Tuesday, March 28, 2023  |


Ricky Burns upbeat after Figueroa war and controversy

Fighters Network
Ricky Burns in March 2014. Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

Ricky Burns in March 2014. Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

One week after Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao exited Las Vegas with a whimper, Omar Figueroa and Ricky Burns faced off in Texas and served up the kind of excitement and explosiveness that casual fans had expected from the so-called “Fight of the Century.”

Figueroa, a former WBC lightweight titleholder, prevailed via unanimous decision but Burns made his mark in a high-octane encounter which received rave reviews.

It was a non-title attraction at junior welterweight but the hometown fighter, Figueroa, came in overweight at 141.2 pounds while Burns, who has merely toyed with the idea of moving up, is a lightweight who was lacking in lightweight options. The Scotsman will return to the 135-pound division forthwith.

“I knew coming in that I would make junior welterweight far too easily,” said Burns, who previously held WBO titles at junior lightweight and lightweight.

“My training camp went really well but I was able to eat freely all the way up until the day before the weigh in. In fact, just before I hit the scales I was drinking coffee and bottles of water and still came in a pound under the limit, so that tells you how easily I made weight.

“This was Omar’s first fight at 140 pounds and he couldn’t manage it. I had concerns about this before we traveled over, because there was talk of him moving all the way to welterweight a couple of months ago. On the day of the fight I was just below 150 pounds and I would bet money that he was 160.”

Weight was not the only issue.

Burns, 32, had been a shell of himself in recent fights and his apparent decline, juxtaposed alongside Figueroa’s unbeaten record and hometown advantage, saw oddsmakers install the visitor as a hapless 6-to-1 underdog. Those odds looked absurd in the opening round as a rejuvenated Burns teed off on the naturally bigger man.

“The plan was to keep Omar on the end of the jab for the first half of the fight and increase the pace in the second half but I couldn’t keep him off,” said Burns with acceptance. “He wasn’t a big puncher but his advantage in physical strength meant that he could march forward, close the distance, and push me back.

“There was no option but to go to war.”

With Figueroa applying suffocating pressure, Burns bravely forced out the work and his engine was tested to the limit. The cleaner, crisper shots were landed by the visitor whereas Figueroa punished his man up close with uppercuts and body shots. It was high-quality action but the third man in the ring, Laurence Cole, insisted on playing what many feel was an unwelcome role in the action.

“We were both tying each other up on the inside,” said Burns who was deducted two points for clinching.

“Omar was hanging all over me, using his weight, leading with his head, holding and hitting, but I was the only one who lost points. The referee’s answer was that he warned both of us, but I was the only one who was penalized in there. I was gutted with the deductions and felt Cole was on my case from the start.

“There were actually times where the referee held my arm while Omar was landing body shots and people posted pictures of that happening on my Twitter account. In boxing you have to protect yourself at all times. How can I protect myself when the referee is pulling at my arms? It’s also dangerous because I could have been caught with a big shot while he was doing that.

Burns continued, “You’re told during pre-fight instructions that when the referee shouts, “Break!” you stop punching and take a step back. A referee should only be using his voice, not his hands, and there was no need for him to push me around.”

The bout went the distance and Figueroa was awarded victory by scores of 117-109, 116-110 and 116-110. Burns’ heroic stand was barely acknowledged by those numbers, although a large majority of ringsiders and experts saw a much closer contest.

“I knew that most of the rounds were close and the scoring was definitely harsh,” said Burns, who fell to 37-5-1 (11 knockouts). “The people I spoke to had Omar up by one or two points, a draw, or me up by one or two. For him to win by those margins says it all but everything was against me.

“I also found out that the referee, who is from Texas, has been fined for violating rules in the past. What can you do? We’ll put it down to experience.”

Following a controversial draw with Raymundo Beltran and a brace of defeats to Terence Crawford and Dejan Zlaticanin, the pundits insisted that Burns’ time at the top level had expired. A well-publicized court battle with former promoter Frank Warren, which led to bankruptcy, also added to the problems.

Now, on the back of a quality performance against an unbeaten opponent, Burns insists that the future is bright and his passport could be required again in the very near future.

He said, “The Americans were very happy with my performance, particularly because I told them that I would leave everything in the ring. I went out there and delivered, so hopefully I can go back for another big fight. I would love to go back to the U.S. but only at 135 pounds.

“The last 12 months couldn’t have been any worse for me, inside and outside the ring. I managed to put all of that behind me and even though this decision didn’t go my way, both of us gave a good account of ourselves. I’m just looking forward to the future at 135 pounds.”


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