By Terence Dooley
‘Genius’ Joe Murray enjoyed a joyful June. The 24-year-old picked up his first title when decisioning Scotland’s James Ancliff for the vacant IBF Youth Featherweight belt then signed a contract extension with Hatton Promotions. Much to the delight of Ricky Hatton himself, the former undisputed light-welterweight champion has a lot of faith in his sole Olympian.
Murray also traversed the championship distance for the first time. Posting a shutout on two of the cards and netting a 118-111 from perennial odd judge out Terry O’Connor. Ancliff troubled Murray once or twice yet was not able to force a repeat of his shock point’s win over the previously undefeated Adrian Gonzalez in 2010
“I didn’t box badly but it was a performance for me to look at and learn from. I need to carry on learning,” mused Murray as he analyzed the win. “I was just trying to conserve myself, slipping in with shots and moving. I found it went alright late. The rounds went a bit fast, it was a bit of a blur, really. The rounds kept slipping by so I didn’t really notice them.
“I think he took my shots to the body well. It was a good thing to see him still there after taking flush shots. I now know how to control the pace. To slow things down when I have to because I will get messed about by these kids. I think these are good learning fights. He was a strong kid and was trying to intimidate me.
“Ancliff beat another prospect in Adrian fair and square. He tried to do to me what he did to Adrian; he old-manned Adrian by out-working him but wasn’t going to do the same to me. Adrian was the better boxer but it didn’t show in his work.”
Hatton moved swiftly to sign Murray after the victory. Stating that, “Joe is one of the best young talents in British boxing,” when securing his services. Murray believes that ‘The Hitman’ has the clout required to guide him to the top.
Saying, “I’m sure that Ricky will line up another test for me. He texted me afterwards to say he was proud. If you want to be the best you have to beat the best. That is what all fighters should try to do. We strive for it all our lives so you just have to go out and take your chances.”
Joe switched his attention to John Murray, his older brother. The former English, British and EBU lightweight ruler takes on Dagenham’s Kevin Mitchell at Liverpool’s ECHO Arena on Saturday night in a clash that will sort out any lingering domestic issues.
“This fight is one John needs before he moves onto bigger and better things. Everyone talks about John taking the next step. Kevin’s had a big fight against [Michael] Katsidis so John needs to have this fight, beat Kevin and think about going for his own titles,” insists the 11-0 (5) fighter.
“But people are underestimating Mitchell. They forget that he boxed so well against [Breidis] Prescott and is not daft. Kevin will try to mess John about and out-box him because he can’t afford to get knocked out again. Kevin boxed one of the best in the world (last year) – he knows that he has got his last chance against John.”
Murray added: “I hear Kevin sparred [WBO super-featherweight titlist] Ricky Burns early on in his training camp. He is taking it seriously because that is good sparring. Where can Kevin go if he loses this? People think they can out-box John but guys have tried it before. John forces them to lose their movement. They eventually have to stand and fight him. When they do that they lose.”
His final prediction? “John is too big and strong, definitely. But this is what boxing should be about. It should have happened a year ago, everyone knows it,” blasted Murray.
Joe’s main domestic rivals are Scott Quigg, Carl Frampton, Rendall Munroe and Jason Booth. The prospect stopped short of calling out anyone by name yet made it clear that in order to reach the top you should test yourself against the best in your division.
“Boxing needs fights like John’s against Kevin,” reiterated the 2008 Olympian. “The best in the country should fight the best but too many people think about avoiding certain fights against tough people. Look at Choi Tseveenpurev at featherweight a few years ago. Not many people wanted to fight him but how many good fights was there out there? We need these fights.
“Too many fights don’t get made at the right time. John should have beat [Jon] Thaxton before he did, it would have been good if John had met Kevin when they were both undefeated.
“John is number one in his division in Britain at the minute. People talk about the fights he’s had but everyone knows that he’d have never turned down [Amir] Khan or Mitchell if he were offered them last year. John never ducks anyone.”
Joe roomed with Amir during their amateur career, however there is no room for sentiment when it comes to family business, with the younger Murray adamant that Khan should have cleared up the domestic lightweight ranks before heading up to 140lb and over to America.
“Amir criticized John by saying he couldn’t sell out his back garden but now Amir’s not even on Sky TV anymore. Where was the big support for Amir in his last fight, [Paul] McCloskey did a lot of the tickets for it. Paul sold it, not Khan. It won’t happen now because Amir is up in weight and in America, which is a shame,” he sighed.
“Boxing should be about the fights. People can sit around all day saying Khan would have done this and John wouldn’t have done that but it is about showing it in the ring not talking. We’ve all these good fighters and need good fights.”
With his next outing tentatively scheduled for September, Murray has had time to soak up the pre-fight atmosphere ahead of Saturday’s encounter, telling me that Mitchell is another step down the road in the Murray story. “Me and John will get there,” his confident prediction.
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