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Story by Alex McGreevy

KICKBOXING legend Billy Murray is not the boastful sort.
But few would begrudge him the opportunity to shout out with confidence that the sport he loves is now a major player in the entertainment world.
In a country besotted by boxing, Murray has fought against the grain for over 25 years as a fighter and promoter.
But after a hugely successful 2005, which concluded nicely wrapped with a visit from boxing legend
MR Hagler had this to say:  "My wife and I had a great time in Belfast, we look forward to our return, keep your hand up and your chin down"
Marvelous Marvin Hagler to his final show of the season, Murray is confident kickboxing will become “bigger and better” in 2006.
The Belfast man promoted eight shows over the past 12 months and took his fighters to England, Scotland, Republic of Ireland, France, Geneva, Cyprus, Belgium, USA, Canada and topped it of with a trip to Japan for the K1 finals in Tokyo.
His productions also became a hit on television, with a new wave of coverage on Setanta Ireland, the US and Australasia.
The growth in kickboxing was best displayed when Murray put on a show at the Odyssey Arena in Belfast in June 2005, an event that was screened live across Europe by sports network Eurosport, facilitated by our own UTV
Pop Idol star Darius popped into Belfast for the first-ever Irish Kickboxing Awards event at the Holiday Inn and the year ended with the memorable Gary Hamilton-Mohammad Samir world title showdown on December 19.
With Marvelous Marvin Hagler at ringside, Hamilton suffered a fourth round stoppage to the superb Frenchman but even his coach Billy Murray wasn’t too disappointed.
“It would have been great had Gary Hamilton won the world title but we had a year like no other in kickboxing and all the efforts of the past are starting to reap rewards,” said Murray.
“I never thought I’d say this, but kickboxing is now a big player in Irish sport and across the world. I am a big boxing fan and the people I know and respect from that fraternity are now telling me they are kickboxing fans.
“Bringing Marvelous Marvin Hagler to Belfast was good for both sports. Hagler left a lasting impression on us all.”
Murray was “too tired” to talk about plans for 2006. Drained in the aftermath of the KICKmas BOX special at the Ulster Hall, he said: “Don’t even go there. All I can say is that it will be bigger and better. I have been promoting for 25 years and I am still learning.
“At one time we imagined what it would be like to have a guy like Marvelous Marvin Hagler at ringside. We have achieved that dream and now we must continue to offer the best product to our supporters.
“Gary Hamilton will be back and he will become a world champion again. That will come as no surprise to many people but there will be many surprises in store in 2006.
“The most encouraging thing for me this year was the response of the media right across the country. Journalists and sports editors now recognise the value of kickboxing and I look forward to working with them all next year.”

Below are eight events that Billy Murray's group produced at home just in 2005. This is reason enough why he is considered the top promoter on the European circuit.
All the young guns out there who don't think they are getting a fair crack, Click here !

Irish Kickboxing Awards 22-03-05
Pop Idol Darius Danesh has said he would rather spend time in Northern Ireland than at a glitzy Hollywood party.
The star made the stunning revelation after hosting the inaugural Irish Kickboxing Awards on Saturday night. He had jetted into Belfast from LA where he is set to start recording new material.
“I’ve been at Elton John’s post-Oscar bash and I can tell you, if next year these awards clashed with one of Elton’s parties, I’d choose the Awards. I’ve had such an incredible time here as I always do. I just love Northern Ireland,” he said.

Next Generation 04-04-05
ProKick’s Andrew Grimason continued on his unstoppable climb with another knockout victory at the weekend.
The 20 year old super welterweight stopped British Thai Boxing champion Lorne Castle in a top of the bill clash at the Ulster Hall Next Generation show. The Next Generation series focuses on novices and first-timers, offering them a berth on a major kickboxing event where a recognised name tops the bill.

The Loup 08-05-05
The Loup in Magherafelt got its first taste of LIVE kickboxing on May 7th. Fighters throughout the north the south of Ireland made the trip to the Loup community centre for an afternoon of trills and spills. The event was headlined by promoter/fighter Darren Dougan of the Golden Dragon Martial Arts based in the village in association with Prokick.

Prokick's fundraiser for charity 14-05-05
Local kickboxers climbed in the ring to help raise much needed money for the homeless in Northern Ireland. Saturday night was big fight night at the Park Avenue Hotel where a Northern Irish select pitted their skills in an all Celt affair. The charity to benefit from the Prokick fundraiser is The Simon Community who have teamed up with Ark Housing association and the Northern Ireland Federation of housing associations. Well over three thousand pounds was raised.

Kickboxing Mania VII - Odyssey Arena 10 June 2005.
It was a night of high drama and edge-of-the-seat action as the Kickboxing world descended on Belfast for Kickboxing Mania VII. The millions of fans watching the live Eurosport broadcast around the continent were kicking themselves they couldn't be at the Odyssey as fight after fight on the packed card delivered thrills, shocks and genre-defining action.

King of the Castle 28-08-05
Sunday’s Next Generation event ‘King of the Castle’ supported by the Belfast City Council had 12 amazing bouts scheduled featuring novice to a current professional world champion however due to the later arrival and the ferry return times we only managed to put five of them the contests on - but five knock-out bouts at that which had the packed Carrickfergus Leisure centre screaming for more.

Prokick helps Celebrate Belfast 01-10-05
Politicians have been scrapping with one another for many years in Belfast’s City Hall council chambers, but last October children from all over Northern Ireland taught them how to put up a real fight. Kickboxers as young as six years of age helped launch the Opening Ceremony of the Celebrate Belfast initiative, demonstrating their skills in self-defence and combat.
A boxing ring took centre stage on the City Hall’s lawn, where a number of other sports were displayed, and world champion Gary Hamilton also performed in an open-air bout with current Lord Mayor Councilor Wallace Browne.

KICKmas III 19-12-05
Despite his defeat to the world class Mohammad Samir on Monday, Belfast man Gary Hamilton received the seal of approval from boxing legend Marvelous Marvin Hagler, who told him to “go and retain” his WKN featherweight kickboxing title.
Lydia Braniff of Belfast fulfilled her dreams by becoming the only lady in Northern Irish history to lift a world title.
2005 ended with thousands in attendance and millions around the world watching live images and good sportsmanship from the epicenter of European Kickboxing – the Ulster Hall, Belfast.

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