News May 2008

Manchester's John Murray - Ready to take over the Lightweights



by Matthew Sanderson

Boxer John Murray

In boxing, there are plenty of shortcuts. Especially for a young fighter tipped to go to the top. Manchester’s John Murray is a very bright prospect. But he’ll never be accused of taking the easy route – as so many of his peers are – not after his next fight. The 23-0 (12 KOs) pressure fighter has a tough assignment when he tackles fellow unbeaten John Fewkes on Saturday 10 May.

A ten-rounder for Murray’s English lightweight crown, it promises to be a hard, competitive battle. It could well be the fight of the night, on a show headlined by Carl Froch vs TBA (after Denis Inkin withdrew for a second time) and Junior Witter’s WBC light welterweight title defence against Timothy Bradley.

Fewkes, 22, is no pushover, despite earning only two knockouts from 17 wins. Among those 17 victims are current Commonwealth welterweight champion Craig Watson and the once-beaten (at the time) Scott Haywood, as well as tough cookies Gary Reid and Tontcho Tontchev.

It’s an excellent matchup, perhaps too good for the title that’s on the line. Though there are bigger names and better titles out there, 23-year-old Murray is up for this bout knowing that victory will put him on the map in a weight class rich in talent.

“Lightweight is wide open,” observed Murray when I talked to him last month. “(WBO, WBA and IBF champion) Nate Campbell is coming to the end of his career. We’re only a few years away from the young contenders moving up. Domestically lightweight is a great division. With big super featherweights like Kevin Mitchell likely to move up, it can only get better.

“When you look back (six or seven years) at the light middleweights the good British fighters never ended up fighting each other. Takaloo, Anthony Farnell. Their careers sort of fizzled out,” with the big fights not happening when the public wanted them. “But there’s a great chance at lightweight for us all to get together and make our mark (in big fights).”

But a lot is being asked of Murray, who had been keen to get his hands on his respected but ageing Hennessy Sports stablemate Jonathon Thaxton. It’s a missed opportunity – following Thaxton’s one-sided defeat to EBU champion Yuri Romanov on 4 April – that has irked both trainer and fighter. Admitted John’s coach Joe Gallagher, “Yuri Romanov was exceptional. He has dynamite in his right hand. He knows the British circuit as well. What annoys John more than anything is that we had the style to do it (beat Thaxton), and Romanov ended up doing the job.”

Consider that Murray is facing a fleet-footed slickster in Fewkes, in what is expected to be a big ring, and the size of the task is apparent. An even bigger task, in lieu of Murray’s inactivity, which will total five months by the time he steps into the Nottingham Arena ring (the whole card was postponed from the original 29 March date after Denis Inkin withdrew for the first time against Froch). Fewkes has since fought a tune up. Murray hasn’t been able to.

“It’s a massive hindrance. The more active I’ve been, the better I’ve been in the ring. To keep my tools nice and sharp I need to be kept active. But I’ve had great sparring. The lack of ring fitness has been made up for in sparring,” admitted Murray.

And he’s had plenty of time to prepare for the bout – something he’s not often had – increased by the bout's rescheduling. Several months ago Gallagher informed me, “The only time John has received proper notice – more than a week – he looked great against Dean Hickman and Ignacio Mendoza.” The thorough preparation this time could lead to one of Murray’s best showings yet, provided he isn’t too rusty or stale.

Though Murray and Gallagher have adapted well to situations – taking short notice jobs against men whose bouts aren’t readily available to watch – there were some awkward moments in their last bout, against Miguel Angel Munguia in Las Vegas on 7 December (the night before Hatton-Mayweather).

Munguia’s jerky style took Murray a few rounds to get used to, and the Mexican’s rough tactics went unpunished (a common complaint for British fighters abroad, ala Hatton-Mayweather and the recent Calzaghe-Hopkins), the referee’s lack of control of the action allowing the bout to drag an ugly spectacle.

It wasn’t Murray’s sharpest performance by a long shot. But he dug in and pulled out an awkward victory. It was a win akin to Romanov’s off-form decision win over old spoiler Steffano Zoff. Romanov dismantled Thaxton in his very next contest, shattering the myth that ‘You’re only as good as your last fight.’ Murray is keen to do the same.

Indeed, John sees the Munguia bout as more of a motivator than a hindrance, “It (having off-nights) motivates you more to come back and to prove you’re as good as you are. I’ve shown I can grind out the win when things aren’t all going my way.”

John & Joe Murray on regional news :-

(courtesy of youtube)

discuss in FORUM HERE

Newsletters Signup