Boxing: Underdog Murray no stranger to adversity
FORMER world champion Gavin 'The Rock' Rees has dismissed the challenge of Ireland's Andy Murray ahead of tonight's clash for the vacant European lightweight title in Cardiff.
"After I win this fight, I want to fight for a world title and become a two-weight world champion," declared a super-confident Rees.
Murray, who claimed three elite titles before turning professional, remained unfazed. "Nobody ever won a fight by talking -- all that stuff goes out the window once the first bell goes," said the 5/2 underdog.
The 28-year-old unbeaten Cavan native is no stranger to challenges. A long abandoned wheelchair now occupying the attic of his father's house is a powerful symbol of his resolve to beat the odds.
When asked about the condition that left him alternating between a wheelchair and crutches as a child, Murray brushes it off saying that he had a "bit of a limp for a few years."
"It was first noticed when I was six and the doctors diagnosed it as Perthes. It's basically where the thigh bone doesn't get enough blood, so it doesn't develop properly and eventually separates from the hip socket," he explained.
Watching the bitter rivalry between Chris Eubank and Nigel Benn in the '80s and '90s infused Murray with what many believed was a futile ambition to take up boxing.
However, he defied the naysayers and joined the Cavan Boxing Club.
"The doctors were worried that the hip still wasn't 100pc and my dad didn't really want me going down because of that. I used to have to sneak down to the boxing club in the beginning so that he wouldn't find out, but I think, in the long run, the boxing training actually helped to strengthen the leg."
Murray's amateur coach Brian McKeown, who has worked his corner throughout his career, says he is one of the most determined boxers he has ever worked with.
"He actually lost his first fight, but by the end of his first year boxing he was Irish champion and he went on to win another three on the trot. In fact, he was unbeaten for four and a half years in the amateurs, winning three Irish senior titles."
Murray, who is managed by Brian Peters, has been training in a gym in the village of Rosmuc in Connemara under former world title challenger Sean Mannion for the last six weeks and admitted that tonight's clash with Rees will be a big test.
"It's the biggest fight of my career for a major title against a former world champion," Murray added. "That's why I set up a training camp in Connemara. It's the first time I've done that in my career and I have really felt the benefits."
Gavin Rees v Andy Murray,
Live, Sky Sports 1, 10.30