Murray takes Sturm the distance, gains draw decision in Germany

2 Dec

Alan Dawson – London

Martin Murray‘s attempt to add the WBA middleweight world championship to his domestic honours fell just short when he boxed Felix Sturm at the SAP-Arena in Mannheim, Germany on Friday, December 2. Murray retained his undefeated status as he received a draw decision in a verdict that, in fairness to both fighters, was without controversy…

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Dawson’s scorecard

Round 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
Sturm
10 10 9 9 10 10 10 9 10 10
9 10
Murray
9 9 10 10 9 9 9 10 10 9 10 9

OTB verdict: 116-113 to Sturm.

Judges verdict: 116-112 to Sturm, 115-113 to Murray, 114-114 – draw.

Drummed to the ring by a royal regiment, Martin Murray made a princely entrance in what represented the largest and most daunting arena he will ever have had a tear-up. Like he did with Matthew Macklin, Felix Sturm forced Murray to wait in the ring in an act of pure kidology. The motive, was to aid the build-up of nerves in the gut of the English challenger to the Bosnian/German hero’s ‘Super’ WBA middleweight world championship title.

In comparison to Murray’s ring-walk, Sturm’s was more brutal than regal. Ominous musical notes transformed into angry melodies that were accompanied by explosions of fire. The question mark hanging over Felix’s head, was – bearing in mind he would have relinquished his belt to Macklin had it not been for a debatable decision – if he was fighting older than his 33-years suggested. And, if he was, if relatively inexperienced Murray would be the man to exploit that.

In the opening round, Murray popped left hands into Sturm’s midsection and jabs to the head. He also attempted to take the champion’s jab away from him by taking half-steps backward. Neither fighter, though, was landing anything of note for most of the blows were blocked by guards. With little remaining on the ring clock, Sturm connected with a big right hand which may have attracted the superior round score at ringside.

Like the first round, the second stanza contained sturdy defending. Murray adopted a textbook high guard and caught Sturm’s headbound punches with his gloves, but occasionally allowed a body punch to creep through. Sturm was a touch looser and was also a greater mover, meaning he was able to evade shots rather than block, however, he too frustrated his opponent by protecting himself at all times.

Murray was the more active puncher in the third yet, in a similar fashion to the crispness he showed against Macklin, Sturm’s shots were the sharper and hence more eye-catching. At the end of the second minute, Murray connected with a solid left uppercut and followed that up with a right hand. His work in the final minute was also noteworthy as he targeted the kidneys. As Sturm returned to his stool, minor swelling around his eye had become apparent.

In the fourth, Sturm upped his work-rate by the vast majority of his punch output were blocked by Murray’s rigid shield. Murray began varying his inside game, digging in shots to the breadbasket before hooking a right hand over the top. Moments later, he gave Sturm an almighty shove which forced the Leverkusen-born boxer into the outside and the Englishman was duly warned by the third man in the middle.

There was not much in any of the opening four rounds in what had been a competitive start to the contest. It proved to be an intriguing battle to be the ring general as Murray was not allowing Sturm to dominate at all with his lead punch, yet did not show the necessary aggressiveness and intuition to command a lead. A tie score at the end of four was fair game for both men.

In the fifth, Sturm doubled up on the jab, proving to be a profitable change in tactic. Murray, in a great display of technical skill, trebled up on the inside left hook. Murray also began purposefully dropping his hands. It was perhaps an effort to goad Sturm into additional combat – something he could counter or further nullify – but in the moments he did this in round five, it worked against him as Sturm was landing when he unleashed. In the sixth, Murray received a reminder by the referee to keep his punches up as there was a succession of three or four moves where he was shooting lower and lower. Sturm’s quality shone in the sixth, as he found his rhythm and boxed superbly.

The seventh round was a display in combination work. Sturm tagged Murray with extraordinary flurries in the opening minute, the challenger retaliated in kind in the second minute with the hook punch in particular a shining shot in three to four punch moves, but Sturm pressured well in the final minute to again nick the ten score.

The 300-400 traveling fans from England, who had been chanting throughout the night, raised their decibel levels as Murray began putting his punches together with ease – even stringing together as many as five and six shots in swift succession. Murray had showed off his technical ability, out-boxed and almost embarrassed Sturm in one round in what appeared to be a turning point in the fight.

Murray’s power had paled against Sturm’s in the first half of the fight, but in the eighth, a right hand over the top, launched all the way from downtown, showed he had not reached fifth gear and could still take Sturm to even more dangerous places in the championship rounds. While Murray had the control in the first two minutes of the ninth, in the final minute he was looser-limbed – the tell of a fatiguing fighter – and Sturm capitalised on this by flurrying.

In the tenth, Sturm was the aggressor. He pressed the fight and forced Murray into moving around the ring’s periphery. The tug-of-war over ring generalship had often landed on the side of Sturm. Repeated warnings to Murray inspired jeering from the partisan audience who voiced their discontent at the referee’s refusal to dock a point from Martin’s total by lobbing a rucksack into the squared circle (a bizarre act of protest).

Murray’s combination work again troubled Sturm in the 11th round and, midway through the round, staggered Sturm with a big hook punch, however, when he had found success, he would all too often back off, rather than follow up with sustained pressure. This lack of aggression could work against him, but he finished the round in the ascendancy.

Both fighters traded combinations in the final round. Murray was landing the heavier leather, a potential self-acknowledgment that he required a knockdown to level the scoreline. Murray was the more active puncher, yet, in the final 30 seconds, Sturm attempted to attract the final ten score by bursting into action. As the concluding bell loomed, he had Murray staggered and sought to force a Hollywood finish, yet the challenger was, effectively, saved by the bell.

It was a courageous performance by a challenger who had never fought on the world scene having exclusively operated within the confines of Britain and the Commonwealth. With more experience, he could have guaranteed victory against a fighter who is clearly past his best.

Press row were split over whom had won the contest yet, officially, Sturm remained champion due to the draw decision. Based on his Murray display and Macklin exam, however, he has now slipped to a clear-cut level below lineal middleweight champion Sergio Martinez and WBC world titlist Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.

With the win, Sturm moved to 36-2-2, 15ko while Murray’s record now stands at 23-0-1, 10ko.

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3 Responses to “Murray takes Sturm the distance, gains draw decision in Germany”

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