Looking up: Joe Murray interview

Shaun Brown
24/02/2018 9:55pm

Shaun Brown finds Joe Murray in confident mood ahead of his British lightweight title showdown against Lewis Ritson on Sunday evening...

Things are looking up for Joe Murray.

Eight fights in the last two years - his busiest period since 2010/11 - sponsors now coming to him rather than the other way around, as well as fans chasing Murray for tickets rather than the 31-year-old running about on fight week trying to shift the final few.

It has been something of a slog to get to tonight's British lightweight title opportunity for Murray, his first crack at Lonsdale honours, at the Victoria Warehouse Hotel in Manchester against Lewis Ritson.

A bantamweight bronze medallist at the 2007 World Amateur Championships (the same year Frankie Gavin won gold at lightweight), Murray (23-2, 10 KOs) also represented Great Britain at the 2008 Olympic games in Beijing falling at the first hurdle.

"There won't have been many fighters who would have gone from the Olympics, to fighting on TV bills, to walking away from it and fighting at Victoria Warehouse and on non-TV shows," Murray told Boxing Monthly.

"That's credit to me and [manager] Steve Wood. We've dug hard to get back to this level. This is why we're so confident. I've not worked this hard for the last two years to lose. I'm coming here to rip the title off him. I've worked too hard. I've gone to Rashid Kaseem's back yard and taken that unbeaten record off him. I'm not here to make numbers and if he [Ritson] thinks that he's a silly man."

Ritson, 24, with a ledger of (13-0, 7 KOs) is something of a hot property in British boxing. His destructive dethroning of then British lightweight champion Robbie Barrett last October at the Manchester Arena was one of the breakout performances of 2017.

"He looked good," Murray said of Ritson's seventh-round TKO win.

"Styles make fights, but I'm not a southpaw (as Robbie Barrett is) for one. I'm not taking too much off that anyway.

"You get fights where you look really impressive. I looked really impressive against Rashid. You get them fights where you look really impressive. The way I look at it is the best that I turn up beats the best that he turns up. It's all the tools for a great fight..

"I think he's been fast tracked," he added. "And I think they've bit off more than they can chew with me."

Murray, who has sparred the likes of Sean 'Masher' Dodd and Lee Appleyard, for this fight has only had four weeks' notice for the Ritson fight. Not ideal, but the challenger understands that he has to take the opportunities when they're given to him.

He is no stranger to short notice, being the underdog and being written off. At 31 he's well versed in boxing's tricks and treats that either make you or break you.

"It don't faze me. If you're professional you should be able to get fit in that time [four weeks] and we're never really out the gym. Everything has to be crammed in a bit faster, that's it really.

"I've done a check weight for this fight every week. Any hurdle they've put my way I've went with. It's not going to stop me. I'm 31-years-old now. I've seen it all before. It's just me and him. Any hurdles they want to put my way, I've seen before. It's me and him and that British title is on the line."

Nerves are playing their part for this fight, but that is a positive for Murray. The butterflies were there in the amateurs at the World Championships and the Olympics, and in the two Liam Walsh fights, and when he travelled to Denmark to wipe the smile off the cocky Rashid Kaseem in 2016.

"I want to be nervous going into a fight. I feel like it always brings the best out in me."

Murray, seven years older than Ritson, and having fought a dozen more times as a pro, believes experience will play a key factor in tonight's intriguing contest. However he is not bothered about the fact that he has fought at the Victoria Warehouse (five times) and Ritson hasn't.

As he put it: "Am I taking any confidence that he's never fought there before? Am I crap."

These are the fights that Murray has been waiting for. From being in boxing's wilderness, to walking away from the sport, the younger brother to former world title challenger - and now his trainer - John; Joe has had to do it the hard way.

"It's the only reason I'm in boxing," Murray said referring to tonight's fight.

"These are the fights I've always wanted to be in: Good, tough fights. I can't wait to go in there and prove to everyone what I've been saying, that I'm better than British level. I can't wait to put a show on."