Dave Oakes previews Saturday's European lightweight title fight between John Murray and Karim El Ouazghari..
It’s often said that a change is as good as a rest, John Murray returns to the ring this Saturday having had both. Murray returns from a six month hiatus to take on Karim El Ouazghari at the York Hall in his first fight under Frank Warren.
Murray had become disillusioned with Hennessy Promotions’ lack of progress in terms of moving him towards a world title fight and finally decided to sever his ties and move to Warren earlier this year. A move which he hopes will not only provide him with a world title but also bigger fights and more exposure to the general public.
I think it’s fair to say Murray’s search for a big name opponent hasn’t gone the way he wanted it to thus far. A much mooted bout with Kevin Mitchell fell by the wayside after Mitchell failed to agree terms, leaving Murray to face the distinctly average Karim El Ouazghari.
The Spaniard is rated 20th by the EBU in a division that hasn’t got a great deal of strength in depth at European level. His 14-1-2 (4 KO’s) record has been achieved via fighting low level opposition. His only test came against Daniel Rasilla, whom British fans will remember for his bout with Paul McCloskey; El Ouazghari scored a flash knockdown in the third but was hammered to submission in the fourth – not a great sign for a competitive fight for Murray.
At 26, Murray should be reaching his peak years; he’s conquered the domestic scene, gained experience of fighting abroad and has tightened the leaky defence that was a trait of his early career. In other words, he’s as ready as he’ll ever be for a step-up to world level. He can still improve but I don’t believe he can do that fighting boxers of El Ouazghari’s class; he needs stern tests as soon as possible.
The Barcelona based El Ouazghari prefers to box on the front foot but I’ve got a feeling he may look for a different approach against the bull-like Murray. Despite his low knockout ratio, El Ouazghari does carry reasonable power, especially with the left hook, as was seen in his fight against Jesus Garcia Simon.
The most dangerous aspect of this fight for Murray will be complacency. He should win the fight easily; he’s more experienced as well as being the stronger and more skilful boxer. If he’s on top form, Murray should take care of El Ouazghari inside four rounds, even if Murray isn’t firing on all cylinders, I’d still be surprised to see the fight go the full twelve rounds such is the disparity in quality between the two combatants.