John Murray Ready For United States
By Terence Dooley
John Murray returns to action at The Crown Centre in Fayetteville, North Carolina on March the 19th against an unnamed opponent. The ten rounder will be showcased on Showtime’s ShoBox programme and promoter Mick Hennessy has assured Murray that he will be fighting a quality international foe.
The 25-year-old British lightweight champion has been in the gym since his four-round dissection of Jon Thaxton back in October. However, Murray, 28-0 (6), has since seen his position as British number one placed under threat by the emergence of Kevin Mitchell at 135lb yet John, whose European title tilt has been pushed onto the backburner, still believes that he is top dog on the domestic scene; he intends to prove this by travelling abroad to take on a strong opponent.
“It is on March the 19th, an American job and it is in North Carolina, I think, I’ve never been so don’t really know anything about the place,” enthused Murray when talking about the upcoming contest.
“Mick is working on something. We were meant to be fighting Mezaache over there for the European but he’s vacated now so I’m doing a ten rounder. I boxed Thaxton on October the 3rd and came out off the fight uninjured and feeling really fit so I went back to the gym after two weeks hoping to get the call for another fight.
“I like to fight as often as possible as inactivity is my worst enemy. I had six months out after beating Meager and McAllister but you saw me beat Lawton and then look my best when fighting Thaxton within four months. I’m trying not to go stale in the gym and am hanging on, trying not to slow down.”
Anthony Mezaache’s decision to vacate the EBU title in order to sit on his WBC #2 ranking has left Hennessy scrambling to find a suitable opponent for the 19th. Assuming Murray faces an American opponent he will find himself very much on enemy ground as the venue is sandwiched between a number of US military bases and the audience will no doubt be bolstered by a large number of patriotic American troops.
There will also be concerns over the officials selected for the contest, Carolina is a boxing backwater and the quality of the judges and referee will reflect this fact. Murray, should he face a US boxer, will find himself firmly behind enemy lines for this showcase.
Indeed, Murray has been angered by Mezaache’s decision and is cognisant of the fact that what was once a neutral away day encounter could become a torrid test of character. Still, the fighter is desperate to impress on his third visit to US shores and is ready to tackle anyone.
“This is a great opportunity and a chance to showcase my talents on Shobox. I want to fight often and hope to go into the European fight after this one. The guy, Mezaache, doesn’t want to fight me as I’d go into that fight as a favourite, and his managers know that, so they are looking at holding out for a world title – I’d have loved to have boxed him and got that belt around my waist earlier,” blasted Murray.
“I will see how this break will affect my performance. I might find it hard to peak for this one but it means I’ll be at my best for the European one. Mick has done well to get me over in America and is trying to keep me active but this could be a banana skin for me. I don’t want to have any off nights at this level. I do know that if you put me in for that European title I’ll produce my best.”
Both Murray and Hennessy called for fights against the likes of Michael Katsidis and Juan Diaz in the wake of the win over Thaxton. Disappointingly, Kevin is likely to snatch a fight with Katsidis from under Murray’s nose but the Mancunian believes that Mitchell is a bona fide fighter and, supposing Kevin beats the Australian, that the Londoner will accommodate him should the time come.
“I said I wanted Katsidis or Diaz to try to get into the mix. I know I can fight at that class and have to see other fighters get the opportunities. Kevin Mitchell was a British super-featherweight champ a few fights ago but he’s come up and is going straight into a world title fight, which is very frustrating for me. I work really hard for my fights and saw the Thaxton win as a launch pad for the big names. I waited for the European title and Mezaache has made it a wait not worth waiting for,” fumed Murray.
“Possibly, that could happen,” he stated when asked about Mitchell. “I know Kevin would love the fight as he thinks he can win it quite easily, he sees me as a come-forward brawler – so why not have a domestic world title fight? I was there the night he beat Breidis Prescott, people were saying I should have fought the Columbian. I told them that I accepted a fight with Prescott, after he beat Khan, but nothing happened and it was very frustrating.
“It has been nearly two years since the Lee Meager win and I’ve stopped all my opponents since then in British title fights. I’ve come out of those fights with limited damage and as long as I’m active you will see the best of me.”
Ironically, two recent victims were moved into title fights shortly after losing to Murray; Lee McAllister picked up the Commonwealth title by defeating Godfriend Sowah just five months after suffering a KO defeat to Murray; Scott Lawton dropped a weight, defeated Derry Matthews, and was then given a surprise EBU title shot against Leva Kirakosyan. Murray has been left scratching his head but does have a few words of advice for British fighters looking to get a title shot.
“The joke at the gym is that if you get beat by me you’ll get a title shot straight away! Sometimes a loss can do you good and open doors that were closed, a loss to me gets you a title shot so why not step up and fight me,” deadpanned Murray, who plans to be prudent and hold onto his British title.
“I’m not giving my belt up,” he declared. “I’m not giving anything up until someone beats me in the ring for it. I’m proud to be the best in Britain and will defend the title against anyone. People might think I’ve got a chip on each shoulder but that is because I’m always so hungry! I’ll never say no to a fight and will take anything I can get, and I’m prepared to go away to America and fight whoever they want me to fight.
“I turned pro early and have a limited time period in the game so I want to make my way in the sport over the next three years. This fight is about keeping active, the Americans like my style and I like fighting in front of them. My head is switched on to do a job in America and launch myself over there,” promised Murray.