Tuesday, November 29, 2022  |


Ricky Burns has worked hard for Omar Figueroa Jr. clash

Ricky Burns (left) tried his best against Terence Crawford in March, but lost his WBO lightweight title to the talented American via unanimous decision. Photo by Mark Runnacles-Getty Images

Ricky Burns (left) tried his best against Terence Crawford in March, but lost his WBO lightweight title to the talented American via unanimous decision. Photo by Mark Runnacles-Getty Images

Former two-weight world titleholder Ricky Burns faces an uphill battle against the unbeaten Omar Figueroa Jr. this Saturday in Hidalgo, Texas, and the proud Scotsman is hoping for a major change of fortune in the 12-round junior welterweight attraction.

Burns was ranked among the very best lightweights in world boxing when his career began to unravel in 2013. The broken jaw against Raymundo Beltran, the world title loss to Terence Crawford, and the nightmare defeat to Dejan Zlaticanin were all distressing experiences.

Figueroa, a former WBC lightweight titleholder, and prohibitive 6/1 favorite, is expected to add to these problems, but the gutsy Burns is fully committed to proving all the doubters wrong in his U.S. debut.

“There have been no distractions in this camp and my focus is solely on the fight,” said Burns, who has been in Texas for over three weeks.

“It’s not ideal to leave the family for that length of time but it had to be done. Weather-wise I had to acclimatize and we’ve had two weeks of solid training over here. My trainer (Tony Sims) had our time mapped out and the sparring was organized ahead of time.”

Burns has worked with stablemates Kevin Mitchell and John Ryder, as well as an assortment of other fighters who frequent the local gym which was selected. Like Figueroa, he will be having his first meaningful fight at 140 pounds but the Scotsman made it clear that he still intends to campaign at lightweight.

“I’m on track to make this weight easily,” confirmed Burns. “I believe my future is in at 135 pounds, but we couldn’t secure a deal with anyone in my preferred weight class. Omar insisted on this fight being at junior welterweight and we were getting nowhere discussing a catch weight, so I decided to accept his terms.

“I didn’t want to jeopardize fighting in America, which I’ve always wanted to do, for the sake of a couple of pounds. When Eddie (Hearn) mentioned that there was a chance of me fighting in the States, I didn’t even care who the opponent was. As long as I had the opportunity to compete in a big fight, that’s all that mattered.”

Figueroa is registered as orthodox but the 25-year-old American is actually an adept switch-hitter. Burns, who went 12 hard rounds with Terence Crawford in March of last year, has had ample experience preparing for an ambidextrous opponent and is also aware of Figueroa’s formidable aggression.

He said, “We know Omar likes to get involved in a fight so I won’t have to go looking for him. A couple of my sparring partners have been a lot heavier than me and they’ve attempted to push me back in every session. We’ve also mixed up the orthodox and lefty work accordingly.

“There’s been good variety to my sparring here in Texas and I’m confident going into this fight.”

At the height of his powers, Burns was never accustomed to studying the opposition. This time around, however, the Scotsman swatted up on fight films and has drawn the conclusion that a shootout with Figueroa is innately unavoidable.

“When Kevin (Mitchell) was preparing for Daniel Estrada we watched a lot of his fight with Figueroa,” said Burns (37-4-1, 11 knockouts). “If Omar does have a flaw it’s that he gets hit quite a lot and I must take advantage of that on the night.

“He likes to set a high pace but I never shy away from a brawl, so there will be moments when I need to stand my ground. This will be a great fight to watch.”

Finding a way to defeat Figueroa is a tall order but Burns has defied the odds more than once. He stunned Roman Martinez to win the WBO 130-pound title in September 2010, and shocked a lot of experts with a dominant victory over Michael Katsidis the following year.

Can the likeable 32-year-old turn the clock back, on enemy territory, outside his favored weight class?

“This fight means everything to me,” said Burns, his voice rising. “I don’t think my career can get any worse than it’s been over the past year and all the distractions are out of my mind now. I just want to concentrate on boxing and I’m over here to give it everything I’ve got.

“I checked the odds as soon as the fight was announced because I knew I would be the underdog. People are looking at my last couple of performances and assuming I’m finished at the top level, but that just means I’m going over here with no pressure on me.

“Everyone can have an opinion but I’m not in Texas for a payday.”


Tom Gray is a member of the British Boxing Writers’ Association and has contributed to various publications. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Gray_Boxing