Elite middleweight boxer Martin Murray, the pride of St Helens, England will make his Monte Carlo debut on June 21, topping the “KO at the Casino” tournament against world-rated Max Bursak of Ukraine in an international 10-rounder.
It will be Murray’s second fight under the banner of South Africa’s Golden Gloves. On Wednesdaynight he stopped Ishmael Tetteh in seven rounds in South Africa.
It will be Bursak’s third outing in the principality, having recorded a win and a loss in recent months.
Murray, ranked number four in the WBC and number six in the IBF, has twice fought for the world title, earning a highly controversial draw with Felix Sturm in 2011 and dropping a narrow decision to hometown fighter Sergio Martinez of Argentina a year ago. The Bursak fight is Murray’s launch pad for a major November extravaganza, also in Monaco.
Murray (27-1-1, 12 KOs) is a former British and Commonwealth champion while Bursak (29-2-1, 12 KOs) has variously held youth and inter-continental belts. He also fought for the WBO title in 2012.
On the triple-header undercard, South Africa’s Hekkie Budler, the WBA and IBO minimumweight champion, will defend his belts against Thailand’s Pigmy Muangchaiyaphum (Kokietgym), the 60-bout veteran ranked number eight in the WBA and number five in the WBC. Budler (25-1, 8 KOs) is on a hot streak, having knocked out Karluis Diaz and Hugo Verchelli in recent months. This followed a career-best defeat of former world champion Nkosinathi Joyi in 2013. Moreover, he is universally considered the number one in his division.
Muangchaiyaphum (52-6-2, 22 KOs) has won numerous Asian championship titles and is best known for giving then-WBA champion Kwanthai Sithmorseng a brutal challenge in 2010, dropping a split decision.
Also on the undercard, big-hitting Junior Makabu, number two cruiserweight in the WBA and WBC, will face Poland’s highly regarded Mateusz “The Master” Masternak, who enjoys ratings in the three major world organisations – WBA (No 6), WBC (No 12) and IBF (No 9). They will contest the WBA’s Interim cruiserweight title.
The French-speaking Makabu (16-1, 15 KOs), from the Democratic Republic of Congo but based in South Africa, is a crowd favourite in Monte Carlo, having fought there three times successfully in the past 13 months.
Masternak (32-1, 23 KOs) presents arguably his toughest assignment to date. Masternak has dominated the European fight scene and is a former holder of the WBC’s Youth belt.
Rodney Berman, CEO of Golden Gloves, said he was particularly thrilled at being behind Murray’s march to a world title. “This is just the first step. He is strategically placed to go on to big things in 2014. Bursak is as tough as they come, but Murray has proven himself in the biggest fights of all.”
Said Murray: “Bursak is a tough lad, but I know I’m going to win. I can’t afford to slip up now. I’ll treat all my fights like title fights. There will be no under-estimating from me, not when I’m in my prime.”
Manager Andrew Mikhail, who accompanied Murray to Monte Carlo for Bursak’s last outing there in February, said they both believed he had beaten Jarrod Fletcher of Australia.
“Even so, Martin is a level above Bursak. It’s still a high-risk fight because the stakes are so high at this level. Having done the deal with Golden Gloves, Martin now has focus and direction. He’s so focused on winning the world title I can’t see Bursak – or anyone else – standing in his way.”
Speaking from Poland, where he is based, Masternak said it was a dream come true to fight for the WBA title.
“I will do everything I can to win, as opportunities like this don’t come around every day. Makabu is a tough boxer with a strong punch and solid technique but there are no easy fights at this level. I am 100% focused and will make sure I am in the best shape of my career,” said the former European and WBC International Silver champion.
“Makabu may hit hard, but he is no Mike Tyson. My coach PiotrWilczewski and I have already worked out a good strategy. I will know exactly what I need to do, round by round, in order to win and bring the title back to Poland with me.”
Masternak suffered his only career loss in October 2013 to GrigoryDrozd. He has since bounced back with wins over Sandro Siproshvili and StjepanVugdelija.
Former two-time world welterweight title challenger Harold Volbrecht, who now trains Makabu, said his boxer needed high-quality fights like this one.
“Junior thrives under pressure and Masternak will bring plenty. We’ve done our homework and what we see is a tough, rugged fighter, but one we believe Junior can exploit. He has a good chin and will be there to be hit. I’m not sure he has the ability to withstand Junior’s power, but he looks well-equipped to make it a hard fight.”
June 21 will mark just Budler’s third fight outside South Africa, but manager-trainer Colin Nathan is nonplussed. “If you’re the best in your division, it’s important to get out of your comfort zone. Hekkie is now at the level where he will fight anywhere. We have big respect for Pigmy – he has a tremendous record – but if we want international recognition these are the guys who must be beaten. Pigmy will bring it hard, but I can’t see him having the game to beat a much younger and more determined fighter than Hekkie.”
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