In a sport which rarely offers transparency, it’s always surprising when confronted with refreshing honesty from men or women who train to punish their opponents.
Miles from the brash bravado of boxing’s multitude of televised platforms, thirty-six-year-old Ross Murray (8-1, 1 KO) was preparing for his biggest opportunity as a professional. Hailing from Glasgow’s working class Castlemilk area, Murray had suffered his only defeat when facing Sunny Edwards almost a year ago.
Slated to fight Commonwealth flyweight champion, Jay Harris, on November 3rd, the Scot knew it was important to cram meaningful bouts into what was always going to be a short career.
“It’s a bit of a weird one, to be honest with you.”, Murray told me, whilst on his way to work for a construction company. “I used to play football. Around about twenty-five, I always had problems with my knees. They used to just dislocate. I had to get corrective surgery on my knees and I got my left one done first. I went back to football and I ended up doing the other one! The third surgery was the most extreme and after that, football was done. I just started going up to boxing a bit more cos there wasn’t as much twisting and turning involved, you know?”
“I was just gonna wrap it [and call it a day], to be honest. Nothing was happening and I was getting fed up. Peter Harrison who was training me at the time, he spoke to me about going pro, he said, ‘Why don’t you give it a bash?’ and I was always kinda suited to it. It was about two or three years ago now, and fighting for this Commonwealth title fight, that’ll be my tenth fight, so that’s a bit of a journey we’ve been on!”
Turning professional at aged thirty-four was far from conventional, however the benefit of competing in divisions at the lighter weights is often their shallow talent pool, especially at domestic level. Managed by Sam Kynoch and now trained by Craig Dickson, himself fresh from his first triumph at British level as a trainer, Ross was genuine about his longevity.
“The boxing is just a hobby, because with my age and with the job I have, the work is more important to me now. It’s my livelihood… But I just love boxing! In the short space of time I have to do it, I just want to fight the best people I can and hopefully grab a couple of titles along the way.”
He continued, “When I got offered the Sunny Edwards fight, nobody wanted to fight him. I feel like if you don’t want to take those fights, why are you in it? There are people out there boxing who are knocking back Scottish title fights against other Scottish fighters. Why are you even boxing? You’ve had eight or nine fights and you don’t want to fight someone else in Scotland? You’re not a boxer. When you get to Commonwealth title level, everybody is gonna be good.”
His bout with Harris, the undefeated champion from Swansea, was scheduled for a British Warriors show staged in the iconic York Hall, Bethnal Green. Although he’d boxed on one of Frank Warren’s dinner shows for the WBO European title, his forthcoming fight was one he felt he stood a solid chance of winning.
The buzz in-and-around the Dickson camp has been growing steadily with every outing, with British champion Kash Farooq, newly victorious debutant Boris Crighton and top-ten super-featherweight Jordan McCorry. McCorry and Murray, known as the ‘Bomb Squad’, were close friends and often spotted at events in Glasgow together supporting their teammates.
Scottish boxing is experiencing a purple patch, with Prestonpans’ Josh Taylor leading the pack and hosting big names on home soil. It was a time for the nation’s boxers to prey on the spotlight, leading their own renaissance.
“Scottish fighters are always the opponents and I don’t think that’s gonna change, to an extent. The English fighters and the Irish, especially, they always create bigger revenue streams. You’re always kinda playing second-fiddle, but when you have guys like Josh Taylor, it brings that TV money. Josh Taylor is spear-heading that now, with the show in the Hydro and Ryan Burnett on his undercard. We can build off the back of that!”
Murray elaborated, “Boxing’s going great [in Glasgow], I think it’s going the best it’s ever been, in my time especially! I go back to seven or eight years ago and the only one you really had was Ricky Burns. Everyone was signing for Alex Morrison so that they could get on Ricky’s shows and that was the only show going about. I’m very pally with Jordan McCorry and I remember him fighting twice a year, maybe three times a year if you were lucky! It was all very low-key and there weren’t massive shows.
“Ricky’s still floating about and you’ve got Lee McGregor and Kash [Farooq] just winning the British title. Ian Butcher, who’s a really good boy. Jordan’s in the top-ten, I’m ranked fourth or fifth in Britain, there’s so many big fights.”
With the multi-coloured Commonwealth strap firmly on his mind, Murray was well-aware of the dedication required to reach boxing’s surface level. Whilst holding down a job at a builder’s merchant company, he trained whenever possible, keeping an eye on previous injuries and working to refine his technique. I’d seen him at Kynoch’s facility in Glasgow’s Southside, working up a sweat and shadow boxing.
An excellent personality, his love for the sport was evident. If Ross Murray has one fight left or ten in the tank, his influence on young fighters and his peers was undervalued. He was full of energy and happy to give back to the sport that had offered him another release following his footballing injuries. Trainer Craig Dickson will be hoping to add another belt to his stable’s collection, whilst Murray just wants to fight the best and make his time in the sport count for something… I found it admirable, and surprisingly simple.
“He’s [Jay Harris] just another good boy, mate! As I said, this is what I’m in it for. I can go and fight journeymen, I can go and win every contest and I can probably go to work and train at night and come out with this record of 14-0, but what’s the point?! I’d prefer to be 12-3 than try to be 15-0 and have fought nobody! Now, Jay Harris, I watched his fight against [Thomas] Essomba and he looked very good. He looks big and strong and he’s another avoided opponent.”
“I don’t feel like I’m just going to turn up for this one. I’m coming to win it and I want to win it. If he’s better than me on the night, he’ll beat me and if I’m better than him on the night, I’ll beat him. That’s as simple as it gets in boxing!”
Article by: Craig Scott
Follow Craig on Twitter at: @craigscott209