It’s true not all domestic rivalries live up to the pre-fight promotional tag lines they’re packaged into. But on April 19th, 2014, the ‘Battle of Manchester’ proved to be no hype-job when John Murray and Anthony Crolla delivered one of British boxing’s most memorable bouts. Crolla stopped Murray in the 10th round, but had to dig deep to break his courageous opponent.
On paper, Crolla vs Murray had no obvious victor. In one corner stood Crolla (28-4-1, 11 KO), a skilled boxer who hadn’t made much headway outside the domestic scene, but had impressed since bouncing back from a knockout defeat to Derry Matthews. Crolla gave puncher Matthews a rematch, earned a spirited draw, and went on to upset formidable Welsh favorite Gavin Reese.
Then we had heavy-handed John Murray (33-3, 20 KO), also a respected Lightweight on the British scene, but one who had mixed with harder opposition both domestically and at world level. Though suffering knockout losses to both, his gutsy performances against Kevin Mitchell and Brandon Rios showcased his ability to enter the mix with top-tier fighters.
Crolla vs Murray: The Fight
Throughout the first 4 rounds, Crolla vs Murray couldn’t have been tighter to score. Murray’s game plan was clear: to cut off the ring, nail his man on the ropes, and drive home crushing bombs to the body and upstairs. And he looked effective. He was aggressive and applied pressure throughout. But Crolla had prepared for Murray’s onslaught, and as the 2nd round got underway, it was clear his defense and footwork was going to play a significant role.
Murray came out fast in the 3rd once again, pinning Crolla on the ropes, hammering away with a barrage of punches. But Crolla’s boxing brain and fortitude showed he wasn’t going to dance to this beat much longer. Crolla came back landing straights of his own center ring, forcing the Manchester crowd to their feet.
The 4th round was a similar tale, with Murray trying to take his man out on the ropes. Crolla survived the attack and finished the round strong, controlling Murray with accurate jabs. The fight seemed dead even, with one clichéd question that needed answering: would the boxer or puncher prevail?
As the 5th got underway, Murray – who had a mouse growing under his right eye – appeared to show the first signs of fatigue, while Crolla’s confidence started to shine. Murray’s connect rate dropped marginally and Crolla’s feet were dancing. The 6th saw a turning point in the fight: Crolla dominated, picking off Murray with noticeable ease, cleverly taking the fight away from his opponent by keeping the fight center ring.
But Murray, still the ever-game, do-or-die fighter, wasn’t about to take a back step. He pushed hard, forcing Crolla back onto the ropes, throwing a flurry of shots, desperate to nail his foe with a fight-changing blow. But it never came; Crolla weathered the storm well, came back fighting, and once again set the tempo. Murray’s left eye also began to swell.
Frustration set into Murray, but offered little to his arsenal in the 8th. For his efforts, he was sharply picked off by Crolla, and returned to his corner with a bloodied nose and unmistakable air of fatigue, attrition, and vulnerability. Murray continued to throw flurries into the 9th, but this time was picked off – particularly with uppercuts – by an opponent who seemed to have his number called. Murray’s chances of winning were rapidly narrowing to that of a puncher’s.
Murray started strong in the 10th, but failed to nail his target cleanly, and was soon tagged by another uppercut that sent him staggering backwards into the ropes. Soon after, a left hook to the temple sent Murray crashing to the floor, his exhaustion and pain visible. He bravely beat the count, but after Crolla connected with clean punches which left him helpless, the referee stepped in to save this warrior from unnecessary further punishment. (Crolla vs Murray Video Highlights)
Crolla vs Murray: Aftermath of a Battle
Post fight, the crowd showed their appreciation and applause for the all-out, action-packed Manchester showdown they had witnessed. And rightly so.
For Murray, it would now seem he’s approaching the tail-end of a colorful, well-respected career. Future world title dreams may have dissipated, but it’s likely he will receive offers at domestic level, perhaps against fellow Brit Olympian prospect, Luke Campbell, down the line. However, it would be a shame to see a close to battle-worn Murray thrown in as cannon-fodder for today’s young up-and-comers.
For Crolla, the future looks bright. Sky Sports pundits suggested he’s ready to challenge for a world title, which would seem the best route for him to take. At 27, he’s young enough to chase after a big name, so why not? However, it may be wiser to go after a European title first and climb up the world ranks at a steadier pace.
A match-up that would surely make good business sense on UK shores – before traveling across the pond – would be to challenge recently dethroned WBO Champion Ricky Burns. This would be a stern test for Crolla, and, given his significant development witnessed in Manchester, is possibly now a winnable fight.
Whatever the future holds for Murray and Crolla, these are two men who will certainly be remembered for years to come on British soil. Also featured on the night’s bill, Scott Quigg took out Tshifiwa Munyai inside 2 rounds.
Let us know your own thoughts on Crolla vs Murray in the comments!
The BoxingBase.com writing staff provide worldwide boxing news, coverage and analysis – they can be contacted via email and social media.