Harry Pratt

Murray devastated as visa problems end shot at WBC holder Chavez Jr.

England’s middleweight contender Martin Murray has been forced to withdraw from his shot at WBC titleholder Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. over red-tape delay obtaining a visa into the United States.

The undefeated British and Commonwealth champion was slated to challenge Mexican ace Chavez Jr. in El Paso, Texas, June 16, but has been denied the chance because of his criminal past.

Murray, 29, from St Helens, spent time in jail in his early 20s and, while now a respected family man and qualified youth worker, the American authorities have refused to grant him a swift visa – therefore preventing him from being able to promote the fight on US soil.

Bob Arum, Chavez’s promoter, told RingTV.com’s Lem Satterfield that he was unaware of Murray’s criminal background.

“They (Murray’s management) didn’t tell us about it,” the CEO of Top Rank told RingTV.com. “They thought that it wasn’t relevant. We lost a lot of time. We can’t rely on Murray for the fight. We just can’t. It’s unfortunate, but we can’t. He would have been a good opponent and all of that sort of stuff, but it is what it is.

“We’re not going to be able to, with any certainty, get him a U.S. Visa in time. Which means, that we can’t, with all that’s going on, rely on the fact that the U.S. government will give him a Visa. If the consulate gives him a waiver in London, then it has to go Washington, D.C. to get a Visa, and there is all of this paperwork, and it takes a long time.”

Arum said his company will have “a fighter approved by HBO and by the Chavez people by the end of the day.”

Understandably, Murray, whose only career blemish to date came last December with a split decision draw against Germany’s WBA ‘super’ titleholder Felix Sturm, is devastated by the crushing turn of events.

“I’d signed the contract and everything was agreed, so to be told I cannot box Chavez Jr because of my past is gut-wrenching,” said Murray (23-0-1, 10 knockouts) on Tuesday. “As a human being, I couldn’t have done any more to turn my life around over the last seven years. I have a fantastic wife, Gemma. We have two wonderful children, Archie and Amelia. They are my life and everything I do is for them.”

If there is any consolation for Murray it will be that his personal misfortune acts as a warning to young people of what can happen later in life should they fall foul of the law now.

“I am a qualified youth worker and spend lot of time working with kids, making an effort to help keep them out of trouble. I am pleading with the youth of today not to make the same mistakes I did when I was young. Even if you change your life around, it can still come back to bite you,” added THE RING’s No. 8-rated middleweight.

Murray’s promoter, Ricky Hatton echoed the sense of despair inside the camp before vowing to get his man a visa into the States – and a future crack at a title.

“This is a sledgehammer blow for Martin and his team, but everyone at Hatton Promotions will work to get him another world title fight,” he said.

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