“Memories I cherish…I’d say having my heroes there like Sugar Ray Leonard, the Four Kings certainly, Hagler, Leonard, Duran and Hearns. We’re the only venue in the UK to have hosted all the ‘Four Kings’ under the same roof. To bring them to a little old town called Cannock.”
Scott Murray, a successful amateur and avid boxing fan, opened Bar Sport in 1998 ten years after sneaking off from a Texan training camp to enjoy a cold pint.
“I had quite a few weeks in Houston and I trained with a whole host of fighters: Frank Tate, Orlando Canizales, Calvin Grove and Iran Barkley was there. They had a great team, the HBA [Houston Boxing Association] was a very professional set up.
“While I was there I used to sneak off for a beer, possibly why I didn’t turn pro, I saw the sports bar concept.”
Murray held a wealth of in-ring experience after competing in 108 amateur bouts as he won seven Staffordshire championships and two Midlands championships.
Scott was also served as a sparring partner to Danny Williams and trained alongside a young Spencer Fearon.
It was in Stafford Boxing gym where he would get his opportunity of a lifetime.
“Luckily as an amateur, when I was at Stafford [boxing club], Frank Tate was fighting Tony Sibson at Bingley Hall in Stafford for the World Middleweight championship.
“Frank and his trainer Jesse Reid trained at our gym in Stafford so Jesse invited me over to Houston with the hope that I may turn pro with him.”
The opportunity of a lifetime turned out to be the idea of a sports bar in the UK however, the trip didn’t have that as the original intention.
Jesse Reid trained Roger Mayweather and Johnny Tapia who were two of the 23 World champions he coached. Reid had hoped Murray could be the next.
It wasn’t just Reid who wanted Scott to turn pro. Family friend, promoter and matchmaker, Ron Gray was also keen on Murray turning pro who would’ve seen himself among the likes of Glenn McCrory, Johnny Nelson and Carl Thompson in the 90’s Cruiserweight division.
“Ron Gray wanted me to turn pro with his brother, Billy Gray, and we talked about it but it never happened. It’s one of my regrets not turning pro. I think I would’ve done well as a Cruiserweight. Ron had the papers drawn up, we almost did it.
“I think I would’ve done well as a Cruiserweight in the 90’s. I’d have, to quote Ron Gray, ‘got at least a British title maybe a European.’ I’m not saying I’d have been a World champion but I would’ve put on a good show, I had a big heart at the time and certainly a good chin, I loved a good fight.
“I would have been good entertainment if not anything else! I enjoyed it, I loved it. Regardless of the distractions at the time, I loved every second of boxing. It was my whole life but it just never happened, it wasn’t meant to be.”
Murray’s father had the longest running independent nightclub in the UK [47 years], one of Scott’s distractions. One night didn’t go to plan, as so often can happen in the nightclub business, and it put an end to any hopes of turning professional for Scott Murray.
“I’ll tell you what happened, I went to the old man’s nightclub one night and there were some major problems with Tottenham Hotspur fans who were in town.
“There was a terrible brawl out the front because they wouldn’t let them in the club and foolishly I popped my head out the door to see what was going on and someone had thrown a bottle across the street and it hit me in the face.
“At the time I didn’t know but I had broken my jaw which ended up damaging a facial nerve. That scuppered the idea of turning pro at that time. Although I did have a few more amateur fights after that, that was the end of it really.”
With a pugilistic career now a forgotten dream Scott couldn’t shake the memory of that Texan sports bar that he fell in love with in 1988. Fast forward a decade and that dream was a reality.
“It took ten years but we found an old Rank Bingo hall that was derelict. I managed to acquire that, I begged, stole and borrowed and managed to get hold of it and we refurbished it and opened Bar Sport in 1998.
“It was just an idea and it festered over a long time then in ’95, ’96 I started to get serious about it and was thinking about how we wanted to do it. I looked for premises and couldn’t find anything and then we found this old place in my home town in Cannock.”
Bar Sport and the Premier Suite now holds a capacity of over 1000 people and has previously won the Publicans Entrepreneurial Business of the Year Award & the UK’s best Sports Bar on numerous occasions.
Since the opening in 1998 Cannock has welcomed such stars as the aforementioned ‘Four Kings’ along with Ray ‘Boom Boom’ Mancini, Floyd Mayweather, ‘Our ‘Enry’ and his good friend Barry McGuigan. In fact the premises has been home for one night only to over 100 champions in 22 years.
“I had two mentors in my life, my dad and Ron Gray.
“Ron had this idea he said, ‘I tell you what we’ll do, son. Every month we’re going to put a show on.’ So me and Ron Gray partnered up and started doing shows every month with a number of ex-champions.
“Gray was good friends with Henry Cooper and Henry was a guest of ours seven times, I think when we first opened. Charlie Magri, John H Stracey, Jim Watt, all those good old British legends.
“Ron was the person who ignited that and showed me the ropes.
“Within a couple of months [of opening in 1998], I think John Conteh was our first ever guest. It wasn’t just boxers at the time we had a lot of footballers too, we even had ‘Mad’ Frankie Fraser as a guest.”
Scott Murray couldn’t put on these successful shows without the help of two men. Murray refers to them as his “A-Team.” Two men who are regulars on the boxing television screens, Steve Bunce and Richie Woodhall.
“[They’re] tremendous and they work so well together. Richie spends so much time researching each individual, he’s very polished, I think he’s the best in his game at interviewing.
“Steve Bunce speaks for himself, a great character, very knowledgeable, really lively and brings a lot of fun and enthusiasm to the night. People love him and it just adds to it.”
It isn’t just dinner shows on offer at Bar Sport, Scott is also involved with the Ken Buchanan Foundation and hosts amateur boxing shows from club level to international.
“To get involved with the Ken Buchanan Foundation to help them raise money for the statue that’s been quite an honour.
“We host over 30 England boxing amateur shows a year at the venue. We actually sponsor the night so we pay for the expenses including the ring hire and the [boxing] club takes the door [earnings] so they can actually make some money on the night.
“In a partnership with Wayne Elcock [former British and European champion] and Mad Dogs Boxing [Elcock’s shop], we sponsor the club’s equipment so that’s been quite honourable to be a part of.
“Last year we had official international shows, England vs Ireland, England vs Wales, England vs Scotland and that’s exceptional to have something of that standard there and who knows where that’s going to lead.
“I’m enjoying it, you never know I might venture into the pro ranks but who knows but I’m certainly enjoying putting the amateur shows on.”
The national lockdown had seen the doors close on Bar Sport temporarily but with using the time wisely plans for reopening and 2021 have begun for Scott Murray and his team.
“[Lockdown] has given me a chance to work on a few things, given me a chance to work on a vision for the near future and how we can do it.
“Next year we are looking to have an event with Gerry Cooney and Larry Holmes. We brought Gerry over last year so he’s coming over again hopefully with Larry.
“Lennox Lewis is the main one we are looking into for next year and then we want to do some smaller shows with Milton McCrory and Colin Jones, I want to bring over Calvin Grove and possibly do something with the Featherweights.
“Also, good friends now, Ray ‘Boom Boom’ Mancini and Vinny Paz both want to come over again so we will do it all once [restrictions are] relaxed.”
The future of Bar Sport is bright and years even decades from now people will hear the stories of when Mayweather, Duran, Leonard, all came to Cannock.