Ricky Burns: ‘I have a couple of big nights left in me, but Lee Selby has my full attention’
Some fighters box for the money, some fighters box because they’re gifted and some fighters box because they love the sport.
Former three-weight world titleholder Ricky Burns fits into the latter category. The amiable Scotsman is 36 years old now, he has been a professional for half his lifetime and amassed a 43-7-1 (16 knockouts) record. He’s achieved his dreams and fought the best, but his enthusiasm and ambition will not be quelled.
That’s why an 11-month layoff, which ends on Saturday when Burns faces Welshman Lee Selby in a lightweight attraction at the O2 Arena in London, has been a far greater ordeal than any prizefight ever could be.
“I was gutted,” Burns told The Ring. “We’d started back training in January because there was a couple of dates mentioned. There was all that carry on with Josh’s last fight (Ivan Baranchyk’s team threatened to pull out of the Josh Taylor fight and Burns got the call), then there was talk of me being on the undercard and all that fell through. There was talk of a rematch with Ray Beltran and that fell through. Selby was mentioned earlier in the year and that fell through. Jorge Linares was mentioned, but he was dragging his heels.
“Basically, I trained all year for nothing. The only good thing is I stayed in the gym. There were times when I was on and off the diet when dates were switched around, but I’ve been in training camp for 10 straight weeks now and everything has gone really well. I was so relieved when this fight was made, and I just can’t wait to get in there.”
Burns versus Selby is a very attractive matchup. As Selby told me last week, the bout is main event worthy, so those lucky enough to have a ticket for the WBSS final between Regis Prograis and Burns’ countryman Josh Taylor are in for a treat.
The pair have shared a ring previously. In early 2014, Burns was readying himself for the fifth defense of his WBO lightweight title against emerging American star Terence Crawford. Selby was the European featherweight champion at that time, but his size was deceiving when he ventured up to Scotland for sparring.
“We got Lee up for the last week of preparation,” recalled Burns. “I remember saying to him and (former trainer) Billy (Nelson), ‘Look at the size of him for a featherweight!’ Lee said to me, ‘I do it easy’ and I said, ‘Yeah, sure you do! [laughs]
“That was the week before the (Crawford) fight, and I usually hover around the (140-pound) mark at that point. Lee was bigger than me then, so how he got down to featherweight for so long, I really don’t know. Going by the press conference a few weeks ago, he looked bigger than me and I was about (147 pounds), but that just means he had a bit more weight to shift.”
Many people, including me, have labelled this a crossroads bout. But even if he were to lose to Selby, a former IBF titleholder at 126 pounds, Burns is going nowhere. He’s a born fighter and the sport courses through his veins. Despite having picked up world titles at 130, 135 and 140 pounds, the Coatbridge star would still be happy competing in an eight-rounder. I’ve never come across a top-level fighter with his attitude.
“I just love boxing,” said Burns with passion in his voice. “I love training. This is my 52nd fight and I still love the sport. It’s too hard a sport to do if your head isn’t fully into it. I just wouldn’t do it if that was the case. Fight nights are the best. It’s just the last couple of weeks of training, the last few spars, cutting portion sizes. For me, that’s the worst, but as soon as I step off those scales, I’ll be looking forward to fight night.
“The titles are held up by (Ring Magazine, WBA, WBC and WBO titleholder Vasiliy) Lomachenko and (IBF titleholder) Richard Commey, who has a fight coming up with Teofimo Lopez. But there are still so many big fights out there at lightweight if I come through this one. I still believe that I have a couple of big nights left in me. I would love to get another big fight at The Hydro (in Glasgow), but Lee has my full attention right now.”
Prograis vs. Taylor, Burns vs. Selby and further undercard action will be broadcast live on Sky Sports Box Office in the U.K. and DAZN in the U.S.
Tom Gray is Associate Editor for The Ring. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Gray_Boxing