Anthony Crolla and John Murray may be old friends but there was no holding back on Ringside as they outlined their battle plans ahead of their April 19 match-up.
The lightweight pair met as amateurs and have risen through the ranks together, often appearing in each other’s corner come fight night.
However, Crolla and Murray will go head-to-head in Manchester live on Sky Sports this month when the former puts his WBO Inter-Continental title on the line.
And 29-year-old Murray, who is continuing his return after two years out of action, says he is in top condition to seize his opportunity.
“We’re good friends,” he said. “When I first started boxing at 15 years old Anthony was a big star in the amateur scene and that’s where we met. We’ve known each other for years.
“There’s no bad feeling between us, it’s just business, but don’t get me wrong – come fight night we’re going to be trying to take each other’s heads off and really go at it.
"I genuinely believe this is the best I’ve been in my whole career. The two-year break has done me the world of good; I feel fresher, sharper, I’m training better than ever.
“I know people say ‘this is the best I’ve been’ every time they fight, but if you look through my career I’ve never said it. This is genuinely the best I’ve ever been.”
Murray had an acrimonious split from trainer Joe Gallagher but is adamant his former coach, who is preparing Crolla for the bout, won’t be able to prevent him from defeating his ex-sparring partner.
“Me and Joe fell out but I’m not dwelling on it,” said Murray. “It happens all the time in boxing and I’ve moved on. I’m happy where I’m up to, I feel better than ever.
“Joe can say what he wants, it doesn’t bother me. I’ll train to be the best I can be – and me at my best beats Anthony Crolla at his best.
“I’m confident I’m going to win the fight. I’m not just going in there to win the fight, I’m going in there to knock Anthony out.
“Me and Mike [Marsden, Murray’s current trainer] have been working hard in the gym – and not just on fitness. I trained for 12 weeks for the John Simpson fight and I was in top shape for it. This time, I’ve had another eight weeks since the Simpson fight and we’ve been able to work on techniques because I’m already fit.
“My boxing skills are very, very underrated. Joe Gallagher knows that and that’s why he didn’t want to take the fight – he’d seen what happened in sparring.
“The fans are going to be winners but I’ll be the winner on the night.”
Unsurprisingly, Crolla had a different prediction when asked about the showdown.
The 27-year-old, who like his friend and opponent, fights out of Manchester, insisted he is now a much-improved fighter to the one which sparred with Murray in the past.
“I said when the fight was made, if our sparring is anything to go by, then the fans will be in for a real treat on April 19,” said Crolla.
“But in the last two and a half years, while John’s been away, I’ve been in the gym working hard, improving as a fighter and I believe that will stand me in good stead on the night.
“I’m not the fighter John sparred with two and a half years back. I’m a lot better fighter now and John’s going to be in for a shock.
“Boxing skills and intelligence will see me home.”