By Terence Dooley
John Murray goes into tonight’s WBA title lightweight title fight against Brandon Rios at New York’s Madison Square Garden venue with a spring in his step due to Brandon’s struggle, and subsequent failure, to make the lightweight limit at yesterday afternoon’s weigh in. Rio tipped the scales at 135.6lbs at the first attempt; he weighed 136.6 second time around, with suggestions that his weight was 136.4 on the first attempt rather than the official figure of 135.6.
Rios was stripped of the belt as per WBA rules, he had to pay $20,000 dollars to his challenger and was contracted to hit 146 at 9am on Saturday. Rios managed to stick to this limit, however only Murray can win the title and Brando is expected to move to 140 in 2012 – although you could argue that he is already operating at welterweight and beyond.
Brandon’s struggles echo the drama surrounding the second contest between Diego Corrlaes and Jose Luis Castillo. Castillo came in at 138½lbs for the lightweight bout; the title was withdrawn but the fight went ahead only for Castillo to scale 147 on fight night. ‘El Temible’ used the extra bulk to his advantage to score a brutal fourth round KO win.
If Rios comes into the ring around 152-154 he could try to bomb Murray out yet may fade should they go beyond the early rounds. Joe Gallagher, the trainer of Murray, predicted that Brandon would struggle when discussing the contest earlier this week.
“Brandon has taken his eye off the ball with John,” said Gallagher. “We’re not saying too much. We’re just whispering the words ‘And the new’ and we’ll be shouting them from the Empire State Building after the fight.
“I think John Murray is back to his best. I watched him the other day after sparring, he was standing there with the lads talking about how he wanted to cripple his sparring partners and put them on the floor. It was a sound bite that I hadn’t heard from John in a long time. In recent times John has not talked about his sparring afterwards so it was good to see.
“That devilment and wicked look in his eyes is back. He wants to hammer the pads, hurt his sparring partners again and it is not nice to say but that cuntish side to him is back. Rios is a bully; we have to bully the bully.
He added: “John’s in the gym early and out late, enjoying it and having the craic with the lads, who are all behind him.”
Murray lost his unbeaten record courtesy of an eighth round stoppage after serving up a thriller with Kevin Mitchell in July. Only Kevin’s legal problems prevented him from facing Rios. The Londoner’s loss is Murray’s gain, especially if Gallagher’s prediction of an upset comes to pass.
“People make Brandon out to be a monster – King Kong got put down in New York and Rios will go down as well,” he stated. “John’s come all the way through the ranks, from WBC Youth Champion, English, British and European titles, and now he’s fighting a real [Writer’s note: albeit former] champion for a real belt. This is like a title fight from the 1980s – John’s going to America to take on a top man. Let’s not forget that John hasn’t been brought up on a diet of Inter-Continental belts.
“John’s fought on a Floyd undercard at MGM [a decision win over Lorenzo Bethea on the undercard of Floyd Mayweather versus Oscar De La Hoya in May 2007], he’s done things that guys like (Joe) Calzaghe didn’t do until late in their careers. John’s ticked the right boxes early on in his career so won’t leave anyone disappointed.
“People talk about other fighters and overlook John but that won’t last after this fight. We’ve got a bunch of British kids fighting for genuine world titles this month. John’s got one of the hardest fights of the bunch and he’ll deserve a lot of credit for a win.”
Joe Frazier’s legendary win over Muhammad Ali in their first meeting, simply titled ‘The Fight’, took place in the Garden. Frazier visited Gallagher’s Gym earlier this year. News that the great heavyweight had passed away late last month shocked Gallagher and has inspired Murray, who is cut from the same fighting cloth as ‘Smoking’ Joe.
“We were privileged enough to meet Joe Frazier earlier this year and are now fighting for the title at a venue where the walls are steeped in history and where all the greats performed,” enthused Gallagher. “Frazier beat Ali there so it is great to go there with a kid who I’ve been associated with all my life as the co-headliner at Madison Square Garden.
“The amount of Americans and Puerto Ricans wishing John the best through Facebook and Twitter is amazing. I think they see it as Miguel Cotto and John Murray against Antonio Margarito and Brandon Rios so they’re behind us. I just hope the British fans jump onboard because we’re not just there to make up the numbers.
“Rios and the people who support him are writing us off but they’ll be eating Big Apple flavour humble pie with plenty of custard on top when we pull this one out. I can’t wait. This is a very proud moment in my career with a kid who has done things the genuine way. We’ve not got any favours, no home advantage, John’s done it like an old-school fighters by going away for his world title like (Alan) Minter and (Lloyd) Honeyghan did.”
Still, Gallagher knows that Murray faces the biggest task of his 32-fight career, 31-1 (18). Gallagher, though, believes that his charge’s grit and fighting heart, not to mention a top-secret game plan, will see him through.
Saying, “John’s a very traditional fighter, he does it the hard way, doesn’t have any airs and graces, it is a case of have gum shield will travel and he leaves it all in the ring, what more can you ask for?”
Memories of Castillo’s cynical and clinical KO of Corrales will haunt the minds of Murray’s fans ahead of this big test yet there are positives to be taken from Rios’s struggle to make the weight. The Oxnard man looked drained on the scales, his solid 28-0-1 (21) slate, including ten stoppages in his last ten fights, could have led to a sense of hubris ahead of this meeting and excessive pride has caused plenty of falls during the sport’s history.
BoxNation (Sky channel 456 or Virgin 546) will televise the New York bill live from 2am. Join up by visiting this link: http://www.boxnation.tv/subscribe
John Murray’s interview from earlier this week: http://www.boxingscene.com/john-murray-msg-what-place-beat-brandon-rios--46643
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