Murray pockets the prize
Favourite proves bookies right with in a barnstorming finale
Last Updated: 23/11/08 7:01am
Martin Murray became the fourth Prizefighter champion after outpointing Cello Renda in a sensational final.
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The man from St Helens is the first pre-tournament favourite prevail, but was made to work every inch of the way by the plucky runner-up.
With both fighters' styles merging perfectly, a packed house at the York Hall was treated to a fitting finale to a night that was short on knockouts, but not lacking in effort or excitement.
And in true Prizefighter fashion, they saved the best until last.
From the off it was clear that Renda was going to give Murray more room to do his work and within 20 seconds a right straight down the middle blooded his nose and lit the touchpaper for a tear-up.
Renda came surging straight back but was stopped in his tracks 30 seconds from the end of the first when another right scrambled his senses before a follow-up flurry forced him to the floor.
It proved to be the moment that would pocket Murray £25,000, but not without one almighty fight.
Looking to even things up, Renda came out swining wildly in the second and did catch his man with a haymaking right that wobbled him. But Murray's defence had looked good all night and spared him further punishment in the corner.
The pair then traded freely for the entire round, Renda hooking for all he was worth and even managing to rock him with cute left uppercut on the inside.
But Murray also enjoyed some success as his man walked forward, a sweet left in the third checking his progress, but merely setting up another ferocious exchange as the quantity, if not not quality of the punches had the York Hall on its feet.When the final bell came, it was always going to go be a split decision and the knockdown proved vital, the favourite squeezing out a 29-28, 28-29, 29-28 verdict.
Martin Murray bt Danny Butler - Split decision
Martin Murray lived up to his favourite tag by taking the sting out of Danny Butler in their non-stop semi-final.
The St Helens man came nowhere near his quarter-final performance and had to hang on at times as the 23-year-old Butler set a furious pace.
Sometimes though, it was all too rushed and confused and it came as no surprise when a split decision was called. It went the favourite's way, 28-29, 29-28, 30-27 and set up a showdown with the bookmakers' second pick.
Butler started well enough, his crouched stance making Murray miss and his left catching him several times before Murray managed to step back and box.
He found his jab midway through the session but with Butler clearly intent on closing him down and not giving him room to manouevre, the fight failed to take off as a spectacle.
The second brought more of the same, but as it came to a close Murray's left hooks found a way through and did enough to edge the round, leaving the outcome hanging on a decisive third round.
Murray managed to give himself more space this time round as Butler ended up smothering his own work, unable to get his shots off and find a way through a decent defence when he was in close.
He was still forcing the pace but was also caught by the bigger shots on the way in, Murray's left picking him off at least twice to ensure he emerged victorious and moved closer to the £25,000 windfall.
Cello Renda bt Max Maxwell - Unanimous decision
Cello Renda boxed his way into the final with a composed display against Max Maxwell.
The Peterborough man had never boxed at York Hall before tonight but looked completely at home in his second outing, and turned in a polished display to improve on his quarter-final showing.
Maxwell started well, his tactic of going for big shots catching Renda cold at first, but he soon found his rhythm and slipped into boxing mode.
The left that had stopped Danny Thornton was his main weapon again, working well as Maxwell's long rights left him open. And as soon as Renda had landed the left, a combination came to take the first round clearly.
He allowed himself to get drawn into more of a brawl in the second, but even then his work on the counter attack was as crisp as Maxwell's was crude.
Both men landed big lefts midway through the round but Renda was able to build on that and close it out before reverting to his boxing in the final round, his jab keeping his man off and controlling the pace.
There were no surprises, but respect all round between the former sparring partners and their teams as Renda was given the decision, 30-27 on all three cards.
Quarter-finalsMax Maxwell bt Steve Ede - Split decision
Max Maxwell was the first man through to the semi-finals as he edged a split decision over Steve Ede.
There were few moments of genuine class or superiority from either man, with the Birmingham supply teacher probably impressing the judges with his constant aggression.
Ede was said to be the fittest man of the eight middleweights in action, but Maxwell never let him setttle into any sort of ryhthm, even if some of his shots were far from cultured.
A big right in the first set the tone and although Ede was able to catch him close in, the longer reach of Maxwell kept him away.
One wild right almost took down the overhead lighting rig in the second, but the big shots continued to score and meant Ede was only able to use his superior handspeed in fits and starts.
He did battle back in the second but Maxwell finished the stronger to take the decision, two judges favouring him 29-28, the other scoring it the same the other way.
Cello Renda bt Danny Thornton - Second-round KO
Cello Renda recorded the first knockdown - and stoppage - of the night to see off Danny Thornton.
Renda floored his man in the second with a body shot before forcing the stoppage on the ropes with 2mins 25seconds of the session gone.
The Peterborough man landed a left uppercut early on to show Thornton he could not just charge in head down and although he did most of his work on the counter, it was by far the cleaner.
A straight left had the man from Leeds in trouble at the start of the fight before a sweet shot to the ribs forced him to take a knee once the full effect had kicked in.
Knowing he needed a knockdown of his own to even things up, Thornton poured forward in the second and did force his man back, but in doing so, left himself open to the counter.
And that is what did for him in the end, Renda spinning him round in the corner and landing a left that singalled the beginning of the end. A right just missed but another left had Thornton hanging on to the top rope before a third forced the referee to call a halt.
Danny Butler bt Paul Samuels - Unanimous decision
Youth overcame experience in the third quarter-final as Danny Butler out-worked Paul Samuels on his way to a unanimous decision.
Samuels, who has been in with Wayne Alexander and Richard Williams, came into the ring wearing a judge's outfit, but rarely looked like getting the verdict.
Butler started brightly, his short, sharp work scoring regularly as the wily old Welshman was forced to try and land at long range.
He did so once or twice, but Butler buzzed around, landing clean combinations and setting a pace that the 35-year-old struggled to maintain.
He was caught by a sharp left uppercut in the second as Butler upped the tempo and by the third, there was only going to be one winner providing Samuels long shots didn't land.
They didn't and there were few raised eyebrows in the York Hall when Butler's arm was raised, scores of 30-29, 30-28, 30-27 seeing him extend his unbeaten slate to 14-0.
Martin Murray bt Joe Rae- unanimous decision
Pre-tournmament favourite Martin Murray produced the most comprehensive performance of the quarters to clean up against Joe Rae.
The Manchester man boxed beautifully, to take a unanimous decision and dominated from start to finish.
He stung Rae with a sweet left hook in the first round and landed far more clean shots while also coping well with anything Rea offered in return.
His defence was good and his countering even better and in the second as Rea's frustration increased, he was able to catch him on the way in, almost at will.
Murray even seemed to be holding something back for the semi-final and eased his way through the third and final session, still in control, still catching his man cleanly and looking the sharpest of the four semi-finalists.