Hooks & Jabs
By Richard Hubbard
AS HE STRODE, smartly suited and booted, into the River Room at London’s salubrious Savoy Hotel a week or so back, Martin Murray wore the look of a man who has seen it all before, been there, done that.
Of course he has because the son of St Helens is no stranger to elite title combat, having fought for a world belt on four previous occasions.
The fight takes place at the 02 Arena, which is obviously more of a home fixture for Billy Joe, but after making previous challenges in Germany (twice), Argentina and Monaco, he has every right to expect a more level playing field after rightly being able to declare himself hard done by in at least two of those overseas encounters.
“It does feel more natural,” agreed the 35-year-old on going over some old ground. “But, having said that, I know I am still in a tough fight so I have still got that buzz coming to a press conference.
“They are different when you are actually in a world title fight, but I am used to it now, while still having the nerves.
“So it is more routine now but still as exciting.”
Murray, who harboured thoughts of potentially taking on Daniel Jacobs due to sharing connections but heard nothing, doesn’t hide his admiration for Billy Joe for taking the fight with himself essentially coming to the party empty handed.
“This opportunity presented itself and it is a great fight.
“Full respect to Billy Joe for taking this because I can’t offer him anything other than a hard fight. I know he is looking for other fights and I will put a spanner in the works.
“It is going to be a hard night’s work for him, but it is what he needs and it is going to be a bit of an acid test for him – the perfect set up for him going into a big one against Golovkin or Canelo.
“Obviously I am here to put a stop to that and will be giving everything I can to beat him.”
Billy Joe has gone for the jugular in attempting to exploit any mental weakness in his last two opponents – Willie Monroe and David Lemieux – and the pre-fight toing and froing carried a calculated edge.
Murray is of the old school though and doesn’t believe this spectacle will suffer from a lack of spite in the build-up.
“It’s not my style, I’ve met Billy before and he is sound, we’ve had a chat and he’s got no reason to have a go at me and I’ve got no reason to have a go at him.
“This is a big fight that sells itself, a big one at the 02 and especially coming off his last performance.
“I’ll be bringing a load from where I’m from and he will have his crowd. Not bad mouthing won’t affect sales or take the edge off, if anything it will do it a favour because it is just two lads who are going to go and ‘ave it. Without any bitchiness.”
ALL ROADS LEAD TO LEEDS
JOSH WARRINGTON BELIEVES Lee Selby should be happy to finally be booked in to share a ring with someone who actually wants to fight him.
After winning the IBF world title in mid-2015, Selby moved into the American market in the hope of securing marquee fights and unifications. They never materialised, then Jonathan Victor Barros left him in the lurch in Las Vegas before his last opponent, Eduardo Ramirez, failed a check weight and ruled himself out of title contention.
Warrington has all the time been waiting patiently in the wings and eventually forced the issue by becoming mandatory challenger.
Which leads us to Elland Road in Leeds for a May 19 showdown that Josh would not miss for the world, let alone weight.
“Most definitely he should be happy, but I don’t know what his mindset is for this,” questioned the Leeds favourite. “It is like he is a bit bipolar, he says one thing and then contradicts himself.
“He can’t avoid me now because I am here. His career has been a bit of a farce of late with boxing flyweights, people like Eric Hunter who is just a headcase and then the Barros fight…
“Maybe it is no fault of his own, but he chooses the team around him and the way he conducts himself in interviews he has made his own path.
“Naturally this rivalry has built up and the time is now coming. He has had his little reign but he is not making a fifth defence.”
Josh goes along with the thinking of his promoter Frank Warren in believing that timing is everything when it comes to landing a shot at a world title.
The prospect of this fight raised its head in July 2016 but it didn’t come to pass. Now, Josh strongly suspects, the IBF belt is ripe for the picking.
“Of course, since it was last offered to me I have had three fights since then with two stoppages. I’ve had another year and a half to mature, to learn, to get a bit wiser and, yeah, I feel like I am just hitting my peak.
“I am 27 and a young 27, everything is good at the minute and over the last 18 months everything in my training has improved like my timing, my strength and conditioning – everything is up.
“It is all about timing and it wasn’t meant to be a couple of years ago, but it is now.”
A WELCOME IN WALES
WARM WEATHER TRAINING camps are very much in vogue at the moment with fighters seeking to remove themselves from various distractions ahead of forthcoming contests.
For the Leather twins – Josh and Kalam – clement weather might just be in short supply in their chosen destination.
The super lightweights have upped sticks and moved from Teeside to the south coast of Wales for their training stints and are now operating under the watchful eye of Gary Lockett.
New gym mate Liam Williams salutes the twins for sacrificing familiar surroundings in a bid to further their boxing education.
“They have come in with Gary now and they seem to have loved what they have seen so far and what they’ve been doing.
“I am excited for the whole team, for Gary and for the boys – and I want to see them do well.
“For them to be prepared to come down to Wales and travel that far, being away from home and family, it shows what they are about.
“Obviously they have seen a lot in Gary and are very confident he can take them to that next level.”
Cardiff is one thing, but Liam has resisted so far introducing the twins to the delights of his home town Clydach Vale. That will keep for later.
“Not yet, I’ll give them a couple of months to settle in and I’ll get them over. I can’t see myself taking them for a pint because they are only going to be down when in camp, but perhaps after one of the fights we will show them what the Valleys are all about.”
Something to look forward to then boys!