Saturday, August 18, 2012

Charles "The Natural" Murray Talks about being Rochester NY's First and Only Boxing World Champion, life after Retirement and the Dark Side of the Sport

Charles "The Natural" Murray
after winning the IBF Junior Welterweight Championship
By Davy V.

As I look back on my childhood, some of the best memories I have of my dad, Mario Vara include watching boxing together, whether on television or live, it was just something I loved to do with my dad.

Whenever I get sad and miss my dad, a smile comes across my face when I remember how hyped my dad would get watching boxing.

I don't mean excited, like most people do watching a football or basketball game. I mean really, really hyped, like he was in the ring himself!

My Dad loved boxing.

He had a great passion for boxing, and would tell me stories of great fighters he watched when he lived in Cuba, before coming to the U.S. in the late 60's.

He always talked about boxing greats such as Kid Gavilan, the former welterweight champion from Cuba, as well as another world champion from Cuba, Benny "the Kid" Paret.

It wasn't until I was around 8 years old that my dad's passion and love for boxing became mine.

My dad introduced me to two of his favorite fighters, Alexis Arguello and Roberto "Manos de Piedra" Duran.

I remember watching great fights with my dad such as when Roberto Duran turned his back on Sugar Ray Leonard in their 1980 "No Mas" fight.

I also remember sitting right next to my dad in the living room of the house I grew up in on Child Street, in Rochester, NY and jumping up and down when Alexis Arguello knocked Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini down in the 14th round to win their 1981 fight in Atlantic City.

And, I remember crying when Aaron "The Hawk" Pryor knocked Arguello out, in Miami's Orange Bowl Stadium in what would become not only one of the best, but also one of the most controversial fights in boxing history.

My dad passed away 19 years ago.

Although he never got to see any of his beautiful grandchildren, many of the stories I tell my two boys, David and Danny about their grandfather, include boxing.

One of the stories I tell them, is of the last live boxing event me and my dad went to, two years before he passed.

Rochester's own Charles "The Natural" Murray versus Terrence Alli on Sunday May 12, 1991 at the Rochester War Memorial in downtown Rochester, NY.

I grew up on Rochester's westside, in the same neighborhood where "The Natural" lived before he turned pro and moved to Las Vegas.

In fact, me and his sister, were in the same class together in elementary school.

Like many in the ROC, I remember when "The Natural" became Rochester's first-- and only World Champion.

For me, seeing "The Natural" become a boxing World Champion meant several things.

Among them, it meant seeing that hard work, dedication, commitment and passion pays off.

The fact that Charles "The Natural" Murray came from my hometown, and was the first-- and only boxing World Champion to put the ROC on the map, just made it that much better!

As a writer, I love to write about and interview interesting people.

The chance to interview a living Legend, from my own hometown doesn't happen every day.

Which is why I thank "The Natural" for giving me this opportunity.

First of all Champ, Thank you for this opportunity and for taking time out to do this interview.

You're welcome.

Natural, one of my favorite movies is "The Fighter" where Mark Wahlberg plays the role of Micky Ward. On October 18, 1990 you fought Micky Ward in Rochester's War Memorial. Tell me about that fight.

Fighting at home was always a joy. Fighting for my first title made it that much more special. I trained hard and watched a tape of my opponent, which was Micky Ward. No problem, I thought, just be The Natural and things will be fine. The fight was my first 12 rounder. Only question I had was can I make 12 professional rounds? Once the fight began, I had no doubt I would win or go 12 rounds, and become the new USBA Jr. Welterweight Champion.

As I child I loved watching boxing with my Dad, those are memories I will never forget. I remember going to Rochester's War Memorial with my Dad to see you fight Terrence Alli on May 12, 1991. You later signed my original ticket stub from that fight. Alli was considered a great fighter, and at the time had a record of 46-7-2. Although you lost that fight, you went the distance. What can you tell me about that fight?

I never liked fighting in the afternoon. The first time I got knocked down as a pro was in the afternoon. From that point on, I hated afternoon shows. Terrence Alli was my sparring partner when I first moved to New Jersey. He never gave me problems in the gym. Actually, I handled him and most sparring partners easily. The fight was tough because my focus wasn't totally on fighting. Female drama, little rest, promotion, etc. I forgot I was fighting a world class fighter who came to Rochester to win.

In May of 1993 in Atlantic City, New Jersey, you defeated Rodney Moore in a 12 round unanimous decision to win the IBF Junior Welterweight World title, becoming Rochester New York's first World boxing Champion, take us back to that night, what did that feel like?

The day started well. Alot of my family drove down from Rochester to Atlantic City. I was quite excited about getting the chance to fight for a world title. Ray Mercer, Al Cole and Roy Jones Jr. were present. I had no doubt I would win. A matter of simply performing The Natural way.

What did becoming Rochester's first World champion mean to you?

Being Rochester's first world champion meant little at the time of the accomplishment . As time edged on I realized the importance of being a part of Rochester's boxing history. Being the one to set the bar, the standard of excellence. Now it means the world to me. At times, almost 20 years later, I still marvel at winning the world title!

Apart from being a talented, skilled boxer, and becoming Rochester's first world champion, you also endured some personal problems during your professional career. Most people only saw "The Natural", the hometown boxer from the ROC, the world champion. Can you tell me what the people didn't see? What are some of the pressures and challenges of being a professional athlete?

Other's expectations of me was a big issue for me. Trying to please everyone is mind boggling. One just can't do it, though as a youngster one tries. Other's expectations of you should never exceed one's own expectations of oneself.

I think everyone is attracted to winning and to winners. It's what sells and what gets the press.
It's up to the fighters to make people want to read something positive and beneficial to our community.

Champ, looking back on your career, what are some of your thoughts, regrets etc.?

As we get older, we learn everything has its time and reasoning. My choices were made out of my life's experiences. I'm content with my life as it's progressing at this time. I accomplished a great goal of being a world champ. I smile knowing I did it.

What do you miss about boxing?

What I miss about boxing, are the daily workouts. I miss preparing for battle. The jogging, excercising and sparring sessions. I also miss the traveling. I miss the the one on one battles of skill and will.

Historically, the Rochester news media overall, has not supported boxing in Rochester, what are your thoughts on this?

I think the fighters here don't do enough to report on. The skill here is evident but these guys' work ethic need not be reported. Remember, even prejudiced people bow down to excellence. I see skill but no one deserving to be spoken of. We all wish for a better world. The city is not perfect. Make them notice you by being outstanding.

Since you retired after your last fight in 2004, you have been training youth interested in boxing. Please tell me about that.

I've been steady working with our youth at their goals in life. Rob Johnson, my amateur coach, was like my dad. I know what having him in my life meant for me. Helping someone as Rob Johnson helped me, is self rewarding. I say that with much sincerity.

Boxing is but an outlet to bigger and better things that the world has to offer, I watch my kids that I have coached and trained, graduate from high school. Some become college students, while others pursue boxing on a professional level.

I've also learned that although one's  intentions are good, you can't save them all from the trials and tribulations life throws their way.

How do you think that boxing can benefit the youth?

Boxing represents a way to increase self confidence, overall health conditioning. It creates a discipline of being goal oriented. It's a guide where hard work will get you great rewards.

The rewards of an accomplishment, and of being able to say,"I did it!"

Natural, tell me about the Charles Murray people don't know. Not Charles Murray the boxer, the Champion, but Charles Murray the person.

Charles Murray the person, is very family oriented. I'm a father active in my kids lives. I'm a husband who adores the angel God sent me, my wife Kim Murray. Heaven sent is the only way I account for her presence in my life.

Charles, unfortunately, we hear alot about talented, young boxers who get taken advantage of in the sport. There is a dark side to boxing. Can you go into that?

There are people I think are bad for the sport. For example, Rochester promoter Steve Nelson, has a great knowledge of boxing and good contacts, but he has no honor or decency. He doesn't pay fighters who participate in the shows he puts together, their agreed upon fee.

What manager knowing Steve's actions would in turn put their fighter on a Steve Nelson show?

Tell me about your boxing gym.

My gym is called Charles "The Natural" Murray Boxing and Fitness Center. I offer my all in teaching the art of hand to hand combat, the amateur and professional way to win.

I offer a skill that will in turn benefit you no matter your occupational choice. That I promise you.
Self awareness, self respect and self confidence, winning ingredients in any field.

What advice do you have for young people intereseted in boxing?

Take it serious. It can be a life altering experience, not only financially but, a life saving adventure.

The rewards are great when applying oneself to a goal of being the absolute best.

For more info. on Charles "The Natural" Murray's Boxing and Fitness Center
Call (585) 269-1663
or visit 121 Lincoln Ave. Rochester, NY 14611

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