By Terence Dooley
Anthony “Million Dollar” Crolla and John Murray will meet on the Eddie Hearn-promoted show at Manchester’s Phones 4U Arena on April 19 in an eagerly anticipated lightweight local derby.
The two Mancunians have been on a collision course ever since Murray returned from a near two-year layoff in November and, although still firm friends, the fighters have acknowledged that the fight makes financial and fistic sense.
Crolla, 27-4-1 (10), holds the WBO Inter-Continental title, he had been chasing a WBO title fight with Ricky Burns, but the Scottish fighter’s decision defeat to Terence Crawford on Saturday night has robbed the match-up of some of its appeal. Murray, 33-2 (20), also hankered after a showdown with Burns; he hammered John Simpson in two rounds on Burns's undercard at Glasgow’s SEC on Saturday night, flooring his opponent three times with crippling body shots then promptly calling for a meeting with Crolla, arguing that the winner can move on to bigger things.
“It was a good win,” said Murray when speaking to BoxingScene about the Simpson fight. “People talk about him being more effective in the lower weight class, but I worked hard in training and came into the ring in top nick. I don’t think I got the credit I deserve for the win. It wasn’t just size, those were carefully placed body shots. Now I’ve got this fight with Anthony to look forward to—it’s good for us and the fans. I’m up for this.”
Scott Quigg tops the bill against Nehomar Cermeno, a WBA Super bantamweight title defence, but the Crolla-Murray showdown is likely to be the fight that piques the interest of local fans and helps to sell the show.
It will make for a busy night for Joe Gallagher, Quigg and Crolla’s coach. Indeed, BoxingScene’s U.K. trainer of the year for 2013 will find himself in the unusual position of working the opposite corner to Murray for the first time—he trained him for 33 fights prior to their split.
Murray and Gallagher parted company after Murray’s 8th round TKO loss to Kevin Mitchell in July 2007. They briefly reunited when “The Machine” fought Brandon Rios for the vacant WBA lightweight title in December of the same year. Rios lost the title on the scales and out-weighed Murray on the night, the American stopped Murray in the 11th, but Murray has argued that he should have been allowed to see the fight out.
More misfortune followed when Murray failed a medical in 2012 due to a swollen pituitary gland, he underwent a battery of tests to regain his licence and returned with a 4th round stoppage win over Michael Escobar in November before tangling with Simpson last Saturday. The 29-year-old has admitted that he has a burning desire to make the most out of his career, with Crolla seen as the perfect starting point for another world title run.
Crolla, though, is in fine form himself.
The 27-year-old former ABA titlist lost his British title to Derry Mathews in April 2012 and dropped another defeat to Gary Sykes in that year’s Prizefighter: The Lightweights tournament only to roar back with a 10-round win over Kieran Farrell to close the year out.
He opened his 2013 account by warring to a draw with Mathews before posting an impressive majority decision win over Gavin Rees in June. A solid six-round corner retirement win over local rival Stephen Foster in November was the icing on the cake of a year that saw the ever-smiling fighter return to his best form.