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Thursday, April 24, 2014
Murray-Bursak to headline June card

By Dan Rafael
ESPN.com

Middleweight contender Martin Murray of England will headline a fight card that also will include strawweight world titleholder Hekkie Budler of South Africa in a defense on June 21 at the Monte Carlo Casino in Monaco, Golden Gloves promoter Rodney Berman, who recently signed Murray, announced on Thursday.

The 31-year-old Murray (27-1-1, 12 KOs), in his third fight since losing a close decision to middleweight world champion Sergio Martinez in Martinez's Argentina homecoming fight last April, will face Max Bursak (29-2-1, 12 KOs), 29, of Ukraine.

The fight was announced after Murray polished off Ishmael Tetteh by sixth-round knockout in South Africa, where Berman's company is based, on Wednesday.

"This is just the first step. He is strategically placed to go on to big things in 2014," Berman said of Murray. "Bursak is as tough as they come, but Murray has proven himself in the biggest fights of all."

Said Murray: "Bursak is a tough lad, but I know I'm going to win. I can't afford to slip up now. I'll treat all my fights like title fights. There will be no underestimating from me, not when I'm in my prime."

Budler (25-1, 8 KOs), 25, who stopped Karluis Diaz in the first round in March to win a vacant 105-pound world title, will make his first defense when he faces Thailand's Pigmy Muangchaiyaphum Kokietgym (52-6-2, 22 KOs), 32, who is riding a 10-fight winning streak since 2010.

Budler will be fighting outside of South Africa for the third time, something his manager and trainer, Colin Nathan, embraces.

"If you're the best in your division, it's important to get out of your comfort zone," he said. "Hekkie is now at the level where he will fight anywhere. We have big respect for Pigmy. He has a tremendous record, but if we want international recognition these are the guys who must be beaten. Pigmy will bring it hard, but I can't see him having the game to beat a much younger and more determined fighter than Hekkie."

In another title bout on the card, southpaw Ilunga "Junior" Makabu (16-1, 15 KOs), 26, who is from Congo but based in South Africa, will face former European champion Mateusz Masternak (32-1, 23 KOs), 26, of Poland for a vacant interim title. Makabu will be fighting in Monte Carlo for the fourth time in 15 months.

"I will do everything I can to win, as opportunities like this don't come around every day," Masternak said. "Makabu is a tough boxer with a strong punch and solid technique but there are no easy fights at this level. I am 100 percent focused and will make sure I am in the best shape of my career.

Harold Volbrecht, Makabu's trainer, said the match is the kind of quality fight he wants Makabu to be involved in.

"Junior thrives under pressure and Masternak will bring plenty," he said. "We've done our homework and what we see is a tough, rugged fighter, but one we believe Junior can exploit. He has a good chin and will be there to be hit. I'm not sure he has the ability to withstand Junior's power, but he looks well-equipped to make it a hard fight."