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John Murray v Karim El Ouzghari European Lightweight Title Fight Preview

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Murray strong favourite to win

Murray must prove he believes in the Devil!

Verdict: Murray by TKO in nine.

Big Fight Odds: John Murray 1/100, Karim El Ouazghari 16/1 bet365  

Manchester's John Murray makes the second defence of his European lightweight title when he takes on the dangerous but untested Spaniard Karim ''El Diablo'' El Ouzghari at the York Hall in Bethnal Green, London, on Saturday night. Undefeated Murray, the WBC's no.2 contender at lightweight, continues to mark time as he waits for a crack at champion Humberto Soto, but the Manchester puncher would be advised to turn a blind eye to some of the bookies that have him as much as a 1/100 favorite for Saturday's fight. The bout is being shown live on Sky Sports 1, and the action starts at 9:30 pm.

Eight year professional veteran Murray (30-0, 18 ko's), is understandably impatient for his crack at the big time, and recently took the step of signing promotional contracts with Britain's no.1 boxing wheeler-dealer – Frank Warren. At 26, Murray is entering his peak years, but the lightweight division is one of the most talent laden in boxing, boasting such dangerous fighters as Juan Manuel Marquez, Michael Katsidis, Miguel Vazquez, Brandon Rios and Juan Diaz.

Murray turned pro aged 18 way back in 2003. Boxing regularly against moderate opposition, he served notice of his potential when he won the WBC Youth World Lightweight Title with a technical decision over Colombian Ignacio Mendoza in 2005. In July 2008 Murray took a 24-0 record into his fight with Salford's talented Lee Meager in an all Manchester clash for the vacant British lightweight title at Wigan's Robin Park Center.

Murray emerged as a new star in British boxing as he systematically destroyed the game Meager in five dominant rounds, displaying his full arsenal of jabs and hooks, body shots and even bursts of switch hitting. Murray's trademark tight defence meant the aggressive Meager was unable to land any telling shots, and by the fifth round Murray was landing with crunching hooks from both flanks, forcing referee Howard Foster to step in to save the brave but comprehensively outclassed Meager from serious punishment.

The British title winning destruction of Lee Meager was the beginning of Murray's current six fight stoppage streak. Light punching but slick boxing Scott Lee McAllister was dispatched in eight rounds in January 2009, and that was followed by a British title defence against an overmatched Scott Lawton, who was taken apart in six rounds five months later.

Fading warrior Jon Thaxton was hammered in four one-sided rounds in October 2009, but young Welsh prospect Gary Buckland gave Murray a tough fight for the vacant European lightweight title last May when he traded bombs and went toe-to-toe with Murray for nine thrilling rounds before fading in the tenth and being TKO'd in the 11th.

Last time out Murray was his relentless self as he stopped tough European campaigner Andriy Kudryavtsev of the Ukraine in nine rounds in a European title defence last September. Once again, it was a typical Murray display.

The Mancunian is never flashy, and no-one could describe his style as exciting, but boy is he effective. His defence is bullet proof, and when he has been tagged by bomb throwers like Gary Buckland, his chin hasn't been found wanting.

Murray has fast hands, but punches methodically, favoring single shots to combinations, a choice that could count against him against busier world class fighters. He is not a concussive hitter, but his punches are deceptively hard, and the accumulative effect is ultimately devastating to his opponents.

On Saturday night Murray goes up against an opponent he admits to knowing nothing about. 31 year old Karim ''El Diablo'' El Ouazghari (11-1-2, 4 ko's) is ranked a lowly 20th by the EBU, who have recently amended their rules and now allow fighters ranked inside the top 20 to be eligible for title fights, whereas before it was only the top 15.

El Ouazghari, Catalan born of Moroccan parentage, was a late starter in the professional game, turning pro in late 2006 on the verge of his 27th birthday. His lone defeat was a fourth round TKO against a fellow Spaniard, lanky triple European title challenger Daniel Rasilla.

El Ouazghari had to wait until his ninth bout before he scored his first stoppage win, but has since halted four of his last six victims, so he is clearly coming into his stride, power-wise. Despite his lack of experience, Le Ouazghari looks and fights much better than his record would suggest. A smooth, upright stylist with a fast jab and straight right and a genuinely vicious left hook, the Spaniard is a lean, tough looking customer who stands slightly taller than Murray, and could cause the Mancunian problems if he is not fully focused on Saturday night.

That left hook from from El Ouazghari was evident in his two round destruction of Jesus Garcia Simon for the Spanish lightweight title in February 2010 when the hapless Garcia was sent crashing to the canvas as if he'd been hit with a trip-hammer, and evident again three months later when he blew away Armando Candel, also in two rounds.

The Spaniard is clearly finding his feet as a professional, and the European title shot against Murray has probably come twelve months and four fights too early.

If Murray is on his game and his defence is tight, he should overpower El Ouazghari inside ten rounds. If his mind is on world title fights, or the bout with Kevin Mitchell that failed to materialize, that fast hook from the Catalan may deposit Murray on his backside for a count early on.

I'm banking on Murray to leave nothing to chance at this stage of his career, therefore to enter the ring fully focused on El Ouazghari and nothing else, and dismantling the Spaniard accordingly in nine rounds. 

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