By John Hargate
Ben Murphy is known as ‘The Caveman’ by trainer Johnny Eames and those unfortunate enough to spar with the ‘Brighton Beast’ at Canning Town’s TKO gym. And with good reason. According to Eames, after Murphy’s savage and courageous effort against current British light-welterweight champion Ashley Theophane in a fight taken at only three days notice, Theophane’s American trainer Harry Kite told Eames to “Put that animal back in his cage” and to “Lock that madman up.”
Murphy feels that after such an impressive display he deserves a shot at the British champion at his own weight – lightweight. That man is Manchester’s ‘Million Dolla’ Crolla, and the British Boxing Board of Control meet tomorrow [Wednesday 8th February] to decide who to make mandatory challenger for his title.
I caught up with Murphy – a man who beats himself with sticks and sleeps in the woods to stiffen his mental resolve – at the TKO gym recently. He was desperate for the Board to give him a shot at Crolla, and explained why he is deserving of the opportunity.
“Taking the Theophane fight at three days notice without even training for it and pushing him right to the limit for starters,” said Murphy during a conversation with Boxingscene. “To come that close to taking the title at a weight above where I should be as well. So I think if I was able to do that against an established champion like Theophane, I should get the chance to actually train for a British title fight at my own weight.”
Murphy made his impassioned plea to the Board: “Give me the opportunity so I can show what I can do. It shows you a bit of what I can do in the Theophane fight but if given the opportunity at my own weight and with the time to prepare for Crolla then people will see the difference.”
After brutalising previously unbeaten Tony Owen in four one sided rounds in his last bout at lightweight, Murphy now feels he has proven against Theophane that he can take his non-stop pressure style to a higher level. “With that experience in the bank I now know what it’s like to go into the later rounds in a tough fight. What you need to be able to do that. At my own weight, with training, I can bring that intensity for 12 rounds.”
The Crolla fight promises to be a classic as Joe Gallagher’s fighters aren’t scared of a tear up. Crolla can box when called to, but perhaps doesn’t have the movement needed to make that strategy work against a rampant Murphy. “Whatever happens, it’ll be a really exciting fight with Crolla – no matter what. Let’s get it on.”
I asked if perhaps Ben might be content to be placed in a final eliminator for the chance to challenge Crolla. He said he’d take it over nothing but told me: “I want Crolla straight away. I keep thinking of it, dreaming of it, praying for that chance. That’s number one. I hope the Board make the right decision and give me the chance at the lightweight title.”
How much would winning the Lonsdale belt mean to Murphy? “It’s everything, isn’t it? I can’t even explain it. It’s a step towards doing something bigger for myself, not just in boxing but in life. Something I feel like I have to get to move forwards. If the Board give me the chance to get it, then from that point on I’d be able to make defences knowing what I’m doing in advance. It’d all be planned out. Then I can train to a set plan with fixed dates and put in everything I’ve got, whereas now I just turn up and give it my all.”
We spoke for a moment about the haves and the have-nots in boxing, the ticket sellers and the golden boys, and the journeymen, opponents and gatekeepers. Ben Murphy is a right hand side of the bill type fighter. “There’s so many fighters in the same boat,” he told me resignedly. “I just want the chance to get out.”
Hopefully the Board will decide to give him his well-deserved opportunity on Wednesday and at the same time lay the foundations for what promises to be an absolute barnburner.