Modest Burns enters the history books after third world title win
Rickster has sights set on Las Vegas after claiming WBA light-welterweight strap
SOME boxers proclaim their greatness before they have set foot in the ring. Ricky Burns, on the other hand, denies his own uniqueness even when presented with incontrovertible evidence to the contrary. It was entirely typical that this modest, likeable 33-year-old from Coatbridge should shrug off the suggestion that he had entered this country’s pantheon of boxing greats after beating Italy’s Michele di Rocco to become Scotland’s first-ever three-weight world champion.
“Not at all,” said Burns. “Honestly, I am just one of the lads in the gym. It is another belt for my wee boy when he gets older. And another belt for me, so that when I am back down in Essex training for the next fight, when they are all winding me up and calling me the old veteran, I can turn out with three world titles.”
Everyone by now surely knows the story about Burns’ wilderness years. The costly legal wrangle which ensued when he left former promoter Frank Warren and joined Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom stable. The three defeats in six fights prior to Saturday night’s maiden professional boxing show at the SSE Hydro, and how he has sacrificed family time to decamp to Essex to work under trainer Tony Sims and spar with some of the best young talents in boxing, guys like Conor Benn, son of ‘90s legend Nigel.
All those stair sessions down the beach at Leigh on Sea, not to mention a training exercise known only as the ‘dreaded triangle’, paid off with a vengeance on Saturday night as Burns produced a bravura performance to take care of Di Rocco, a 34-year-old from Assisi who had only fought twice outside of Italy and was also tasting his first World title shot. A raucous Glasgow crowd chanted ‘Easy, Easy’ and the fighter himself was left with the same abiding feeling afterwards. But, as a very wise man once said, you can only beat what is in front of you.
“When the referee stopped it I couldn’t believe what was happening,” said Burns. “I couldn’t believe how easy it was. The plan was to stick to boxing in the first half then go out and stick it on him but the first round Tony said I could do this all night and he would still not be able to get to me. He said he was so flat footed all I had to do was use my feet.
“All the training paid off,” he added. “When I’m down there, I’m away from all the distractions. It’s hard being away from my family but I try to come home every two weeks.”
In the short term, Burns went off into the night, vowing to order fast food – “We’ll hit the city centre, find the nearest McDonald’s and order up a Big Mac meal and 20 chicken nuggets,” he said but in boxing terms he is already licking his lips about the feasts which the light welterweight division has to offer for a world champion. Adrien Broner’s people have already been on the phone, a rematch against Omar Figueroa is plausible, Argentina’s Lucas Matthysse is another option, while the classy Terence Crawford takes on Ukraine’s Viktor Postal in a unification bout in July. Burns is likely to return to the ring in September/ October and is in a hurry to take on the best. “I said to Eddie Hearn right after the fight that I want to go after the fun,” he said. “If I’m going to fight, I want to fight against the top names.”
The other star of the show, on a night where there were numerous fine performances littered the undercard, was the Hydro itself. Joe Ham and Charlie Flynn moved onto eight unbeaten, British lightweight champion Scott Cardle made it 21 without defeat, while 37-year-old Willie Limond gave it everything against Tyrone Nurse before a ninth-round stoppage which in all likelihood will signal his retirement. An apparent rebirth of the sport in this county is another thing to be factored in as Eddie Hearn considers his next move for Burns.
“The venue is sensational,” said Hearn. “That is one of the big lures of coming back here. But if you are talking about Adrien Broner, we would travel to the States for that. Ricky has already boxed [Omar] Figueroa in Texas – and he would fight him again anywhere. But now that he’s champion, he has options.
“Broner’s guys have already sent congratulations, which means: ‘We’ll be in touch’,” he added. “They can make all the offers they want. We’ll listen. If they want to come with a sack load of money for Ricky to defend his title against Broner in Vegas, I’m sure there a few Scots who would like a trip there.” “I’d be one of them!” said Burns.
Typically the Coatbridge man was starstruck at his moment of glory, being sure to get his photo taken with Michael Buffer, the famous US ring announcer whose ‘Let’s get ready to rumble’ delivery is mimicked all across the globe. “When I got in the ring afterwards, I shouted at Ricky: “You’ve done it, you’ve done it!” said Hearn. “He looked at me and said: “Can you get me a picture with Michael Buffer?”
HISTORY: Ricky Burns sends Michele Di Rocco to the canvas to become Scotland’s first-ever three-weight boxing world champion. Picture: SNS