Ricky Hatton believes Martin Murray will match anything achieved by a British boxer — past or present — should he upset Sergio Martinez in a week from this Saturday in the WBC middleweight titleholder’s backyard of Buenos Aries, Argentina.
That declaration includes all that the Hitman, who promotes Murray, managed himself during his own glittering career as a junior welterweight and welterweight titleholder – and, in particular, one momentous night in June 2005 when he tore up the form book to dethrone seemingly-invincible Australian Kostya Tszyu.
Like Murray will be on April 27, Hatton was deemed a huge underdog against Tszyu, who at the time held both THE RING and IBF belts at 140 pounds. Yet he defied the odds in Manchester, England, with a performance widely regarded as his greatest ever.
Some will argue 30-year-old Murray, from Liverpool, faces a considerably tougher task given he is heading into a cauldron at the Club Velez Sarsfield that promises to be as intense and hostile as it gets.
Right now, Martinez (50-2-2, 28 knockouts) is easily the most popular person in Argentina, ahead even of the country’s soccer sensation Lionel Messi, the Barcelona striker named best player on the planet three times in a row. If that adulation is not enough of an obstacle for the English challenger, the fact that Martinez, THE RING middleweight champ, has not fought before his adoring public in more than a decade will only crank up the anticipation higher.
However, recently-retired Hatton, 34, is convinced undefeated Murray (25-0-1, 11 KOs) is perfectly placed to wreck the veteran’s homecoming party and catapult himself into superstar status – in much the same way he did when stopping Tszyu eight years ago.
“The opportunity to fight Sergio Martinez came along and sometimes you have to take it,” said the Hatton Promotions supremo on Box Nation. “In all the time I’ve have been working and promoting Martin Murray, he’s never asked any questions. Some people would be put off fighting the number one middleweight in the world and, not only that, one of the top three pound-for-pound fighters.
“But not Martin. He has said ‘yes’ to every opponent put in front of him and this is no different. It’s a big ask going to Buenos Aries, in front of 40,000 Argentinians. But it’s not an impossibility. Martin has no fear and, as good a champion as Martinez is, sooner or later every champion’s reign has to come to an end. I think it’s the right fight at the right time.
“And if he does win it, it will be one of the greatest wins we’ve ever had from a British fighter. It’s very similar to when I fought Kostya Tszyu. He was number two in the pound-for-pound rankings. And I remember my promoter, Frank Warren, saying that I didn’t have to go that route. But I wanted to fight the best and beat the best. Martin is exactly the same.
“Martinez is 38 years of age now. He was hanging on for dear life against Julio Chavez Jr. in his previous fight. There is no reason why Martin cannot go there and believe he can win. And if he can just shut out that 40,000 crowd and concentrate on the man in front of him, there can be a major upset.”
The only blot, if you can call it that, on Murray’s record to date came 15 months ago in Germany when he drew with home favorite and then-WBA holder Felix Sturm. Hatton insists that display proves the Merseysider can cope with adverse conditions abroad and a highly-charged partisan support.
“He will take to it like a duck to water out in Argentina,” Hatton said. “We went over there for a press conference earlier in the year and it was the Sergio Martinez show. He is just massive out there. As a promoter, you always look for any signs of weakness in your fighter but, in front of 2,000 people at that press conference, Martin sat at the top table and was never in awe. He said all the right things.
“Since the Sturm fight, he has moved on a gear in confidence. It’s as if now he thinks he is capable of doing whatever he wants in boxing. He has got a wonderful chance here. A massive opportunity.”
Asked for a prediction, Hatton opted for a late stoppage or a points win for his man. But Murray, THE RING’s No. 7 at 160 pounds, refused to go into such detail before flying to South America earlier in the week.
“I am going to win, that’s all,” said Murray, who became a dad for the third time at the end of last month. “I’m not going to be disrespectful and say it will be in this round or, this is how I am going to do it. But I do plan to find a way to win. I’ve trained hard for this fight, for a long time. I’m just made up it’s finally here.
“I’m not worried about going to Argentina. In fact, with three young kids back home, it will be a bit of a rest to be honest. I know there’s going to be 40,000 Argentinians screaming at me but that makes no odds. I’m just going there to get the job done.”
Photos: Juan Mabromata – AFP/Getty; John Gichigi – Getty