Martin Murray stayed on course for a fifth shot at a world belt by beating Mexico’s Roberto Garcia.
Murray, who was originally due to face Billy Joe Saunders for the WBO middleweight title, secured a unanimous points decision, 116-111, 118-109, 118-108, to end Garcia’s eight-year unbeaten run, to claim the WBC silver middleweight belt and move closer to a fight for Gennady Golovkin’s WBC title.
Murray needs to defend his silver belt once to become the mandatory WBC challenger for unbeaten Golovkin, who also holds the IBO and WBA world belts.
The pair fought in February 2015, with Golovkin winning in the 11th round.
That loss was one of four failed world-title bids for Murray, who drew with Felix Storm in December 2011, lost to Sergio Martinez in April 2013 and lost to Arthur Abraham in November 2015.
At London’s O2 Arena, 38-year-old Garcia had a point taken away in the second round for a low blow, although he did stun Murray with a powerful right hook in the third.
But Murray produced good boxing skills, including numerous successful punches to the body, to take some close rounds.
The Mexican received a warning in the sixth for leading with the head before losing another point for punching around the back of the head in the ninth, although he ended the fight strongly.
‘I believe there is a world title in me’
Garcia was a late replacement after Murray had been due to challenge WBO world middleweight champion Billy Joe Saunders, who withdrew because of a hamstring injury.
That was the second time Saunders had postponed the fight after also pulling out of the bout in March with a hand injury.
After the win over Garcia, Murray said he would be willing to fight Saunders, but only if there was a guarantee he would be paid in case Saunders pulled out again.
“You cannot trust the man, he has done it twice so for me to do it again there would have to be some insurance in place,” said Murray.
“He loves being the world champion but does not defend his belts. If there was insurance in place I would fight him and take him to school.
“I do believe there is a world title in me. I just need the right fight at the right time.”