By Terence Dooley
John Murray has inked a promotional deal with Frank Warren. Murray holds the longest current undefeated run in British boxing, 30-0 (18 early), as well as the EBU lightweight title; the 26-year-old was guided by Mick Hennessy until October of last year but has now joined forces with Warren. The veteran promoter confirmed the deal earlier today.
“John is a tremendous talent and I'm thrilled that he's joined my organisation,” said Warren. “I've always thought highly of him and what he needs now is the right promotion and guidance to turn him into a star and that's what I aim to do. He can fight and I believe that with his no-nonsense, all-action, style, he can be the man to get Manchester's boxing scene going again.”
Murray previously held the WBC Youth as well as English and British lightweight titles; he is rated #3 in the WBC rankings and is number six in The Ring's ratings. John believes that joining forces with Warren will enable him to fulfil his world title ambitions. “Yeah, I've signed a deal with Frank and I'm over the moon,” confirmed Murray.
“This is what I've been looking for. Mick's done a fantastic job with me over the past five years but he hasn't got a Sky TV deal at the moment [Writer's note: Mick's February 19th show is being televised live by the subscription channel Premier Sports]. Frank can put me out there and he's tried and tested, showing that he can bring people to titles time and time again. I think he can do the same job with me. Frank will deliver the fights so I've just got to go out there and win. It is going to be a huge couple of years.
“I've boxed on a couple of big bills in the States [wins over Lorenzo Bethea and Miguel Angel Munguia] and at the MEN [against Matthew Burke in 2003] but I've done my fair share of leisure centre shows and am ready for the next step. Frank can help me make that step into the big arenas – I'm looking forward to it.”
Golden Boy were interested in signing the Manchester-based contender; they offered him the opportunity to fight Victor Ortiz up at light-welterweight. John, though, believes that his long-term future lies at lightweight, he was keen to ink a deal with his new promoter in order to fight marquee names in his natural weight division.
“I'd rather go with Frank rather than people who haven't got the same track record,” stated Murray. “Frank's proved that he's the best promoter in Britain and has done it consistently over the years. He can deliver the opportunities and I know I can take them.
“If you can't get up for a fight in an arena in front of tens of thousands of people then you're in the wrong game. Frank will get me those big crowds and I'll make sure that I put a show on. [Michael] Katsidis is one guy I've been after for a bit because he's a well-known fighter, an exciting fighter and it would be a great battle that would put my name on the world map. I've won every title on the way through and the world title is the only thing lacking on my CV. If I do get the opportunity then I won't let anyone down.”
Joe Gallagher, Murray's trainer, believes that the move is a significant step towards his charge's world title destiny. Indeed, Gallagher always felt that John would eventually join forces with Warren. “It is a moment we've waited for since John was a fifteen-year-old amateur,” stressed Gallagher.
“Frank and Ricky Hatton were banging out arenas and it was a great inspiration to kids like John. Murray can follow in the same footsteps and is now guided by the promoter who took Ricky to the top. Frank is the best promoter in the world and he's got a huge list of achievements.
“Frank knows how to time things: he got a successful world title shot for Frank Bruno, he brought Kostya Tszyu over and Jeff Lacy as well as the likes of [Gerald] McClellan at the right time. Frank's brought big crowds to Wembley, he brought Prince Naz and Ricky to big crowds at the MEN and brought Amir Khan back after that loss to Prescott. John has done things the hard way, he's in a great position with the governing bodies and Frank can get him opportunities – look at what he did with Kevin Mitchell after only two fights at lightweight. We need that kind of clout to bring more world titles to Britain.
“Frank's record says it all, he develops fighters and can bring them up from scratch or take guys on and bring them chances. The man in the street always asks you if your fighters are with Warren because people know that all the best fighters are with Frank. I've worked with people who are casual fans and they gauge a fighter by whether he's with Warren.
“John is the best lightweight in Europe and Frank can make him a headline act, he revived the Manchester scene before and has done the same with the Liverpool scene and Birmingham. We can't wait to bring titles back to inner-city Manchester with John.”
Gallagher has long-maintained that his charge is boxing's next big breakout star. “Making John a recognised face is one of the key things with John signing with Frank,” says Gallagher. “The man in the street needs to know who John is, Frank can do that for him. Look what he's doing for Nathan Cleverly in such a short time. Mick got John some fantastic opportunities boxing across the world and was instrumental in John getting to where he is and we're grateful for that but Frank can give John the platform to go on and make a name for himself. Frank stages PPV events and world title events.
“John wouldn't have let anyone down if he had got [Michael] Katsidis last year at a big football stadium in front of tens of thousands of people, he'd have been bang on with it and just wants that type of opportunity. A lot of people in the trade will echo my sentiments, they are very happy that John has gone with Frank. Cleverly is currently in a great position and it shows that Frank can deliver. People within the trade rate John Murray. The likes of Jamie Moore and Rendall Munroe say that they love to watch him fight. I can't wait to see him show his ability to the general boxing public.”
Despite rumours of a Kevin Mitchell fight in March, there are no immediate plans. Murray is waiting on news of his next opponent; he will keep an eye on the big world title contests in coming months to ready himself for possible future fights against the likes of Brandos Rios and Humberto Soto. Kevin Mitchell is not on the radar just yet as the Londoner has not fought since his May 2010 reverse to Katsidis.
“No, we've not spoken about specific fights yet but we'll be keeping our eye on the world scene,” enthused Gallagher. “Brandos Rios fights WBA holder Miguel Acosta later this month and [WBC boss] Soto rematches Urbano Antillion in May. You've also got [Juan Manuel] Marquez free now because he is not fighting [Erik] Morales. John's in a good position for those type of fights. The likes of Mitchell got to fight for world titles and he wasn't talking about John at that time. I hope that Kevin rebuilds at lightweight, we can go out and get a world title and make a fight with him down the line.”
He added: “The world title is John's Holy Grail. Katsidis keeps raising his game and Marquez keeps turning back the clock. But I feel that the right fighter at the right time can do them both and that fighter that could be Murray. Marquez's people mentioned John's name on Boxingscene last week, that is great for John. John's done everything asked of him. We want him in those big arenas because I was worried that he might lose a bit of that buzz and begin to plateau. Signing a deal with Frank will push him over the finishing line, it is a massive boost for him as a fighter.”
Murray's desire to test himself against the best is shared by his long-term mentor. Gallagher enjoys jousting with the best trainers in Britain yet yearns for the opportunity to go head-to-head with the world's premier coaches.
“I went into pro training to pit my wits against names like Nacho Beristein, Buddy McGirt, Freddie Roach and Dan Birmingham. But especially Freddie as he's the top man right now. I want that challenge. We've done that in Britain and it would be great to do the same on the world stage.”
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