Ever since Ricky Burns first came to prominence in Scottish boxing, back around 2004, there have been question marks about his ability to land a ‘killer’ blow. Indeed when I first watched him at Meadowbank Stadium in Edinburgh in 2006 lose on points, to then British, European and Commonwealth Super Featherweight Champion Alex Arthur, it struck me that he was a good young technically sound boxer but lacked the necessary punching power to be truly dangerous. Throughout his subsequent loss to Carl Johanneson and then his admirable 19 fight winning streak thereafter, it was difficult to find evidence strong enough to change this opinion. With the stats alone showing 14 of these fights went the distance his reputation as an excellent counter puncher with a big heart preceded him. The build-up to last night’s fight with Kevin Mitchell reflected this with many, myself included, feeling that Burns would win but that it would be by way of grinding out a near-typical points victory. What Ricky Burns did instead was to throw in a display of devastating punching that surprised everyone, not least challenger Mitchell.
It started towards the end of the first round. After a cagey start from Burns in which Mitchell, looking fit and sharp was leading the punch count. Suddenly Burns opened up and showed intent to go toe-to-toe with Mitchell. The crowd, as vociferous as any I’ve encountered in the past few years, went up an octave as very quickly it became apparent that Burns and his corner had an unexpected and exciting game plan. Burns was opening up Mitchell with the right hand at will, cutting off the ring and trading hurtful punches with the Dagenham man. The shock on Mitchells face turned to fury in the third round as he responded to another big hit by comically beating his chest. No one was fooled. Those shots were beginning to sting. And so it proved in the fourth round when late on, another solid right cross followed by a sharp left hook saw Mitchell pole axed onto the canvas. He bravely struggled on through a barrage of big bombs from Burns and two standing ten counts. With seconds to go in round four the will of the referee Terry O’Connor finally broke and victory was confirmed for Burns.
Ricky Burns suddenly believes he is capable of landing big hits. This new found confidence now makes him a very dangerous animal indeed
The plaudits will rightfully now reign down on the ever-humble Burns. MC Michael Buffer had already gone through a cringe worthy set of comparisons to William Wallace, Rob Roy, Jim Watt and Ken Buchanan in his, now embarrassing, fight preamble but he wasn’t too far of the mark with his reference to Buchanan. The difference with Burns is that, unlike Buchanan, he has developed some power from somewhere. Burns himself, somewhat sweetly, describes it as “man strength” but it’s more than that. The rumours of Ricky Burns struggling to make to weight are perhaps more telling. The sheer muscle mass he and trainer Billy Nelson have been adding to Burns shoulders and glutes looks to have been the culprit at the weigh-in as opposed to any slovenly body fat. With this has come the inevitable punching power. More than that though, it looks like Ricky Burns suddenly believes he is capable of landing big hits. This new found confidence now makes him a very dangerous animal indeed.
With the missing piece of the jigsaw now seemingly in place in Burns’s armoury he looks world-class. Surely a unification bout at Lightweight is on the cards and perhaps a shift in weight class to go looking for some bigger challenges is also a possibility. Domestically John Murray and Scott Harrison will be chapping on Frank Warren's door but Burns has nothing to gain from beating either of those two. His future is now with the elite global class of fighters. Judging by last night’s surprising coming of age by Burns he now looks equipped to go on and truly become the best Scottish fighter of all time.
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