By James Allen
This Saturday Matchroom Boxing will serve us a hearty appetiser before we feast upon the heavyweight delights of Anthony Joshua vs Wladimir Klitschko next week. Eddie Hearn is marching out the scouse-sounding continent from his stable for an Echo Arena card that is as evenly matched as you are likely to see, topped by a bout sold on the likelihood of blood spilling and war erupting between two perennial middleweight contenders.
It is a homecoming of sorts for Martin Murray (34-4-1, 16KO’s). His fans have only to make a short trip from St Helens to see him launch another run at a middleweight title of some description after a meandering period in the division above. The pad from which he hopes to spring is Philadelphia made, splattered in red and torn at the seams. Gabriel Rosado (23-10, 13KO’s) is a modern day Chuck Wepner in that his face has only to feel the wind from a punch before it acquiesces and begins to drip; a legacy of hard fights in a self-managed career modern fighters are rarely exposed to if they appear regularly on television as he has.
As suggested by the subtle title given to the event, ‘Beautiful Brutality’, the headline act has a fair chance of becoming a wince-worthy affair. Both participants have the propensity to absorb big punishment and an inability to leave hurtful shots unaddressed. Join that delightful combination with the fact neither is a one-bomb puncher and you have the recipe for a gruesome dish indeed. If they are in the top ten of this division they are surely at the lower end having run alongside the champions -Gennady Golovkin, Peter Quillin, David Lemieux and Jermell Charlo for Rosado, Golovkin again, Arthur Abraham, Felix Sturm and Sergio Martinez for Murray- before ultimately losing pace. This is the kind of match we should see more of; a happy middle ground between the super-fights and the bowl-overs.
A day ahead of the fight Murray weighed in almost a pound inside the 160 limit he once claimed was too difficult for him to make. He wore not the gaunt expression of a man drained dry, but a determined, accomplished look of intensity as he pumped his fist and celebrated the announcement. Rosado, looking equally lean and healthy scaled an ounce over at 159.3 pounds. Judging by the face-off that followed between the two heavily inked men, where Rosado flexed his biceps and Murray pointed at him in amusement, we have a main event between two confidently assured fighters who are accustomed to the flying shrapnel of battle.
Chief support for the main will take the form of a super-middleweight fight for the vacant British title between Rocky Fielding (23-1, 13KO’s) and John Ryder (24-3, 12KO’s).
The hulking southpaw Ryder has a recent record unexpectedly chequered given the form he showed in a close loss to current WBO middleweight champion Billy Joe Saunders in 2013. That performance if not the result suggested he had the potential to reach a higher level than the one he is currently operating at. A shock KO loss to Nick Blackwell in another vacant British title tilt at 160 two years ago and a unanimous points defeat to Jack Arnfield last August hint menacingly that he may have already found his ceiling.
Fielding is the taller and longer of the two with quicker hands and a propensity to keep his feet moving when he is boxing at his best. The lone red flag on his ledger came in the biggest profile bout of his career against a fellow Liverpudlian, the current number one contender for the WBC, and the man all-around hailed as the next biggest thing to come from the UK, Callum Smith. Fielding was smashed inside a round that night and looked utterly bewildered as the shards flew from him. He has revisited the Echo twice since, once in a solid win over French tough man Christopher Rebrasse, and so flashback jitters are unlikely to shake his legs, especially given the spotlight will not glare so brightly for this one. Form and physical dimensions are on his side but this is a pick ‘em just like the fight to follow it.
Further down in the earlier bouts Sean Dodd fights for the vacant lightweight Commonwealth belt and Tom Farrell will look to climb the WBA lightweight ladder as he contests for their International strap.
All in all, we will see four local-ish boys fight for three vacant belts and the debut of a highly-touted amateur in the Welsh Joe Cordina. This is a good trade card that will likely provide more bout-for-bout entertainment than the top-heavy bill next week.