Classic brawl 'tween Rios and Murray
How long the fight lasts will largely depend on the tactics Murray employs but I just can't see him transforming into a hit-and-move speedster.
When Brandon Rios meets Paul Murray in New York this weekend Alex Steedman sees the Englishman going down to a 'better' version of himself.
It's fair to say that Murray ([11.0] to win in early trading) has been gifted this WBA Lightweight title opportunity given his defeat by Kevin Mitchell in July.
However, with Mitchell unable to entertain this date because of legal obligations, Murray has sidled in with a spring in his step and reportedly renewed vigour in his work. Regular readers will recall I tipped Mitchell having seen Murray 'on the lash' just two weeks before fight night but it seems he has knuckled down for this, and despite a brief spat and separation, he and trainer Joe Gallagher are back together and making the right noises.
But does Murray have the nous to stave off a tough hombre like Rios?
We know what to expect from Murray by now and that is heart-on-sleeve aggression from the outset. The Mancunian has fought on the international stage before, so he has the mindset for an occasion of this magnitude and its worth remembering that Murray was the British Boxing Writers' 'Young Boxer of the Year' in 2006. But you can't imagine Murray dancing into Floyd Mayweather's shorts anytime soon, regardless of the game plan Gallagher has in mind. It is true that the Mitchell loss may be partly excused because of poor preparation and Kevin is actually world-class but, even still, Murray would need to change his spots entirely and probably improve for the transformation to prevail here. Put it this way, if Murray goes about the job with his normal brio I think he'll get battered.
Reigning champion, Rios ([1.09]) hails from the same hood as Fernando Vargas and fights with a similar attitude too. That coarseness got him into trouble when he and Antonio Margarito made juvenile fun of Freddie Roach's Parkinson's disease late last year but Rios' street mentality is harnessed positively inside the ring where he is pure composed terror.
Rios's strength was in evidence when hammered Urbano Antillon inside three rounds in July, the first defence of this WBA title. Antillon went into that fight having gone 12 rounds with Humberto Soto (unbeaten in 3 years) but his plan to war with Rios backfired badly with the champion looking bombproof for as long as it lasted. Murray will do well discourage, never mind shift Rios.
Let's not get carried away, Rios is not the next big thing, far from it in fact. He hustled previously unbeaten Anthony Peterson into disqualification escapology last year underlining his bully-boy steel and, bar one draw, Rios has a perfect record.
But you sense that he will need more guile and craft when he takes on the division's elite and you'd fancy Robert Guerrero to slap him down tomorrow. Rios will definitely struggle when he faces a slickster who can punch but John Murray is a fair way off being that. In fact, in Murray, Rios faces a less talented and weaker mirror image of himself. That may sound harsh but I think Murray is tailor made for Rios and the scene is set for a stomach churning clash in centre ring.
How long the fight lasts will largely depend on the tactics Murray employs but I just can't see him transforming into a hit-and-move speedster. John is a hard, young man and as honest as fighters come but he's flat footed and brave and I don't think he's strong enough or hits hard enough to keep Rios off him. It could just be they'll be talking about this one for as long as boxing stirs the soul.
Rios to win by KO/TKO/DQ 5pts win @ [1.33]