By Danny Winterbottom
Martin Murray could be forgiven for thinking the boxing gods are conspiring against him. Having jumped on a plane home, frustrated that his composed and skilful effort to wrest the WBA super world middleweight title from German Felix Sturm had ended in a draw back in December, the St Helens family man was within touching distance of securing the biggest fight of his career against Mexican Golden Boy and WBC belt holder Julio Cesar Chavez Jr, before a ghost from his past scuppered the proposed showdown just as the ink on the contracts was drying.
The time 29-year-old Murray spent at the leisure of Her Majesty’s Prison Service is well documented. An unglamorous brawl in a takeaway amidst the throes of youthful bravado years earlier, conspired to bring about a temporary halt to his American dream
“I went down to the embassy in London to sort out my Visa, we knew it would be a close run thing trying to get the paper work sorted on time but it wasn’t to be” Murray explained when talking to Secondsout.
He added “They wanted me in America two weeks ago today to start the promotional tours but when it became obvious we were struggling to get my Visa Bob Arum scrapped the fight, he said he couldn’t take the risk.”
The disappointment of losing the opportunity of a life time, and seeing Irishman Andy Lee pick up the baton, could have broken a less level headed individual but Murray readily acknowledges where the blame lies.
“I was pissed off when the fight fell through, gutted, but nobody else is to blame only me, but I’m confident it won’t stop me getting a Visa in the future should the chance arise.”
The much maligned Chavez may be the target of seemingly every middleweight with world title ambitions but the astute Merseysider recognises the 26-year-old is getting better and deserves respect.
“You don’t become a world champion if you are a bad fighter” said Murray. “He might not be the best champion out there in the division but he’s made the most of his chances and I feel he is under rated by a lot of people.”
The Mexican, huge for a middleweight, often scales over 180lbs come the
sound of the first bell, although having suffered problems of his own, Murray understands what it is like having struggled to come to terms with the rigours of dieting and giving your body the right fuel as he embarked on his professional career.
“In the amateurs my trainer was old school in his approach to our diets, we never got taught anything about what to eat, drink, how to look after yourself when you didn’t have a fight. When I came into the pro game I was still doing the same things which were pretty terrible to tell you the truth.”
Murray remembers one particular fight that brought the problems to a head.
“When I fought for the Commonwealth title all I could think about was getting big. I ate shit loads; it was no good for me. I weighed about 12st 9lbs on the night but I felt sluggish in the fight, heavy. I went to see Kerry Kayes and explained my problems to him. He asked me what I ate, what I did between fights and he basically said he couldn’t believe I had got as far as I had eating and drinking the crap I had been. Since then I have been more careful in preparations, weighing about 12st 4lbs in the ring and at that weight I feel I can handle any middleweight in the world.”
Determined to stay busy and move his career in the right direction Murray received better news earlier this week, a slot on the card of Scott Quigg and Rendall Munroe’s super bantamweight showdown on June 16, albeit against the always dangerous TBA.
“No names have been mentioned to me exactly but I do know of some that are in the mix. I don’t really get involved in that side of things; I leave that to Oliver, my manager and the Hattons.”
Having seen a big fight fall through the danger could be that Murray is under motivated for a less than stellar keep busy opponent, at this stage of his career he needs a challenge he can sink his teeth into.
“It’s going to be a good match, a fight that benefits me in some way” said Murray. “It won’t be an easy one that’s for sure. I want fights that will get my career moving forward all the time as I push towards another world title shot. I don’t want to be continually fighting in other people’s back yards were it makes it easier for them to get the decision.”
Under the tutelage of trainer and mentor Oliver Harrison Murray has seen his career reach new heights over the last few years, a rise to prominence that began with his victory in an exciting addition of Prizefighter back in 2008. But did the fighter himself foresee such a quick rise into world class?
“To be honest I’m not surprised. I boxed Nick Blackwell for the British title in June last year and to be fair it was a huge step up in class between him and Sturm, but myself, Oliver and the Hatton’s have known for a while I belonged at that level.”
Trainer Harrison, perhaps best known for his work with Amir Khan, is renowned to be a student of the game meticulously studying the nuances of each opponent. It is this attention to detail that Murray believes has benefitted him the most.
“It’s more like what he hasn’t done for me” said Murray when asked of Harrison’s impact on his career. “As an amateur I didn’t do too badly. I fought for England and won the ABA’s, I should have boxed more times for England but that’s another matter. I came into the pro game with all the right foundations, all the boxing skills but Oliver has taught me so much, added more layers. I wouldn’t be where I am today without him.”
After seeing both his contemporaries, Barker and Macklin, fall short against the recognised number one middleweight in Sergio Martinez, Murray may need all of Oliver Harrisons scouting prowess if he ever went in with the tricky Argentine southpaw, not that Murray is daunted by the challenge.
“He’s very tricky but I would jump in with him tomorrow if I had the chance” said the confident Merseysider. “Barker did well boxing him, probably didn’t throw enough punches as he was cautious not to get caught with those sharp southpaw counters which I can understand. But I’m not Darren Barker or Matthew Macklin. I’m a better boxer, better fighter and better box-fighter than both of them and I will prove it if I ever face him.”
With all three of our world class middleweights seemingly on differing paths and with fights talked about but having yet to materialise, there is every chance we may never get to see them fight each other although Murray is adamant if the time came to find out who was best of British the fans would be treated to something special.
“I’d love those fights to come off, to find out which one of us was the best in Britain. I want to get back to the days of Benn, Eubank and Collins. We have three world class middleweights here and between us we could have some cracking fights and make some good money to go along with it.”
Having already travelled away from home to contest his first world title fight the avid rugby league fan would love nothing more than a big fight closer to home in the years to come. And what better a place than the shiny new home of his beloved St Helens.
“That’s something we have already talked about for the future” he said. “A lot of my mates and people at the match when I go are always asking when I’m gonna fight there. I know the Hatton’s have approached the club and they are well up for it. It would be a dream come true for me.”