MARTIN Murray admits to having butterflies in his stomach ahead of Saturday night’s Interim WBA Middleweight title clash against unbeaten Venezuelan Jorge Navarro.
But it is not just the threat posed by his big-hitting opponent or the sense of occasion as chief support on Ricky Hatton’s comeback bill.
Rather it is the understanding that a win in front of a packed house at the Manchester Arena will at last open doors to another crack at a world title after enduring a frustrating year since drawing with then champion Felix Sturm 11 months ago.
And on the flip side of that the fear that one blink of the eye against a South American puncher, who has knocked out 10 of his previous 12 victims, will see those doors slam shut in his face.
But after an intensive training camp which has him in tip-top shape, Murray knows what to expect and admits to thriving on that pressure The 30-year-old from Fingerpost said: “My build up has been good, I have made my weight fine and I have got that sharpness in this last week.
“The closer it gets the more nervous I get. “It is a mixture of a few things, starting with the fight because I am going to be in a ring with someone who is trying to take my head off.
“Then there is the thought of losing and what would happen then. If you win, the doors open but if you lose the doors slam shut.
“There is a lot riding on this fight.
“I have been building the pressure up on myself. People say pressure is no good, but I have always liked making myself nervous because it makes me perform better.
“The nerves are kicking in now, but it’s all good.”
Although the speculation has not gone away linking Murray with a shot at middleweight’s top dog Sergio Martinez’s WBC belt in Argentina in April, Murray once again dead-batted that at Tuesday’s pre-fight press conference in Manchester.
“People have been talking about me boxing Martinez, but I am not even thinking of that. My manager Neil Marsh keeps that talk away from me. I have a very hard fight this weekend and just want to get a win,” he said.
That potential title bout, however, is a lucrative carrot to be dangled in front of Murray’s eyes and shows at last that his hard work and patience has paid off.
There has been no little sacrifice too with Murray relinquishing his Commonwealth and British middleweight belts to pursue his world ambitions.
But Murray’s focus is fixed entirely on beating Navarro.
“I am in a job where one tiny loss of concentration can bring me down straight away. That is how I look at it every day,” he said.
“Every fight is important and I can’t stress enough how one blink, one slip up and one punch and it is all over.
“Boxing is not like a game of rugby or even UFC where one loss doesn’t damage your reputation. If you get beat at boxing you go straight to the bottom of the pile and then you have to rebuild.
“It has taken me a long time to get here and a lot of hard work. I can’t afford to slip up and would do anything to not let it happen.”
Murray is aware of the threat but believes he has the tools to deal with it.
He said: “I have seen a little bit of video of him now – but not much. They sent a two minute first round knockout which told us what we already know – that he can punch.
“What we have seen we are confident we can beat and are ready for anyone.
“He is an underdog but he is still highly ranked with the WBA. People like that are more dangerous. That’s why I’m giving him the respect he deserves.
“But on Saturday night I am going to make him respect me. I’m just looking forward to getting in there now and getting the job done.”
The response of the fans to this fight shows Murray-mania is not a phenomenon restricted to tennis with demand for tickets far exceeding supply.
“We could have sold thousands more tickets for this one,” said Murray.
“It helps with Ricky topping the bill but my support is getting better and better. The support from St Helens has been unbelievable.
“I still find it quite surreal that I am getting to go to things like the Christmas lights switch on and the Pride of St Helens awards. I can’t thank the town enough for the way it has got behind me.
“That is why I want to keep going on, keep fighting and winning and doing the town proud.”