Credit: Lawrence Lustig

Joe Thackray

Martin Murray’s lifelong dream of winning a world title was shattered once again on Saturday night, after a controversial split decision loss to Germany based Amenian, Arthur Abraham in Hannover.

The Merseyside man left nothing in the ring as he took the crafty veteran the distance before losing out on two of the judge’s questionable scorecards.

This was Murray’s fourth attempt at trying to capture a world title after an enthralling draw with Felix Sturm in Germany, losing to Sergio Martinez in a debatable points decision in the Argentinian’s back yard and a gallant eleventh round stoppage defeat to the most feared man in the sport, Gennady Golovkin in Monte Carlo.

The Abraham fight was Murray’s first real test since moving up to 168 pounds from middleweight earlier this year. The fight posed an undeniable risk to Murray and his team but it was risk that they were willing to take in order to deliver the WBO super middleweight world title to St Helens.

Murray seemed to dominate the early stages of the fight, holding the centre of the ring and looking solid in defence. His work rate looked to be unsettling the champion who looked to be very reliant on his robust high guard.

Round four saw Murray warned by the referee after a rather low looking body shot was milked profusely by the WBO title holder.

The fight looked to be opening up towards the middle rounds as Abraham started letting his hands go more than usual and although many of his punches were catching the challenger’s gloves, they looked like scoring punches and were giving the champion confidence.

Murray though, brave as ever, was not fazed and continued to try and push Abraham back, working the body and countering well with his Jab.

At the end of round seven, Murray’s trainer Oliver Harrison made it known to his man that he had to up the tempo.

This seemed to spark Murray into life and late on in the eighth round he caught Abraham with the best punch of the fight. A looping right hand landing perfectly on the chin sent Abraham stumbling across the ring to the safety of the ropes.

Murray saw his chance and pounced on the champion and began an assault which saw several clean shots land to both the head and the body of Abraham but the seasoned pro somehow hung on and made it to the asylum of the bell.

Murray came again in the ninth but Abraham’s world renowned tight defence seemed bulletproof.

The champion seemed content to use his superior size to push the challenger back and wherever a clinch occurred, the referee was quick to point the finger at the St Helens hopeful.

In round eleven Murray was deducted a point for holding, much to the dislike of the travelling crowd.

This left the former British champion with nothing to do but put it all on the line as the pair traded heavy shots in the twelfth and final round.

The delight on the face of Murray and his corner indicated that they thought they had done enough to dethrone ‘King Arthur’ in his adopted hometown and finally win a world title.

Abraham and his team however had other ideas. As the announcer uttered the words ‘split decision’ there seemed to be a familiar feeling about yet another heroic and gutsy Martin Murray world title challenge.

Notoriously scoring in Germany can be a mystery at times but scores of 115-112, 112-115 and 116-111 seemed particularly cruel on Murray. In the end it appeared that Abraham’s ‘glove punches’ and impenetrable defence seemed to be the difference in this close and hard fought encounter.

Where next for the St Helens super middleweight?

You can’t help but feel sorry for Martin Murray. Having fought the best of the best in world title fights, and having travelled abroad on every occasion – he has always come up short.

There has been talk of Murray deserving a rematch with Abraham, who is arguably the more conquerable of the four champions in the division, but the WBO have recently ordered that the champion is to defend against his mandatory challenger, exciting Mexican Gilberto ‘Zurdo’ Ramirez, so the chances of the Brit sharing the ring with Abraham again look very slim.

Abraham’s promoters, Team Sauerland have since stated that Abraham’s next fight, barring a ‘sensational offer’, will be against his mandatory challenger Ramirez.

Current IBF super middleweight champion and Murray’s Matchroom stable mate James ‘Chunky’ Degale defends his world title this weekend against former champion Lucian Bute of Romania in Canada. If Degale is to overcome the challenge of Bute then the opportunity for a big domestic dust-up with Murray will surely grab his attention. But are the former Olympic Gold medalist’s sights set on fighting in America and unifying the division?

Another champion in the 168 pound division is Sin City based Swede, Badou Jack. Jack currently holds the WBC strap and after overcoming former Degale foe, George Groves in September, he will surely be looking to get another defence secured for early 2016.

Is Murray the man? Probably not. Although a potentially interesting fight, ‘The Ripper’ has been strongly linked to a unification fight with Degale who is more likely to sell tickets in America than Murray.

The fourth and final title holder at super middleweight is Russia’s Fedor Chudinov who captured the vacant WBA belt back in May by beating former Murray nemesis, Felix Sturm via Split decision in Germany. Since then, the undefeated Russian has gone on to defend his title against London’s Frank Buglioni in a horribly one sided affair at the Wembley arena in September.

There have been rumours circulating recently that a rematch has been agreed between Chudinov and Sturm. If Sturm is able to avenge is loss to Chudinov, we could potentially see another fight between Murray and the popular Germany. We will have to wait and see, but Murray cannot afford to sit around and wait for a fifth world title fight. There are numerous match-ups to be made domestically which if won, could see Murray catapult himself up the rankings and work his way towards a mandatory shot.

Callum Smith and George Groves are the only other top class fighters from a stacked British super middleweight scene. There are plenty of fights to be made and plenty of money to be made in the process.

There is no doubt that last Saturday’s loss will be demoralising for Murray, but he can come away with his head held high. The former middleweight has almost certainly raised his stock with the performance he put in against a great champion in Arthur Abraham and will have unquestionably opened a plethora of doors in the super middleweight division for himself and his team.

Murray has gone on record himself as saying that although he’s been around a while, he feels like he is only just getting into the prime of his career.

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