The game of boxing is cruel when it’s not your night, and sometimes worse when the scorecards become a constant source of torment. Martin Murray, THE RING’s No. 9-rated middleweight, knows all about that having pushed Felix Sturm and Sergio Martinez to a draw and a close decision loss, respectively, in controversial title bouts.
Put simply, if Murray (27-1-1, 12 knockouts) was currently a two-time world champion that status, for many, would have been earned and not given to him.
On the upside, both performances were noticed by a South African promotional outfit called Golden Gloves, who were excited enough to seek out the British star’s services and sign him to a lucrative contract. The relationship began officially in April when Murray easily dispatched Ishmael Tetteh in six rounds and, on Saturday night, stage two will be a 12-round contest against tough Ukrainian Max Bursak, in Monte Carlo.
Murray is 31 years old, solid at 160 pounds, and his ring awareness and versatility are highly under rated. Sturm and Martinez are vastly different fighters, yet Murray had the weaponry to offset two of the finest middleweights of their generation, and give them all they could handle.
The 160-pound division has also endured a real shake-up and, providing Murray keeps winning, a third title shot is inevitable for the man from St. Helens in England. The slick boxer-puncher has already been linked to bouts against WBA belt holder Gennady Golovkin, as well as newly crowned IBF titlist Sam Soliman.
RingTV.com caught up with an extremely focused Martin Murray as he wrapped up preparation for Monte Carlo.
RingTV: You had your first fight under the Golden Gloves banner in April against Ishmael Tetteh. How were you received in South Africa and how was the whole experience overseas?
Martin Murray: The whole experience was first class. We met the people we are going to be working with, as well as a lot of the boxing fraternity in South Africa and we struck up a nice rapport. I was over with my family and in a way it was like a holiday for us as well. I could afford to do that because, no disrespect, I was only shaking the cobwebs off against Tetteh. South Africa was a great experience in general.
RTV: Next up is Max Bursak in Monte Carlo. Tell me about him?
MM: He’s a former European champion, who’s mixed in decent class. What you see is what you get with him and his style is to be in your face, tough, and generally all over the top of you. I’m expecting a hard fight and therefore I’ve taken this one very seriously. Bursak has had plenty of notice and this is a big opportunity for him following a loss (to Jarrod Fletcher) last time out. He’s going to be in great condition.
RTV: Felix Sturm, after a career best performance against Darren Barker, lost to Sam Soliman. Did that result surprise you and what can you tell me about the chances of you fighting Soliman, providing all goes well in your next fight?
MM: Sturm’s defeat didn’t surprise me because Soliman had his number the first time they met. He’d beat him before, but the result was changed to a No Contest because Soliman failed a drug test, and I don’t think Sturm ever fancied that rematch. Also, I think the Barker fight flattered Sturm, because Darren had so much trouble with his hip and was at the end of the road. Had Darren managed to get into the later rounds then I think Sturm would have faded badly. As far as me taking on Soliman goes, it’s great that the fight is being mentioned but I’m focusing on one opponent at a time right now. I need to deal with what’s in front of me, but hopefully I can come through against Bursak and make the Soliman fight a reality.
RTV: The move to Golden Gloves was obviously lucrative, but how pleased are you with your momentum and how things are taking shape?
MM: I’m absolutely buzzing. They didn’t want me to take the fight in South Africa but my trainer, Oliver (Harrison), and I knew we needed it to shake off the ring rust. Golden Gloves essentially put that show on for me and two months later I’m back out in Monte Carlo, which is the first bout in a three fight deal. It’s great having dates to look forward to and, after Bursak, I have dates secured for October and February. I can’t recall having anything like that in my career. My business advisor is also in constant contact with me, keeping me updated, so I couldn’t be happier with how things are going right now. The money is extremely good, but all I ever wanted was to work with someone who had my best interests at heart, and that is what Golden Gloves is all about. I can’t thank them enough and I have never been more confident of becoming world champion.
RTV: Darren Barker’s retirement and Matthew Macklin’s inactivity have slowed the wheels on some domestic shootouts between the Brits, but Andy Lee did score a devastating knockout over John Jackson last weekend. Were you impressed?
MM: I haven’t seen it yet, but I heard it was a great shot. What I will say about Andy Lee is when we filmed a show called “The Gloves Are Off”, for Sky Sports in the UK, I predicted that he was going to come on strong again. I think Andy Lee is a genuine contender and a very good fighter, so maybe we could meet in the future, providing there’s enough demand for it.
RTV: In the main event that night Miguel Cotto scored a historic victory over Sergio Martinez. Although you didn’t watch the show, you’ll be aware of the result. What’s your reaction?
MM: I picked Martinez because of the size difference but what I also said, shortly after my fight with Sergio, is whoever meets him next would win if they get their tactics right. I just didn’t think Cotto could pull it off but, from what I’ve heard, he just went in there and did what he had to do. He put it on him, Martinez was fragile, and that was that. Still, Sergio cashed out with a big fight and good luck to him.
RTV: So is that the end for Martinez?
MM: Yes, although Lou Di Bella did mention to me that he would close out his career in Argentina, with a farewell fight. If that doesn’t happen then I doubt we’ll see him again.
RTV: Can Daniel Geale do anything to stop the Golovkin express, or is he just another in a long line of knockout victim?
MM: I rate Daniel Geale highly. I worked with Sky Sports the night he fought Darren Barker and, in my opinion, he won that fight. There was no argument when Barker got the nod, because it was a close one, but Geale may have had an off night, or perhaps he underestimated Darren. I think the Geale fight is a step in the right direction for Golovkin, because he’s been criticized for his competition, but this is a real test, against a former world champion. Can Geale beat Golovkin? No, I don’t think he can, but it should be a great fight.
RTV: You had been mentioned as an opponent for Golovkin very recently. Where do you stand on that bout?
MM: In an ideal world I want to win a world title and then unify against Golovkin. That makes the most sense from a business perspective, and from a money perspective. That is what I want to do, but this is boxing and things don’t always run smoothly. Therefore if the opportunity comes along (to fight Golovkin), and the circumstances are right, then that’s the opportunity that I’m going to take.
RTV: In exactly one year from now what position will Martin Murray be in?
MM: In one year I’ll be world champion, looking to defend my title in St. Helens in a homecoming fight. Again, that is in an ideal world, but it’s what I’m aiming for.
Tom Gray is a member of the British Boxing Writers’ Association and has contributed to various publications. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Gray_Boxing