Two-time middleweight title challenger Martin Murray believes he is on the verge of entering his true prime.
Four fights removed from a debated 2013 loss to then-champion Sergio Martinez, Murray (28-1-1, 19 KOs) has run off three straight wins entering Saturday's bout against Italy's Domenico Spada (39-5, 19 KOs) at the Salle des etoiles in Monte Carlo, Monaco.
The fight (ESPN3.com stream, 1 p.m. ET) took on considerably more meaning in the past week when it was announced that Gennady Golovkin would be ringside. Murray, 32, is the leading candidate to land a February bout, also in Monte Carlo, against the unbeaten middleweight titlist.
Murray, of England, spoke with ESPN.com on Thursday about Spada, Golovkin and more:
What are your thoughts looking back on your 2013 loss to Martinez in Argentina?
I should have gotten [the decision]. My team and I are quite confident in saying we should have won. But that is in the past, and we are obviously no longer thinking about it. Our view was that if we were going to go over to Argentina, we would need to knock Sergio out or we weren't going to be able to get a win on points over there. So we knew when the final bell rang that was going to be the case. Obviously the result was wrong, and many people thought we won.
You have quietly recorded three straight wins since the Martinez loss. How much has that helped to restore your confidence?
To be honest with you, after I fought Martinez in April , I entered the fight in December [against Sergey Khomitsky], and I was in no condition to fight. I had overtrained. I was ill. So that wasn't anything like a confidence-booster. It was more workmanlike. I just went into the ring to get the job done. Then they just needed to get me a fight, just an easy one, so we went to South Africa [to defeat Ishmael Tetteh] in April. Steadily from that, we built up and went straight through into the training camp for the [Max] Bursak fight [two months later in Monte Carlo]. He's not world class or anything, but he's a good European-level fighter, and we completely outclassed him. We just completely put to bed everything he tried and just outworked him. That was good for my confidence. I have always known it, but that just cemented for myself that I am a world-class fighter. I'm getting momentum now and feeling like I am ready for the best. The confidence is sky-high at the minute, and I am ready for anyone in the world.
How much have the stakes been raised for Saturday's fight, knowing that Golovkin will be ringside and the fight will be streamed in America on ESPN3?
It adds a bit of pressure, but I do well with pressure. I'm not looking at it like a daunting task. Don't get me wrong, I do want to go in there and impress for all of the hard work my team and I have put in. Also for the people back home and in America, I do want to impress. But the main focus for me on Saturday is just getting the job done.
How much do you know about Spada as an opponent?
I know quite a lot about him. He came over to England and fought, and I have watched quite a lot of tapes about him. He is very much the same and has never changed his style, so we know he won't bring anything different from his other fights. He likes to fight and is quite dirty, as well. So we worked on what we think will work well against him, and we are looking forward to putting it to good use on Saturday.
You made a name for yourself in America for your performance against Martinez but have been unable to land a fight in the U.S. because of your visa issues. How much has that held back your career?
It has held it back a lot. I was scheduled to fight Peter Quillin for the world title on the [Floyd] Mayweather-[Canelo] Alvarez undercard. I know I would beat Quillin, and it would have been a brilliant occasion to be over there building my name more in America. So it definitely affected me in that way. But from the other side, I'm in a great position now with the best team around me that I have ever got. I'm a firm believer in everything happens for a reason. So I wouldn't change my past. I am focused on what I am doing now and looking forward to the future.
Are you confident you will be able to get your visa issues resolved?
Yeah, I've been told that there is nothing on there that says I won't get in to America. I've never done anything that bad. It was many years ago. It's just the fact that the biggest thing working against me was that I went over with Ricky Hatton when he fought Mayweather. I went to Vegas watching that and filled out the form on the plane as you do. I wrote "no" [when asked] if I had a criminal record. [Murray served four stints in prison totaling five years for street fighting and robbery.] That was the biggest thing that's working against me. It's not how many convictions, it's the fact that I've been there before and not declared it. So they told me to keep trying, and I definitely will get there. I'm coming up on 10 years now with a clean criminal record, so I have no doubt I will be over there in the future.
Your name is being talked about as the most likely candidate to face Golovkin in February. How interested would you be in that fight?
First and foremost, my focus is on Spada for Saturday. But when I turned professional, I said that I wanted to be the best I can be and fight the best. That's what I want to do. I proved that I did that against Martinez, and if the Golovkin opportunity comes together after Saturday, then it's a fight I will be very much looking forward to.
There's some sentiment in America that you have had opportunities to face Golovkin in the past and turned it down. Can you set the record straight on that topic?
I'll clear that up for you, no problem. I have never been aware of me fighting with Golovkin. I have since found out after the fact that apparently I was due to fight him in February of earlier this year. I knew nothing about it. The same thing was said with Peter Quillin. Apparently Golden Boy had been in talks with Hatton Promotions, who I was with at that time, about trying to make a Quillin fight in England. I only realized that when [former Golden Boy CEO] Richard Schaefer released a press release slamming Hatton Promotions, saying [director of boxing Richard Poxon] was impossible to deal with. So I was only aware of it after the fact, so maybe that was the case with Golovkin. I've never had any contact about fighting with Golovkin in the past, or anything with Peter Quillin in England. There's not much more I can say about that.
Do you believe Golovkin is as good as his hype leads us to believe?
I think he's a good fighter. He's doing everything right. But I don't believe he has had the proper test yet, and I know I'm the proper test for him. I think I can beat anyone on my best day, and I'm looking forward to the challenge. But first and foremost, I've got to get past Spada.
What was your reaction to seeing Martinez lose the middleweight title to Miguel Cotto in such dominant fashion?
To be honest with you, it was always bound to happen after back-to-back tough fights [Martinez] had with me and [Julio Cesar] Chavez Jr. Cotto is a great fighter, but watching that fight, I just looked at it as he picked up in Round 13 where I left off in Round 12. [Martinez] was finished, and I really do believe that the back-to-back fights with me and Chavez finished him.
Do you believe Cotto can have a lengthy run as the division's lineal champion?
Cotto is a great fighter, but in my honest opinion, he is too small for middleweight. So I do think he will stay there. But being able to do what he does picking and choosing his opponents, maybe he can have a lengthy run if he picked and chose wisely. But if he chose to fight myself or any of the genuine middleweights out there, I think his reign would end.
Do you believe you are at the peak of your prime entering Saturday's bout?
I am not in the middle of it, I am only just getting to it. People have not seen the best of me, and there is plenty more to come. People have only seen the performances of me when I was just finding myself. I feel like I am getting into my prime now. I'm more confident than ever that I will be world champion.