John Murray was one of Britain’s most exciting fighters during the 2000s and 2010s with the Manchester lightweight putting on one of the bravest performances by a Brit in that era in a battle with Brandon Rios at Madison Square Garden. 

WBA 135lbs champion Rios was one of Top Rank’s emerging stars at the time and waged war with Murray for 11 enthralling rounds. The bout acted as chief support to Miguel Cotto’s redemption fight against nemesis Antonio Margarito, but it was Murray and Rios who stole the show. Mancunian Murray recalled that memorable night in New York City alongside former rival Rios. 

“It was a great fight with Rios and I can honestly say I loved every second of it,” Murray (33-3, 20 KOs) told Boxing Social. “We stood toe-to-toe for 11 rounds, he was just so big. People forget Rios lost his title on the scales that night and I never held that against him, I was just zoned in on being a world champion and having a war, and I did have a war. On another night, who knows? I loved every second of that fight.”

Former champion Rios remembers Murray and their war with respect. “Wow, John Murray was one tough man,” Rios told Boxing Social. “I threw everything I could at him and he just kept coming. I really respect John and I always will, he proved that night he is a warrior and I hope he is doing well in life.”

Following his courageous showing against Rios, the Manchester man returned after a two-year layoff in 2013 with his most notable win coming against the seasoned John Simpson in March of that year. Murray felt in his prime that night as he halted the Scot inside two rounds.

“I honestly felt unreal when I came back against John Simpson, I felt I would have beaten anyone that night, honestly,” said the former British and European lightweight champion. “I had a great camp for that fight and felt like an absolute machine in there that night. It was a fun night in Glasgow.

“I fought [Anthony] Crolla after that, but I’d only had [six] rounds of competitive boxing since the Rios fight in 2011. It just wasn’t my night [Crolla won via a 10th round stoppage]. I have tons of respect for Anthony as a person and a fighter, that fight came at the right time for him and maybe not for myself. It was a great fight in Manchester and I think people forget how good the fight was.

“If things had worked out differently, I would have been a world champion. I know that and I am at ease with that. I fought at Madison Square Garden, I won the British and European titles, I sold out arenas in Manchester. I had a good run.”

Life after boxing is never the easiest when you’ve touched the top of the mountain and not the simplest route to navigate. Murray explained how he has handled the challenges life has thrown at him.

“It’s not the easiest thing adjusting to real life after boxing,” he said. “I really feel fighters could benefit with having some form of union that can help advise them during and after their careers. A lot of fighters end up with no money, they go off the rails and there is nobody there for you. The reality is people you think were your friends move on with their lives for the right and wrong reasons. It’s sad but it’s the truth.

“I have my gym Murray Machines in Reddish, Stockport, and it’s buzzing. We have a great group of people in here from all walks of life and that’s what boxing is about, bringing people together to help each other. I’m glad I have the gym, I have a clothing range now and I’m always pushing in life, like I did in boxing, just to get better. 

“My doors are open to anyone no matter where they are at in life. Mental health is an issue globally right now and, if I can help anyone through boxing, I’m always here even for a chat, especially to any ex-pros.”

Main image: Alamy/Reuters/Mike Segar.