News July 2017

Murray in a Hurry "I'm a stronger fighter at lightweight I just want my chance to shine"


By Michael J Jones

UP UNTIL THE summer of 2013 everything seemed to be going well in the career of Manchester’s Joe Murray. An outstanding amateur, former Olympian and world amateur bronze medallist, the flame haired boxer-puncher turned pro in the March of 2009 with much expected of his pro campaign.

After reeling off fourteen straight victories and collecting the IBF Youth title, the streaking Mancunian faced fellow unbeaten Liam Walsh for the Commonwealth and WBO InterContinental titles in September 2013. After twelve spirited rounds, future world title challenger Walsh was awarded the majority decision though Murray showed enough to suggest he could move on from his first defeat.

Here unfortunately is where the Joe Murray story sours.

He would box just once in fifteen months (due to the dreaded ‘boxing politics’ and managerial problems), before agreeing terms for a rematch with Walsh, this time for British and Commonwealth honours. The usually-composed former amateur star didn’t seem himself that night and was surprisingly halted in five rounds.

Since that disappointing loss over two years ago, Murray has regrouped, moved up to lightweight and has reeled off six straight victories under the watchful eye of brother and trainer John. Last year the new lightweight contender scored arguably the finest victory of his career with a stunning knock-out of Rashid Kassem in Denmark.

After two further wins, the Manchester ace’s record now reads 21-2 (9) and he is next out on September 23rd on the undercard of Joseph Parker’s WBO heavyweight title defence against Hughie Fury.

The in-form puncher faces Matty Fagan on the bill in an eliminator for Robbie Barrett’s British lightweight title as he hopes his latest unbeaten run can lead to him being crowned the British ruler at the second time of asking.

“To be honest, with the way things have gone in my career I’ve been close to retiring” Joe Murray reveals to Livefight this week. “I went over to Denmark to beat Kassem and really thought that victory would open doors for me but my two fights after that were in the Victoria Warehouse in Manchester.”

“It’s been a frustrating time for me but I’m just looking to put that behind me and focus on Matty Fagan and then winning the British title.”

Matty Fagan brings a respectable record of 11-2 to the fight though has never stopped any of his opponents so far. He gave Welshman Gary Buckland a decent fight in Wales last year and clearly comes to fight.

“I know Matty quite well as we trained together in Anthony Farnell’s gym a while back” Joe informs Livefight. “We trained together and sparred so we know a lot about each other. He’s a come-forward fighter who likes to stay in the pocket and let his hands go and use his fitness.”

“Skills pay bills and if he stands there with me I’ll break him down and hurt him.”

I tentatively bring up the subject of Murray’s last fight with Liam Walsh. The two men appeared to pick up where they had left off from their thrilling first fight but Murray was hurt by body shots in the fifth before a final sickening uppercut concluded the bout.

“I turned pro as a featherweight and had never had any problems making super-featherweight but, when I was out of the ring for a year, I let my body grow properly. I felt OK before the fight but on the night, the lay-off and making weight took everything out of me.”

“The first fight had been really close and I felt could have easily gone my way but for the second fight everything was different.”

The twice-beaten fighter made the decision to move up to the lightweight division and has never looked back, winning six fights in just over a year with three of his wins coming inside schedule.

Last October, Murray travelled to Denmark to take on the 11-0 (7) Kassem and had to endure much taunting in the days before the fight from his unbeaten rival as tempers flared repeatedly.

“It annoyed me really, he was considered a big name and nobody at all wanted to risk fighting him especially in Denmark. I take the fight, knock him out and suddenly everyone is making out he’s a bad fighter. Why does he become a bad fighter overnight? I didn’t get any recognition at all.”

The supremely confident Kassem goaded Murray right up to the fighters’ final instructions but the visitor kept his head. After five lively rounds Murray, usually known for his smooth boxing skills and left hook, powered in a massive right-hand to flatten the Danish southpaw to end his unbeaten record.

“I’ve had it most of my career where (prospective opponents) see me as a high risk, low reward fighter. I don’t sell a lot of tickets so they think ‘why risk losing to Joe Murray’ so I get avoided. I’m hoping after I beat Matty Fagan it’ll be Robbie Barrett for the British title straight after.”

Darfield’s Barrett came seemingly out of nowhere to beat Scotty Cardle a few months ago by majority decision. He makes the first defence of his British title the week before Murray’s fight, taking on 12-0 Lewis Ritson in an intriguing match.

Earlier this year, Murray called out former world champion Anthony Crolla in what would have been a fascinating contest between two of Manchester’s finest. There would have been some back history to the fight also as Crolla was the last man to best Joe’s older brother John a few years ago.

Crolla it would appear is instead set to face Ricky Burns in the 140lb light-welterweight division.

“I called out Anthony Crolla as he was coming off those two (WBA title) fights with Jorge Linares and I felt it would have been a good comeback fight for him. People rounded on me and said I just wanted a pay-day. Yet he takes the fight with Burns at the higher weight which is clearly for the pay-day.”

“I said I’d fight any of them in the country not just Crolla but (WBO champion) Terry Flanagan or absolutely any of them. Nobody wants to know as I’m a hard fight for any of them.”

With the plan set for Murray to face Fagan with the British title the proverbial dangled carrot, what would the situation be if the “Genius” had to navigate another block in the road; enforced absence, injury or should he suffer a shock defeat to Fagan?

“If there’s another block in my career you will never see me in a boxing ring ever again” he replies without a moment’s hesitation. “I’ve always had this problem with getting opportunities, I’ve got no backing from Sky TV, no big-time money behind me. I’ll say right now I can beat the British champion, I can beat the Commonwealth champion….I’d even beat the European champion yet that doesn’t mean a thing unless I actually get the opportunity to fight any of them.”

“Boxing should be about the best fighting the best but how long can a man wait for his chances? I can’t keep on the side-lines forever.”

“I’m on a run of six wins, I feel bigger, stronger and better than I’ve ever been.”

Aside from his move up to the lightweight division, the 21-2 Murray has also benefited from his young trainer; brother and former ferocious world class lightweight John “The Machine” Murray. I throw it out there have the two men ever discussed how a fight between the pair would have unfolded prime-for-prime?

“I can’t say because we would never have fought under any circumstance” Joe retorts. “We did train together for a long time and had some good spars but that was as far as it would ever have gone. If we had have reached that title level at the same time we would have gone on different paths it’s as simple as that.”

“John had a fantastic career and did amazing and he’s really helped me come on as a fighter. He knows my style inside and out and always knows which area to work on. We have a very good relationship and he’s spot on as a trainer.”

“John’s definitely added some more aggression to my style and I don’t feel any pressure now in scoring a stoppage as I know I can either out-box an opponent or, if the knock-out comes, it comes so I’m a much more rounded fighter now.”

“I feel everything’s come together and I don’t care where I box or who against; I just want those chances.”

Joe Murray would like to thank his team, fans, and sponsors; JD Sports, Total Fitness, Ringside and Sudulo and also manager Steve Wood.

“Steve has done so much work for me to try and get me on the big shows and if it wasn’t for my sponsors I wouldn’t be here to continue my career so I can’t thank them enough.”

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