice lad,” said Murray, who has switched to Frank Warren’s stable in order to gain the fight.

“I respect him as a fighter. It’s going to be a tough fight but it’s one I can’t wait for and one I’m looking forward to and feeling confident about.

“He’s a very slick fighter, brilliant at what he does and I really rate him as a fighter.

“I thought he looked tremendous in his last fight and looked the best he’s ever looked so I’m expecting him at his best.

“I know I’m in for a hard fight but I thrive off being in these type of situations, they always bring the best out of me.

“I’ve never really struggled with southpaws, although a lot of people do.

“I’ve sparred with southpaws, but I’ve only fought a couple – one being Martinez.

“I’ve always found them ok to deal with so the fact he’s a southpaw doesn’t leave me thinking ‘Oh God, what am I going to do?’

“I’m relishing the challenge, it doesn’t phase me at all.”

Saunders delivered a standout display in a wide points victory over David Lemieux in the Canadian’s hometown in December.

He has his sights set on either WBC, WBA and IBF titlist Gennady Golovkin or Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez and so he hopes to make another impression against Murray.

“Martin Murray is a good fighter and I have got the greatest of respect for him,” said Saunders.

“But he’s in the way of what I’m aiming for this year and that is to become undisputed middleweight world champion.”