By Anthony Cocks
Rohan ‘No Mercy’ Murdock 24-1 (17) is confident that the injuries that kept him out of the ring for over a year are behind him.
The WBO number five super middleweight contender saw action just once in a two-year period from September 2015 after serious back-to-back injuries reduced him to a spectator.
It cost him a high profile spot on the undercard of Manny Pacquiao’s ill-fated WBO welterweight title defence against Jeff Horn at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium in front of a live crowd of more than 50,000 people and watched by millions more around the world.
“I suffered two major injuries in the same year. A hand injury during sparring and a broken jaw in a motorbike accident,” Murdock said. “Mentally it was tough as I was scheduled to fight on the Pacquiao versus Horn undercard, which was a huge opportunity that I missed. But through all the downtime it actually motivated me more and I feel I came back stronger from the forced time off.”
Coach Chris Carden kept his boxer away from the Pacquiao-Horn fight despite the contest taking place just little more than an hour’s drive away in Brisbane.
“Both of us never went up there mate,” Carden said. “We were like ‘we’re not going near the joint’. We could’ve been there but we decided to stay away. We had offers, we had tickets to go there ringside but we said no, we’ll sit this one out.”
Since the layoff Murdock has strung together five wins, including victories over tough Russian Apti Ustarkhanov and world-rated Argentinean Rolando Mansilla.
Carden said he never had any doubt Murdock would bounce back from the injury even if the enforced time on the sidelines frustrated his charge.
“None whatsoever to be honest. Obviously I’ve coached him for the last 14 years so I’ve known him since he was a 12 year-old, so he’s always been pretty mentally tough,” said Carden.
“The only thing you worry about, especially with the broken jaw, is that it heals properly. As soon as he went to the hospital I was down there and talking to the doctors and saw that they were aware of the nature of the injury, to make sure it was where it needed to be and that he recovered from it properly.
“Of course it’s the last thing you want to go through as an athlete, but I always believed in where we needed to be and wanted to be. We gave it plenty of time to recover. But I had no doubts whatsoever once we saw the x-rays of it and how it healed, we had no doubts he’d get back to where he was.”
The 27-year-old Murdock from Queensland’s Gold Coast is fast closing in on a shot at the WBO 168-pound championship currently held by rangy Mexican southpaw Gilberto Ramirez 39-0 (25).
There was recent confusion over the status of the championship after it was prematurely announced that former WBO middleweight champion Billy Joe Saunders would contest the vacant title against Shefat Isufi. Ramirez, who is scheduled to make his light heavyweight debut in a non-title contest in April, disputed the WBO’s decision and was reinstalled as the Puerto Rican sanctioning body’s champion.
The feeling in boxing circles is that the 6-foot-2½ Ramirez will indeed move up in weight, but pending an official announcement the leading contenders for the belt are left in a holding pattern.
Regardless of the status of the WBO belt, Murdock is content to go about his work while creating a mandate for a title shot.
“I’m happy to fight anyone for the title, whether that be Ramirez or anyone else in the rankings,” Murdock said. “My plans stay the same, continue the winning streak whilst stepping up opponents, growing every fight, so that when the shot comes I’ll be more than ready.
“Until then I just need to stay active, fight and beat top 15 level opponents and push myself into mandatory so they are forced to give me the shot.”
Promoter DDP Sports have big plans for Murdock. In June the fledgling promotional outfit will host a big card on the Gold Coast headlined by Murdock who they hope to build into a regional draw in his own backyard.
“June 15th I will be fighting for the first time on the Gold Coast in nearly five years,” Murdock said. “Fighting in my hometown is something I have really missed and will enjoy it. My goal is to bring boxing back alive on the Gold Coast and gain the support for not only myself, but all the upcoming talent.”
Carden says that the world is yet to see the best of Murdock, who he rates as the toughest boxer ever to step foot in his gym.
“I think he’s got exceptional speed, but I think his toughness and durability are his hidden assets,” Carden said.
“People probably haven’t seen how tough he is yet because they haven’t seen him in absolute wars yet, but in the 30 years I’ve been doing this, he’s probably the toughest kid I’ve seen. And I’ve trained some pretty tough fighters; but he’s an exceptional tough and determined kid.”
Murdock himself is quietly confident that he will excel when the world title opportunity presents itself.
“I think some people overlook my ability to rise to the occasion when the time comes,” he said.
“I believe I am ready for a world title shot now. I have been boxing for 16 years and been in the ring with some of the best fighters in the world. I hope the shot comes this year, I’ll be ready for it.”