By Nick Halling
There are lots of quotes in the media from the management of Australian featherweight Joel Brunker saying that their man will be taking on Lee Selby in an IBF final eliminator, but to date there has been no word of confirmation from the other side. That’s because no deal has officially been done yet.
That doesn’t mean it wont get done, though. Quite the opposite. Word has it that Selby’s connections are very happy, not only with Brunker, but also with the prospect of going down the IBF route. Expect an announcement confirming this one within a couple of weeks at the most – with Cardiff the likely venue, and the fight being staged in September or October.
There is a downside to this, but not much of one. Selby’s No 3 ranking with the WBC would probably go up in smoke if he takes an IBF final eliminator. That’s what happened to James DeGale when he beat Brandon Gonzales last month. From being the WBC’s number one super middle contender, DeGale was dropped a spot to accommodate WBC favourite Julio Cesar Chavez Jr, and has now disappeared from sight altogether after moving into the IBF’s mandatory spot.
But the upside more than outweighs the risk. A win would put the Welshman in line for Russian champion Evgeny Gradovich. He’s tough, but probably represents a marginally easier proposition than WBC boss Jhonny Gonzalez. An IBF eliminator might not affect Selby’s No 12 ranking with the WBA, and there’s even a chance that the Barry boxer could move up in the WBO’s list, since Brunker is currently ranked No 6 to Selby’s No 8.
It’s a deal which should satisfy everybody. Australians are used to giving up home advantage - that’s basic boxing economics. And although Brunker is a step up in class, quite frankly he’s just what Selby needs. For all his smooth development thus far, the Welsh fighter has yet to beat someone of any genuine class, and will need a test like this to continue his progression. He’s not ready for the likes of Gonzalez or Gradovich yet, and his connections know it.
By total coincidence, Brunker and Selby sparred each other at Mayweather’s gym in Vegas last summer. They happened to be there at the same time, and decided to put on the gloves. Reports suggest that it was a decent spar, with honours shared, but the significance of this is that both fighters clearly think they have the beating of the other. Pencil this one in for later in the year.
Manchester lightweight John “The Machine” Murray is considering his options following a brave but ultimately unsuccessful battle against Anthony Crolla in April. Murray started fast in that fight, but faded the longer it went on, and was ultimately stopped in the 10th, having given everything.
Murray sustained eye damage in the Crolla fight, and that remains an ongoing problem. The eye issue is not thought to be career-threatening in itself, but there is still more medical work needed before he is given a clean bill of health. The enforced delay has given the one-time British and European champion plenty of time to assess where he goes from here.
Retirement is certainly an option, and it would come as no surprise to learn that Murray has indeed decided to call it a day. However, after the gutsy, all-action career he’s had, there’s a belief that Murray has earned the right to take his time in deciding what to do next. He’s in no rush to make an announcement.
If he does choose to walk away, he can do so with head held high. In addition to holding British and European belts, Murray also put up a brave battle in taking Brandon Rios 11 rounds in a battle for the WBA title in December 2011. It was a typical Murray effort – relentless, physical, gruelling, and sometimes just too brave for his own good.
The Rios defeat was followed by a nightmare two years when he was out of the ring after a brain scan abnormality. When he was cleared for a return, Murray racked up a couple of quick wins before taking on Crolla. In hindsight, he might have benefitted from a tough eight or 10 rounder before stepping up to take on his fellow Mancunian.
Although he started brightly, Crolla weathered the early pressure, before wearing down a visibly tiring Murray in the 10th. The win also cemented Crolla’s reputation as one of the most improved fighters of the last couple of years, and the two now find themselves in very different places, with Crolla tantalisingly close to a shot at Richar Abril’s WBA belt, while Murray may have reached the end of the road.
If he does pack it in, it’s not all gloom and doom. Those close to Murray say he is far-removed from the hellraiser of younger years. He’s also training a couple of boxers himself, including younger brother Joe, the one-time Olympian whose professional career has thus far been a story of surprising underachievement.
The plan now is to keep Joe busy, beginning in September, where there are already a couple of tempting offers on the table currently under consideration. With big brother John in his corner, Joe still has time on his side to start fulfilling his undoubted potential.
By then, “The Machine” should have made a firm decision on his own future. Expect an announcement later this summer, and don’t be at all surprised to hear that John Murray has hung up the gloves for good.
One man definitely not hanging up the gloves any time soon is former British light middleweight champion Brian Rose. Despite the comprehensive nature of his loss to WBO boss Demetrius Andrade last weekend, Rose is determined to learn from the experience, and hopes to come again.
The feeling in the Rose camp is that, although preparations for Andrade were near-perfect, their man ran into a genuine future superstar at the Barclays Centre last Saturday night. There were no recriminations in the dressing room afterwards, no finger pointing, just a respectful acknowledgement of an opponent who simply seemed levels above.
In the immediate aftermath of the defeat, there was some talk of Rose returning to domestic level, where he has already won a Lonsdale belt outright. That assessment has been revised already, and quite rightly. The fighter is better than that, and will probably now be steered towards a minor WBO belt, in order to protect his world ranking with that organisation. In an ideal scenario, Rose’s people would like his next fight to be in his home town of Blackpool, where he is extremely popular.
There were reports of a possible meeting with former middleweight world title challenger Andy Lee, who now campaigns at light middle, and who recently scored a stunning knockout over John Jackson in New York.
The Jackson fight was an eliminator for the WBC belt, and rather than steer their man towards Rose, Lee’s management team are instead thought to be negotiating for a WBC final eliminator. Lee vs Rose would achieve nothing for either man, and it’s a complete non-starter.
Rose, meanwhile, has carried on the trend of post-fight proposals to girlfriends started by Carl Froch last month. The boxer popped the question to his long-term partner Danielle, in the dressing room afterwards, and received the answer he wanted. So in that sense at least, he came out of his experience in Brooklyn a winner where it mattered most.
Nick Halling is a commentator for Sky Sports