After losing a shot at the WBA lightweight title in his second consecutive loss, John Murray has fought back to win his past two boxing matches, riding some momentum into his Saturday bout versus Anthony Crolla.
Both orthodox fighters hail from Manchester and have been British lightweight champions in the past, so there should be plenty of impassioned fans cheering them on at Phones 4u Arena. Murray enters with a record of 33-2, while Crolla owns a mark of 27-4-1.
Three-time ABA heavyweight champion Tony Bellew provided his analysis on the fight, believing that the more seasoned Murray has something to prove:
It should be a captivating 12-round showcase in which a great contrast of styles will be on display. Crolla's quickness and technical brilliance will clash with Murray's methodical but powerful approach.
Before getting into a preview and prediction of what to perhaps expect in this Manchester derby spectacle, let's take a look at when and where to catch the action on April 19. This will be a battle fans of the sweet science won't want to miss.
When: Saturday, April 19
Where: Phones 4u Arena in Manchester, England
TV: Sky Sports 2 (beginning at 7:30 p.m. BST)
Live Stream: Sky Sports (subscription required)
Fight Preview and Prediction
Murray took a two-year hiatus from the ring following his WBA title loss to Brandon Rios but has been revitalized by a better diet. The 29-year-old veteran discussed his changed lifestyle in a report by James Robson for the Manchester Evening News:
Nutrition is a massive part of boxing. You need to put the right fuel in it. It has taken me this long to get it right. The break has done me the world of good. Two years was a long time and I had to keep busy. ... I look at the mistakes I made. Sometimes I wouldn’t eat for three days. It’s a massive, massive change. I used to eat beans on toast and Pot Noodle. It’s about eating the right food at the right times. I’ve nailed it. It doesn’t feel like I’m making weight for a fight.
Technical knockout triumphs over Michael Escobar and most recently John Simpson on March 1 suggest that Murray has indeed found a mix of foods that works. However, he faces a formidable opponent in Crolla, who has a chance to wear down even a fitter Murray with his energy and improvement.
The two are friends, but Crolla won't be in a compassionate mood when he enters the ring, acknowledging this fight has far different circumstances than his perfect previous four triumphs in all-Manchester fights, per MancunianMatters.com's Tim Hyde:
I’ve been in four Manchester derbies and won all four, but this is different because that are lots of factors involved. John and I are good mates, we used to train together under Joe Gallagher and we support United and City. There is no problem between John and I, we will go out for a drink after the fight, but once that bell goes there won’t be any friendship. We both have the same friends so there might be a few neutrals in there on the night, but I hope to have the red side of Manchester in my corner.
That Crolla brings up the English Premier League football clubs he and Murray support should add to the stakes of this fight in terms of how popular it promises to be. These fighters can bridge football and boxing with their rooting interests, thus creating factions among fans who should take their sides.
City or United. Murray or "Million Dollar" Crolla.
As for who will come out on top, there is a definite chip on Murray's shoulder that should serve him well. The changes he's made both inside and outside of the ropes should serve him well in stretching this into a long fight that goes the distance.
But as explosive as Crolla has proved to be, he's also shown that he can endure lengthy bouts. Crolla drew to Derry Mathews and won an impressive majority decision over Gavin Rees before dominating Stephen Foster in his last appearance, as the fight was stopped in the sixth round.
This is going to be a Manchester derby for the ages, but look for the younger, sprier Crolla to come out on top in a close call.
Prediction: Crolla wins via split decision.
With how exceptional Murray has looked in his comeback, he could very well emerge victorious, as the fight with Crolla is just about as even as they come. However, a loss would set back his bid for a world title shot and likely push him toward retirement. If it is indeed a split decision, though, perhaps Murray will be driven to continue training hard and prolong his boxing days.
A prospective triumph for Crolla, by any margin, is going to aid his efforts in landing even higher-profile fights in the future. At age 27 and without too much mileage on him, there is no question Crolla has the potential to excel for the next decade or so, but he must become more consistent. Now that he's on a good roll, beating Murray could be the boost Crolla needs to keep him on a steady ascent in the British boxing ranks.