Boxing is a game of huge financial contrasts and more than a whiff of hypocrisy at times, especially when it comes to hype. Ultimately fight ticket and TV deals are sold on hype and there is no greater draw than pure perceived hatred between two fighters. Grudge matches that capture the public’s imagination, such as the pantomime that was Haye v Chisora in July, is every promoters potential golden goose. However, for all the money that these over-wrung, pseudo-death matches bring to the likes of Eddie Hearn and Frank Warren, there are a dozen genuinely absorbing, significant and impressive bouts between British boxers that go virtually unnoticed outside of the boxing sphere.
Thankfully this weekend’s World Title fight between Rick Burns and Kevin Mitchell at the SECC in Glasgow is both a genuinely enthralling fight between two talented British fighters and a big scale, well promoted fight. Refreshingly too, the selling point for this fight also seems to be solely the quality of boxing on offer. Not death threats, posturing and steel bloody fences at the weigh in.
In Mitchell and Burns we have two authentically good boxers. Fighters with brains, speed, skill, strategy and big hearts. When at their best, either of these two are capable of sublime, gutsy, performances of sheer boxing ability. Able to electrify audiences with their ringcraft and capacity to win against all odds. This was clearly reflected in their last respective major bouts in which they were both given a heavy underdog status beforehand and came through to win impressively against seemingly superior opponents.
Refreshingly too, the selling point for this fight also seems to be solely the quality of boxing on offer. Not death threats, posturing and steel bloody fences at the weigh in.
Burns took down the huge hitting Roberto Martinez in 12 thrilling rounds, coming out of periods of seemingly untenable intensity of attack from Martinez to counter his way to a memorable victory in front of his home fans at the Kelvin Hall. Winning the WBO super featherweight belt in the process and putting himself clearly on the international boxing radar.
Mitchell equally had a barnstorming fight against the previously unbeaten John Murray to claim a highly unexpected 8th round knock-out in July 2011, displaying a range and rhythm of punches that can only be described as utterly brilliant. Since then he has only fought once, winning a convincing 10 round points decision over Dominican fighter Felix Lora in February.
What is also obvious is that they actually seem to genuinely like and respect each other outside of the ring. Their ‘head-to-head showdown’ on Boxnation is testament to this:
The only seeming tension in the room being the awkwardness at being prodded and cajoled into to trying to be nasty about each other. Ricky Burn is himself something of a saint-like figure in his home town of Motherwell. Despite looking unnervingly like Eminem in 8-Mile he is the opposite of a stereotypical world champion boxer, possessing almost no ego at all. He is polite at all times, clean living, respectful and sees boxing merely as ‘a job’. Unbeaten in 19 consecutive fights including impressive wins against Graham Earl and Michael Katsidis he holds the WBO Lightweight title, presumably earns a fair crust but remarkably still works part-time in a sports shop in the town centre to “keep himself grounded”.
You also sense Kevin Mitchell is moving in that direction too. Following his humiliating 3rd round defeat at the hands of Katsidis at a packed ‘home’ stadium of Upton Park in 2009 he has slowly attempted to resurrect his career amid a background of rumours of domestic strife and problems with the demon drink. On his day however Mitchell is one of the best fighters in the world but it remains to be seen if his head and heart are right for Saturday.
One thing is for sure, this fight is set to be a cracker. Whilst Burns is not a big hitter he has a watertight defence, a solid chin and a sharp boxing brain. With Martinez and Katsidis he was able to absorb their big bombs and execute a game plan perfectly. Mitchell, when on form, has the tools to open up Burns’s defence and cause him some real problems on the inside. I expect it to go into the later rounds and to be a tactical master class by both corners but ultimately I think Burns will edge it, possibly not until he’s had a scare first though. Whatever the outcome, the stage is set for an enthralling fight between two excellent British fighters on a huge stage without the need for a farcical fight at a press conference to sell it.
Mitchell may have the ring craft and guile to get inside Burns and cause him some bother.
Katsidis and Martinez are both huge hitters, as Mitchell found out at Upton Park.
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