John Murray and Lee McAllister put on a fine Display in front of Sell-out Crowd
By Daniel Cann at ringside (Jan 18, 2009)  
In front of a sell-out capacity crowd at the Robin Park Centre, Wigan, champion John Murray (25-0-13 ko’s) and challenger Lee McAllister (27-1-5 ko’s) put on a fine display that was worthy of the support they both enjoyed. Fans had travelled from Manchester and Aberdeen to be there and the boxers made the fans trip worthwhile. At stake was Murray’s British title, which he won last July, and perhaps also the promise of more lucrative matches for the victor.

In McAllister we had a typical Brendan Ingle style fighter, tall, rangy, slippery and with silky boxing skills, his corner consisted of Ingle men Dave Caldwell and stable – mate Ryan Rhodes. Entering the ring to the Sex Pistols and the Proclaimers McAllister looked loose, confident and brash. He looked keen to back up his pre-fight boasts, calling Murray a ‘Cry baby’ and saying ‘Styles make fights and Murray’s suits mine.’

There was already a bit of needle and Murray soon made his way to the ring with chief second Joe Gallagher to a cover of ‘Johnny Be Good.’ Murray the tough, hard –hitting and improving prospect looked sharp, sporting heavy stubble and a scowl. He looked so intense and eager to commence hostilities. Both men weighed in at 9 stone 8 pounds comfortably inside the weight limit, a testament to the training camps, Murray had made much of training over Christmas and the New Year to ensure he was on top form.

The fight opened with Murray stalking, looking like a man possessed. McAllister circled, flicking out a jab. Murray landed a decent right cross and they fell into a prolonged clinch, referee John Keane looked a little slow in breaking them up. McAllister looked so relaxed and confident and he soon landed more jabs, placing his punches well. All Murray offered was a focussed expression on his face as he followed his elusive challenger around the ring. He was not cutting off corners and seemed to be trying to work out his opponent’s style. At the bell I wondered if it was going to be a frustrating night for the defending champion as he was falling short with his punches and being picked off himself.

Murray was eager to start round two, so eager that referee Keane had to point him back to his corner before the bell. Murray looked wound up, it was clear that the greater strength lay with him, but he was finding it difficult to unload his artillery. Murray bore in and managed finally to land some body shots, it looked a little untidy and scrappy inside and Keane ordered them both to ‘clean it up.’ Murray still had not found his rhythm, McAllister continued jabbing and moving. Despite Murray’s high guard McAllister still found his way through and he landed a decent one-two combination. Murray showed his frustration later as he tried to rough McAllister up on the inside, using the inside of his glove on his opponent’s face. There were plenty of more infractions like this during the fight. For the most part, McAllister managed to stay out of range and continued to land snappy jabs. Towards the end of the second Murray landed a few heavy punches from both hands that had McAllister blinking. At last it looked like Murray was starting to warm up, he was a little too eager however as low punch landed. I noted that McAllister was looking flustered and a little surprised at the end of the round after finally tasting his opponent’s power. He had a red nose as he got back to his corner.

Murray continued to bore his way inside at the bell for the third round. McAllister jabbed and moved on the back foot, but Murray always seemed to be on top of him. Murray was looking to show who was boss and he landed a decent right hand and a hurtful looking body shot. The pressure continued for the ‘Aberdeen Assassin’ when the champion landed a good one-two combination of his own. Murray was at last teeing off on his man; he was enjoying much more success and with each passing second getting more and more into his stride. McAllister was beginning to look a little flat footed despite catching Murray on the way in with a decent right. Murray bulled McAllister into the ropes but did not manage to capitalise, his challenger was still slippery.

It was noticeable that McAllister seemed to be pawing with the jab rather than snapping it, suddenly from somewhere he seemed to get a second wind and for the last minute of the round he was up on his toes. Murray kept boring forward only to take a meaty right uppercut from McAllister. Murray responded with a right hook of his own and backed the challenger into a corner, landing left and right hooks. McAllister took both punches squarely and grinned, saying something to the champion as if to say he was not hurt (usually a sign that a boxer is hurt). As the bell signalled the end Murray looked much the stronger. If McAllister had power it could have been a very different fight.

The fourth began with that same intense frown of concentration and suppressed rage on Murray’s face. He went straight on the inside and went to work; McAllister was standing off and measuring his man, extending his left glove. He tried to get the jab working again and was able to avoid the in-fighting. When he stuck to his boxing and jab and move routine McAllister looked commanding, it was only when he fell into Murray’s traps or elected to mix it up with the champion in a show of bravado that he paid the price. Perhaps the excellent vocal support from his fans spurred him on to places where he should not have been. The Aberdeen man found his back on the ropes as Murray caught him with a few punches before he spun off and danced away. Murray was working the body in the clinches, trying to wear his man down. For most of the round the champion was being outboxed, in fact this was perhaps one of the best rounds for the challenger as he managed to stay off the ropes and away from the corners, fighting at his pace. When he reverted back to his boxing and his natural style McAllister looked impressive. There was a bit of needle as they continued to fight after the bell having to be separated and warned by referee Keane.

As in the previous rounds Murray started the fifth strongly going straight into the attack and backing McAllister up. The challenger sensibly got back on his bike throwing jabs. Murray was trying desperately to get his man onto the ropes again where he could punish him further. The champion sported a nasty looking swelling on his forehead before the contest (probably from training camp) and it worsened in this round, although ultimately it never became a factor in the fight. Murray was mixing his shots to body and head in this round and the tide looked to have turned his way again.

Murray landed a good left hook and McAllister began to bleed heavily from the nose. At the sight of this damage Murray piled it on, a right hand and head came in from the champion, again he was not warned for the rough stuff whether it was intentional or not. The brave Scot was getting a bit roughed up and he was clearly out of his stride, he was not comfortable at all fighting Murray’s kind of fight.

The champion continued to pick the challenger off on the ropes, several right hands connected and McAllister was having a terrible round. He showed bravado again when he managed to break free and danced away and taunted the champion but he was fooling no one. He was taking a lot of unnecessary punishment by fighting Murray and standing his ground, although brave it was the wrong tactics. The challenger did have success with a right as he caught the on rushing champion on his way inside but it was a rare success. Murray was relentless, landing another heavy right. McAllister looked bloodied and battered, making the same mistake Sugar Ray Leonard did in his first fight with Roberto Duran by standing toe-to-toe with a slugger. At the bell McAllister was read the riot act by his corner who pleaded with him to get back to his boxing, whenever he tried to take on the champion at his own game he was coming off second best. It looked like the tide had turned for good now.

Round six saw a different McAllister who had clearly headed his corner’s counsel as he was back to his boxing and moving routine, holding and tying up Murray when he got in close. Referee Keane gave them both a stern talking to after an untidy looking clinch; it was getting messy again as their styles clashed. McAllister landed a decent right uppercut inside again on the advancing champion, again fate is a cruel mistress, if only McAllister had more power these would have been devastating shots. The Scot was moving well despite the previous rounds pummelling and I noticed how puffy the champion’s eyes were looking.

Suddenly there was a big exchange of punches and they were back to fighting Murray’s fight with only one outcome: McAllister coming off second best. Murray was taking over again as he landed the more heavier hurtful stuff. McAllister seemed to be slowing by the minute as the pace began to tell on him. The challenger continued to jab and counter back but there was nothing on his punches they were just arm shots now. It was evident that Murray was slowly working him over. McAllister suddenly found the champion with a great right to show he was still in there but it was a rare success. Murray was soon bossing and bullying his man around the ring, the head came in dangerously again and again he received no warning.

Keane did warn Murray to keep his punches up but I thought he should have been looking at the infringements that were occurring a little higher than that! McAllister’s nose was bleeding freely again and it must have been affecting his breathing, his punches were becoming less accurate and there was not much conviction from him. Murray ended the round on top catching his brave challenger with a good right.

The seventh started with Murray as ever on top working inside. McAllister went on the back foot again but could not avoid the punishment coming his way as punches to head and body landed with increasing frequency. Murray again did some roughhouse stuff by following through with the elbow after throwing a hook, he was getting away with a lot of dirty work and he will need to watch this in future, as a less lenient ref will surely penalise him.

McAllister did have some success of his own and reminded everyone he was still in the fight as he landed a good right. It was soon the same pattern of Murray roughing his man up and working him over. All the fleet footed silky skills of the early rounds were gone now as McAllister’s nose bled and he took more punishment. He tried to utilise his jab but to no effect. Murray landed two right hands and worked the Scot over on the ropes. They moved back to the centre of the ring when the champion, quite illegally used the heel of his glove on the challenger’s throat forcing him back to the ropes. I thought this was supposed to be Marques of Queensbury not UFC! Finally Keane did warn Murray. When the action commenced McAllister was talking to Murray who responded with his fists. Hooks to the challenger’s head and body thudded in and the challenger began to wilt under the furious assault. The challenger stood still like a statue, leaning forward and taking it. He was absorbing some tremendous punishment and it was not clear whether he was showing tremendous bravado or simply did not have the energy to move out of harms way anymore. The bell sounded the end of another landslide round for the champion.

McAllister came out for the eighth knowing how bad his situation must have been, his corner sounded desperate during the interval and he was probably only going to be given one more round to get back into it. The Aberdeen fighter tried circling around his opponent but soon found himself being bulled into a corner. As the remorseless champion continued the pounding McAllister’s strength and resolve were running out like sand in an egg timer. He did manage to land a decent double jab but it was like using a peashooter to stop a tank at this stage. Murray crashed home a crunching left hook to the solar plexus and McAllister fell to his knees his whole body contorted in pain. He looked to his corner as the referee tolled the count and shook his head. There was no way back and the referee mercifully signalled it was all over with just under a minute of the round having elapsed.

It had been an excellent contest of two contrasting styles and personalities with ultimately the relentless pressure, bullying, strength and power of the champion eventually telling on the brave, smooth-boxing flashy challenger. At the time of the stoppage I had it close as McAllister had won the early rounds with Murray taking over as it went on, my score card read 67 –66 for the champion. The stoppage made the score cards of the three judges redundant, but it just showed that for a while anyway McAllister was fighting the right fight and doing well before he simply got worn down by the strength and aggression from the Mancunian champion.

Despite the needle and the rough stuff there was mutual respect for each other at the end which was good to see. Murray called out European Lightweight champion Jonathan Thaxton who was at ringside and that fight is a mouth watering prospect, promising to be a real old fashioned ‘tear up.’ For the challenger who appeared witty and cheerful during the post fight interviews with ITV4 he can come again and learn from this. It had been another great night for the sport of boxing and in a high charged atmosphere we were rewarded with a thoroughly entertaining but brutal contest.

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