The magnificent Murray

Defending champion Felix Sturm of Germany, left, and Britain's Martin Murray fight during a WBA middleweight title bout in Mannheim, Germany, Friday, Dec. 2, 2011. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)
Defending champion Felix Sturm of Germany, left, and Britain's Martin Murray fight during a WBA middleweight title bout in Mannheim, Germany, Friday, Dec. 2, 2011. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)
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BRAVE Martin Murray upset the odds on Friday night as he was forced to settle for the most dramatic of draws in his WBA world middleweight title clash against champion Felix Sturm at the packed SAP Arena in Mannheim, Germany.

After one of the best title fights of the decade so far, Murray thrilled his 300-strong travelling army in the 15,000 capacity venue – and the watching thousands on Sky TV – as he traded blows toe-to-toe with the German champion in his own backyard.

The home star made the better start, but heroic Murray battled back quite breath-takingly as he took a firm grip on the second half of the fight.

At the final bell, both warriors felt they’d done enough to have taken the decision, but the first two judges scored the contest 116 points to 112 to Sturm, then 115 to 113 to Murray. It was a split decision.

The third and final judge’s scores were bellowed out, he had awarded 114 points each, so a dramatic draw was the outcome after an epic night of thrilling action.

Did the result provide something of an anti-climax following weeks of build-up and hype?

Not as far as terrific St Helens ace Murray was concerned, and he would welcome doing it all again, while at the same time seeing his stock on the global boxing stage rise significantly.

At the post-fight press conference in Mannheim, Murray, whose face bore much less damage than his bruised and battered opponent, said: “We knew what we’d be up against coming over to Germany, so to get a draw here is no mean feat.

“When Matthew Macklin lost here in the summer to a split decision, I asked whether he’d done enough to snatch the belt away. I’ve got to ask myself the same question now.

“I’ll only really know that when I see the DVD.

“I loved it out there, I was really enjoying it. The 12 rounds flew by and I was confident throughout.

“Oliver Harrision and I knew Sturm would come out with a fast start, but we weathered that, I was still there at the final bell, and we’re confident we won the fight.

“He wasn’t hurting me, and more and more as the fight went on I knew I could do it.

“It’s just one of them scenarios though isn’t it? I’ve got a draw in Germany but myself and the team feel we did enough to have won it.

“There was plenty of sting and sharpness from Sturm, but Oliver is a world-class coach and tactician, so we knew I could start taking a few more chances a bit later on when his power fell away a little bit.

“It is a mixed feeling at the end of the day – I’ve not won but I’ve not lost.

“We knew I belonged at this level, but we just needed that chance to show it.

“I’m really grateful to Felix for giving me this opportunity, but I know I can still improve and if we do get that rematch, I’ll be confident of winning.”

Naturally there were questions about a rematch.Murray said: “Any rematch will have to be over here.

“You’re not going to get him out of here, and you can’t blame him.

“He’s still the champion, he’s filling these arenas and he’s making a fortune.

“Why would he want to come to Manchester? I can’t blame him.”

For now though, Murray has headed off to the Caribbean for his dream wedding date with long-time fiancee Gemma.

During this time, the new Mr and Mrs Murray will get plenty of time to comtemplate what an exciting future is in store for Martin, following such a career-defining battle against a worthy and highly-respected champion.