One-time world amateur medallist Joe Murray has endured a frustrating time since vaulting to the paid code in March 2009. The 2008 Beijing Olympian has been restricted to just a dozen wins (five early) and is yet to debut at meaningful championship level. But the 26 year old they call ‘Genius’ is hopeful of kickstarting his career after signing a promotional deal with Frank Warren last month.
After 14 months on the sidelines, the Arnie Farnell trained super-featherweight returns to the prize ring at Wembley Arena on April 20th and, after shedding some rust, shall be anxious to force his way into title contention.
Murray features on the undercard of an action-packed triple-title card headlined by WBO World Light-Heavyweight Champion Nathan Cleverly, plus WBO European Lightweight Champion Liam Walsh and Commonwealth Super-Flyweight title challenger Paul Butler, all live and exclusive on BoxNation (Sky Ch. 437/Virgin Ch. 546).
Name: Joe Murray
Family background: I’m the third of four brothers. Apparently our Grandad boxed and obviously our John did too. (Former British, Commonwealth and European lightweight champion John challenged Brandon Rios for the WBA lightweight title in December 2011).
Another older brother Stephen had about four amateur bouts but was far more interested in chasing girls. My youngest brother is only seven so it’s too early to see if he’ll take to it.
These days I live on a farm a fraction of a mile over the Welsh border, by Wrexham, with my girlfriend and little boy Hugo, who’s four months. It’s great, we get free prescriptions (in Wales)!
Trade: Farming. I buy and sell horses.
Nickname: ‘Genius’. They had a competition in the Manchester Evening News to find me one.
What age did you become interested in boxing and why? We’d always watched the Rocky films and the wrestling. I’d always had ‘toy fights’ with my older brothers. But it really started when me mum started going to boxercise classes at Bob Shannon’s gym in Openshaw. She’s pretty tough, our mum. Still tells us what to do!
To keep us off the streets, she took us up to Bob’s amateur club, Shannon’s ABC. I’d have been about 13, our John 15.
What do you recall of your amateur career? After a year at Shannon’s, I moved to Ardwick Lads and, a year after, I went to the Northside gym. Then we spent a couple of years at Boarshaw. Basically, I followed (coach) Joe Gallagher around.
All told, I won 95 of 110 amateur bouts. Being really small, I didn’t get many bouts to start with. But I won the national schoolboys and junior ABAs. In the senior ABAs I never got past the north-west regional round. In 2006, (eventual champion) Nick McDonald from Liverpool outpointed me at bantamweight and the following year Kallum De’ath from Northside also beat me on points.
I must have boxed for England about 80 times and I only lost ten. I won the Junior Olympics in Louisiana when I was just 15 and I also won the Four Nations as a junior.
From the age of 18, I trained with Team GB at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield and went straight onto the Podium squad. I stayed for three years until I turned pro. It was good but I didn’t enjoy being away from home and sometimes they treated you like a little kid. They always found something for you to do so you had very little free time.
I won loads of multi-nations medals, including a silver at the European Unions and a bronze at The 2007 World Seniors in Chicago, which qualified me for the Beijing Olympics. That was definitely my (amateur) highlight.
The opening ceremony was something else. I’d already beaten three of the eventual four medallists at Beijing but, like Frankie Gavin, I’d qualified about nine months earlier and was really struggling to hold the weight. My focus was solely on making weight rather than boxing training and I lost in my first fight to a Chinese kid I’d previously beaten at the worlds the year before.
There’s this huge misconception that there’s a huge party among the athletes inside the Olympic village but it weren’t like that for me. As soon as I lost, I was flown home with Billy Joe (Saunders).
I stayed on (amateur) for the 2008 Europeans in Liverpool at featherweight but lost in the first series to David Oliver Joyce of Ireland. I felt that was a bad decision. Previously, at the 2006 European Seniors in Bulgaria, I’d got to the quarter-finals
Why did you decide to turn pro when you did? I’d done everything I wanted as an amateur. I’d been the Olympics, the World Seniors and two European Seniors so would just be repeating what I’d already done. Perhaps I’d have got better medals but I had enough already.
Tell us about your back up team: Initially I was promoted by the Hattons but last month I joined Frank Warren. I’m managed by Mike Marsden and, after a long time with Joe Gallagher, I’ll now be coached by Anthony Farnell.
‘Arnie’ (Farnell) and me are just starting to gel and I’m buzzing. Paul Butler, Matty Hall, Ronnie Heffron plus a few good young pros are also at his gym in Failsworth and we all push each other on. ‘Arnie’ gives us individual slots so he’s always looking over us.
(Expert nutritionist/conditioner) Kerry Kayes has always been around my career and I know I can ring him any time I need for advice.
What’s your training schedule? Which parts do you most and least enjoy? I’m never really out of the gym but ideally I like six weeks notice before a fight so I can get my weight ‘spot on’.
When I’ve a date, I’ll train Monday to Friday. On Tuesdays and Thursdays I do my sprints at the track and on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays I’ll run six miles. I take a longer run on a Sunday morning.
I normally arrive at Arnie’s gym for noon but there’s no set routine. We have sparring days, bar-bag days, body bag days…Other times we’ll focus on developing different techniques on the pads or do circuits. You never really know what’s coming.
Like most boxers, I most enjoy sparring. It’s the closest to actual boxing. I still spar our John quite a lot and I did quite a bit with (welterweight) Mark Thompson for his recent Prizefighter. At Joe Gallagher’s, I did loads with Stephen and Liam Smith, Scott Cardle, Anthony Crolla… I’ll spar anyone.
I least enjoy running, especially at the track. It’s just really hard work. At the start of a camp, we’ll do four- one kilometre runs and we’ll try to get under three minutes for each. Closer to the fight, we do six 800 metres, then drop it to ten 400 metres and finally fast sprints.
Describe your style? What are your best qualities? I’m very clever at working people out. I’ve fast hands, fast feet but can also fight inside. The left hook-right hand is probably my favourite combo.
What specifically do you need to work on to fully optimise your potential as a fighter? You need to keep all your tools permanently sharp. I continually go back to the basics and re-learn what I thought I’d mastered early in my career. Beware bad habits!
What have you found to be the biggest difference between the pro and amateur codes? I boxed four-two minute rounds in the amateurs and you seldom found out the opponent’s true (physical) strength. You could steal fights by getting a few points up in the first two rounds then basically running away.
Winning the early rounds of a 12 round professional championship is no guarantee you’ll win the fight.
That said, you don’t always need to hold your feet to be successful as a pro. Floyd Mayweather has a great amateur style, still and he’s doing okay. Ditto Oscar De La Hoya, Manny Pacquiao and Amir Khan. They all retained great foot movement.
Who is the best opponent that you’ve shared a ring with? My brother (John). He’s very underestimated. Everybody talks about his toughness but he’s also very calm, clever and cunning. He knows when to rest, when to work. He can always sense when you’re tired, then jumps on you.
All time favourite fighter: Arturo Gatti. He had the heart of a warrior and always brought entertainment.
All time favourite fight: Barrera-Morales I. Non stop war. Neither wanted to get beat.
Which current match would you most like to see made? I’d still like to see Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao. That fight should definitely have been made a good few years ago. On his game, Pacman could still give Floyd problems with his southpaw style, fast hands and feet. But Mayweather would win. He figures ‘em all out really fast and always makes it look so easy.
What is your routine on fight day? I just try to stay really relaxed because nerves burn your energy. I’ll be up quite late and have brekkie about 11ish. Throughout the day I’ll take in a lot of water to re-hydrate after the weigh-in. I’ll mainly just watch films and have a laugh with me mates. I’ll have a light sandwich around 5pm but like to fight on a relatively empty stomach. That makes me feel sharper.
In the changing rooms, I lark about with the others to stay relaxed. Fight day is what you do the sport for. I’m there to have fun. It’s not the death penalty!
Entrance music: ‘Cotton Eye Joe’ by the Rednex because I own the farms. I’m gonna enter in dungarees and a straw hat!
What are your ambitions as a boxer? I want to win the British and European titles and I hope that Frank Warren will get me those opportunities. Ultimately, I just want to get as far as I can, knowing that I gave it 100%.
How do you relax? I like to ride horses and go out hunting. I like to go out roading on the bikes and I like to go the (horse) races at Bangor and Dee.
Football team: Man United. Our John’s Man City. Whenever we go the derbies together, he always gives me away if we’re in the City end!
Read: Boxing News plus Horse and Hound to keep up to date with the price of horses. I also spend a lot of time on the Internet.
Films/TV: I like comedies and horror movies. ‘Snatch’ is probably my favourite film. On TV, I like a bit of Corrie and crime series.
Aspiration in life: To achieve as much as I can, have a good time and give my children the best possible future.
Motto: It’s a horse one. ‘Ride It Like You Stole It!’