Martin Murray, the British & Commonwealth middleweight champion, gave German Felix Sturm something of a scare when he contested the latter’s WBA title tonight in Mannheim, Germany. Murray came to the ring unbeaten in a 23 fight career. Sturm, 36-2-1, the WBA’s long-standing champion, was making the twelfth defence of the strap he won back in 2007.
In the event Murray, much unfancied before the fight, became the second Englishman in 6 months to come away from Germany without Sturm’s title despite the majority of on-lookers believing the visitor had done enough to earn the judges verdict. Such is life in Germany, where home champions seldom lose decisions.
At least Murray was allowed the consolation of a draw. After a tentative start in which the Brit appeared to be not yet persuaded that he belonged at world level, Murray began to match Sturm’s jab and combinations from the third round. Sturm appeared the stronger of the two in the first half of the fight, but Murray was the busier, and matched Sturm’s double and triple jabs with effective combinations to head and body. In the middle rounds, Murray began to relax, even at moments dropping his hands and goading the German champion, and he even had Sturm backing up and looking uncomfortable in the eighth. Sturm, however, has been a good champion and he came back and dominated the ninth, the two shared the tenth and the eleventh before Sturm turned it on in the last round, having Murray backed up and almost out in the last thirty seconds of the contest.
Murray’s British entourage, and his promoter Ricky Hatton, were indignant at the end when the three judges scores were announced as 116-112 Sturm, 115-113 Murray, and 114-114 Even. They pointed again to Germany’s unenviable reputation for bum decisions, but in truth this was a close fight and Murray might not have done quite enough to wrench a world title away from an established champion on his home soil, in Germany or elsewhere. I scored the fight 116-114 to Sturm.
What Murray did prove is that he can bridge the gap from British to world level, and he joins Matthew Macklin and Darren Barker as proud Englishmen who failed to win middleweight world title fights this year, yet enhanced their reputations nonetheless.
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