Close, but yet again no victory cigar for Martin Murray in his fourth attempt to capture a world title. The English boxer put in a brave, stirring shift against Arthur Abraham on Saturday night at the TUI Arena in Hannover, Germany, only to lose the bout on the cards by split decision. Per SkySports.com, the cards read 115-112 Abraham, 112-115 Murray and 116-111 Abraham.
Sky Sports Boxing showed Abraham with his arms raised after the final score was announced:
The 33-year-old Murray started the bout well and finished with aplomb. Abraham dominated the middle rounds and won others in his typically slow-burning fashion. The German's guard was nigh impenetrable at times, although Murray did land the best punch of the bout in the eighth round.
Murray made a calculated but somewhat risky move in bumping up to super middleweight and taking on Abraham in Germany. Then again, Murray's hardly shied away from challenging bouts in his career, lasting 11 rounds with Gennady Golovkin in February and nearly upsetting Felix Sturm in Germany in 2011.
He came into this bout on a good run of form with three straight stoppages, a good streak for a fighter with a 43 percent knockout rate, per BoxRec. Murray showed his bravery and spirit yet again on Saturday but still came up just short.
Abraham got off to a slow start in this bout. Murray kept the titleholder on the back foot for much of the first two rounds, showing a fire and aggression characteristic of a desperate but determined challenger.
Murray popped Abraham with a few good jabs and a hard left hook that drew a loud roar from the crowd at the top of the third round. He looked determined to steal a couple rounds from a fighter known to win matches late and on points.
Sky Sports Boxing noted Murray's bright start while alluding to the fact he might face harsh scoring from the judges:
With Abraham starting off each round slowly, Murray did well to neutralize his offense with aggressive clinching. It worked to keep Abraham out of rhythm at least. Murray did do quite a bit of punching at Abraham's gloves in the third and fourth rounds. He fared much better working hooks to the body.
BBC Sport provided a still from the match:
Abraham's game plan started coming together in the middle rounds. He used Murray's pressure against him, letting him come in close and then sticking him with sharp counters when the Englishman's hands came down.
For all Murray's valiant early efforts, Abraham hardly looked the worse for wear by the seventh round. A flurry of hooks and two massive overhand rights at the end of the seventh from Abraham got the crowd on its feet.
Just when Murray looked in danger of losing any hold on the fight, he rocked Abraham with a hard right cross in the middle of the eighth. The challenger pressed his advantage, but Abraham did well to keep his guard up and whether the storm. This fan pointed out that despite his age, Abraham was obviously still in incredible shape:
Back-and-fourth action in the ninth and 10th rounds showed Murray had the staying power to perhaps nick the title from Abraham. English boxer Anthony Fowler showed his support for Murray on Twitter:
Alas, Murray's early holds finally caught up to him, as the referee docked him a point in the 11th. In a close bout, it was a significant blow. Abraham keyed in after the going up a point, dodging a flailing Murray and sticking him with a few well-timed counters. Murray gave it his all in the final frame, but Abraham had plenty left in the tank and held the line.
Had Murray not lost a point in the 11th and kept his cool enough to take those last two rounds, he might've had a chance to turn at least one judge's scorecard around. If he is to get another chance at a world title, it will have to come soon. All four of Murray's world title challenges have come abroad. He may have better luck if the next one is in England.
Abraham withstood yet another furious challenge and still looks rock solid even at his advanced age. Prior to the bout, Abraham stated he has goals beyond defending his WBO title, per ESPN.com's Dan Rafael: "Now, my dream is to unify the division. I believe this would be my greatest achievement in this sport and that is what still drives me on as a boxer."
As long as King Arthur is holding court in Germany and keeps fighters from scoring brain-scrambling blows, he looks eminently capable of taking more matches on points and cementing his status as one of boxing's most frustrating draws.