Photo by Frank Franklin II
Former British and European lightweight champion John Murray (31-2, 18KOs), vowed he’d be ready to go to hell and back in order to claim the newly vacant WBA lightweight strap against 25-year-old former champion Brandon “Bam Bam” Rios (29-0-1, 22KOs), in the co-feature of Cotto-Margarito II at Madison Square Garden in New York City and televised on HBO PPV this past Saturday night December 3.
Murray, 26, of Manchester, England, was certainly taken to hell in a brutal 11 round affair, and he did make it back to the United Kingdom but did so without the WBA title as he was stopped at 2:06 of the 11th round when referee Earl Brown stepped in and waved off the action, saving the bloodied and battered Murray from any more abuse in a thriller, which has become the norm when speaking of a Brandon Rios bout.
Murray was the only fighter eligible to win the belt as Rios lost his title on the scales the day before when he weighed in at 136.6 pounds of contracted 135-pound limit, and couldn’t shed the extra weight with the hour he was given to do so.
There were threats from team Murray of calling off the fight but money talks and Murray agreed to a concession that saw Rios pay John $20,000 from his purse of $325,000, which took Murray’s paycheck from $50,000 to 75,000 to go along with his piece of British television proceedings.
With their thinking caps fastened tightly to their heads, Murray’s camp also insisted that Rios not weigh more than 147 pounds at 9 a.m. the following day, roughly ten hours before fight time. That morning Brandon weighed in at 146.4, and though some of the wind was taken out of the fights sails, it was still on, and both men rocked the show in a grueling slugfest.
Rios entered the 1st round like he enters every bout and began throwing heavy artillery at a high rate while staying on top of his opponent. Murray stood his ground as the two fought right in front of the other which many aren’t willing to do with the heavy handed Rios, making for good action from the outset. Murray landed a few good right hands upstairs as well as some left hook’s to the body of Rios but Brandon was much busier connecting with big hooks to the head and body as well as numerous uppercuts. When the Brit walked back to his corner to conclude the first three minutes his face was already reddened.
Murray came back stronger and busier in the 2nd stanza and got right in Brandon’s grill as the two started banging in a phone booth with Murray starting to land big power shots to the head, especially a few thumping left hooks that twisted Rios’ head. Murray entered the 3rd even faster as he ran over to meet Rios and began unleashing fast right’s and left’s to Brandon’s ribs. Rios was doing damage with his jab, instead of using it only to set up power punches he continually worked on Murray’s right eye. Brandon seemed to stun Murray with just over a minute to go in the 3rd round with some solid uppercuts but the Brit came right back and they were going tit-for-tat in a high octane and competitive affair.
John Murray did not come across the pond just to lay down and was giving as good as he was getting, and “Bam Bam” found himself in a tough fight but the Mexican-American wouldn’t have it any other way as he smiled at his opponent every time he got hit with a hard shot which was often. The script continued through the early rounds as the two warriors went toe-to-toe in a hard fought and close campaign. Rios caught Murray just before the bell in the 5th period with a left hook to the jaw that slightly staggered and hurt John. Going into the 6th round both Murray’s eyes were swelling and while he too was landing numerous power strikes, Rios’ face showed no signs of wear and tear.
In the 7th Rios laid it on thick and really started busting up Murray’s face as it became a bloody puffing mess. Yet Murray continued to employ his questionable game plan of standing and banging with the man who does it best. A point was taken from Murray in round seven due to a low blow after referee Earl Brown had warned John numerous times throughout the bout for hitting Brandon below the belt line.
They continued to trade and Brandon continued to get the better of it. Not only was Rios landing many more punches his blows were also taking a huge toll on Murray’s face while Brandon was amused at the power strikes hitting his. Rios’ uppercuts were the story of the fight and became more and more prevalent as the fight wore into the later rounds, resulting in purple and blue hematomas under Murray’s eyes and it felt like the fight could be over any moment either due to a knockout by Rios or a stoppage because of John’s wrecked, swollen and bloody mask.
Murray was taking thunderous shots in the 10th and was all but spent as Rios’ smelled blood kicking it into high gear. The durable Brit showed mettle surviving the gauntlet that is Brandon Rios for ten frames making it to the championship rounds, but was taking a savage beating in the process.
With just over a minute to go in the 11th stanza Rios blasted Murray with a right hand up top that was the beginning of the end. John was hurt and Rios followed it up with a hard left uppercut – right hand – left uppercut three-punch combination that had Murray staggering back to the ropes. After a few more vicious left uppercuts by Rios third man in the ring Earl Brown stopped the fight giving Brandon “Bam Bam” Rios an 11th round TKO victory in a spectacular war.
Murray made a fine account of himself while showing a tremendous heart and leaving everything he had in the ring. John didn’t go home with the belt he so desired but returned home able to hold his head high.
Rios ran about the ring with arms thrust towards the sky in celebration as trainer Robert Garcia came into the ring and picked up his charge in triumph. After worry and speculation by many in the boxing community that Brandon could be in danger of losing because of the insane act of not eating for five days and barely drinking any water to try and make weight, he was the same Aztec warrior that he always shows up as and quelled any doubts about his stamina
With the victory Brandon improved to 29-0-1 with 22 knockouts, but will have to go in search of a new title.
Yet again Rios put on another fine performance. The guy’s a beast and one of, if not the most exciting fighter in all of boxing. If the sport had a hundred more “Bam Bam’s,” not a soul would complain except to say we need more like him.