By Terence Dooley
John Murray will seek to put July's disappointing loss to Kevin Mitchell behind him on December 3rd when challenging Oxnard's Brandon Rios, 28-0-1 (21), for the WBA lightweight title. Murray succumbed in eight rounds to Mitchell but will profit from Kevin's misfortune as 'Mighty' was unable to secure a showdown with 'Bam Bam'.
Manchester's former English, British and European titlist changed trainers after the first reverse of his 32-fight career, 31-1 (18), opting to hook up with Mike Marsden, who also manages him, after splitting with long-time coach Joe Gallagher.
Murray had told me that “I want one of the champions” when asked about his ideal choice of comeback opponent during our last interview, arguing that there was no point in taking on journeymen over the eight-threes distance in a bid to get back on track. John spoke to Boxingscene earlier today, once again insisting that there is no point being in the sport unless you are prepared to take on risky assignments.
“No,” he declared when asked if Rios was too dangerous a challenge, “as soon as I was told there was a chance of getting the fight I said I was up for it. I was just hoping for it be tied up because I wanted to get right back in there with a big fight. I didn't want to dwell on my last fight. This is what I've always wanted so I'm going for it.
“I might struggle to get up for a ten rounder. I've boxed in title fights in my last eight fights so motivation might be a problem for a non-title fight coming off a loss. I can't wait for this. I've had four weeks hard training already. I'm living right. This is the type of chance you might never get again so why not go for it. The timing is perfect. I made mistakes last time out, I learned from them, the training camp wasn't the best because there were a few issues with me and Joe but I've made changes and am ready to show what I'm about.
“I want to announce myself, do a job on Rios, win that world title and then take on Mitchell for revenge. Even before this fight was made I was going for it in training because I'm coming off a loss and had to work hard to put things right. I think the thing with me and Joe was that we had lost a little bit of respect between us. I was training myself a lot in the build up to the Mitchell fight but Mike's on me all the time now, if I'm dropping my left when jabbing he picks up on it and pulls me on the other bad habits I've picked up.”
He added: “I paid the price last time out. I am over the moon that I can come back and show people how good I am – I can win this.”
Murray meets Rios on the undercard of Miguel Cotto's rematch with Antonio Margarito, it is the dream scenario – a top three title fight against an outstanding champion at Madison Square Garden. “I know, I can't wait,” he enthused as talk turned to the size of the task.
“I've got the tools. They just weren't sharp last time out. I'm working on things already and have seen the difference in the past four weeks. Brandon might underestimate me but that would be a mistake because I'm bang up for it.
“I don't mind travelling for the chance because you have to do that as a challenger. This guy's one of the best in the division, at the top of his game and a really strong champion but I can go over there, win this title and move on. If I do a good job on Rios then the world is there for me. Nothing can hold me back.
“I've seen Rios a few times. I won't have to go looking for him but I can be cuter myself. I don't have to go out there leading with my chin, trying to out-man him. I learned from the Mitchell fight that you can't do this with everyone so I'm going to use my boxing brain, get on my jab, which I'd forgotten about recently, and I will probably look back on the Mitchell fight as the best thing that happened to me.”
There are fears that Kevin's eighth round onslaught could have knocked the pep from Murray, that the 26-year-old will have doubts in the back of his mind come the first bell. Murray was philosophical when asked if he can possibly put memories of his agonising defeat to one side.
“I've got a lot to prove to a lot of people and what better way to do it. I watched the last fight back a few times, I got caught early on and took them OK, he just gradually wore me down. Kevin boxed out his skin that night, fair play to him – I just want to put things right,” reiterated Murray.
“A lot of people think I'm going there to make up the numbers – I'm going over there to win the title and then get a rematch with Kevin. I took the loss really well. Me and Mike spoke about it, we saw what I did wrong but took some positives from it as I learned from my mistakes and put them right.”
Indeed, Murray believes that his war with Mitchell is a domestic FOTY candidate, deserving of a return for the benefit of the fighters and the fans. Saying, “It was such a good fight between me and Kevin. Why not have it again with a world title on the line? It will be even better second time around. I don't think I've ever been in a dull fight. I'll give it my all again, have a real war with Rios and I'm confident that the title's coming back to Britain.
“People are already writing me off. I know for a fact I can do better than I did in my last one. People can write me off but I'll ram it all down their throats by knocking this guy out. I've got the style to beat him, he'll get beaten at his own game. I don't mind going in as the underdog. With this world title on the line, I've got the spring back in my step. Sometimes doors open after a loss for one reason or another.”
BoxNation will televise Rios-Murray. The 25-year-old title holder is no stranger to UK viewers after featuring on Premier Sports earlier this year. The bout will be Murray's début on Sky channel 456. “I think it is good for boxing,” he mused as talk turned to BoxNation's recent launch.
“A dedicated channel is good for the fans and the fighters because you get regular fights. We can keep our tools sharp. I boxed less after winning the British title but guys can get out more often now and it is a great platform for us all. I will win the title then come home and defend it live on BoxNation. Hopefully I can get Kevin again so we can both make some money and excite the fans because that is what boxing's all about. Me getting this fight shows what the sport's like – one minute you're on the ground looking at the canvas the next you're looking forward to a world title fight.”
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