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Ricky Burns: The Greatest Hits

Burns (right) opens up on Paulus Moses. Photo by Lynne Cameron/ PA Images via Getty Images)
Fighters Network

He’s never changed and he never will.

Scotsman Ricky Burns has claimed world titles at junior lightweight, lightweight and junior welterweight during an incredible professional journey. For the longest time he’s lived the dream and could easily have become intoxicated by his enormous success. However, anyone who has spent time around the Coatbridge man will tell you, he’s exactly the same unassuming, down-to-earth character he was before he made boxing history.

“I’d probably have laughed [if someone told me I was going to win titles in three weight classes],” Burns told The Ring. “There’s a photo of me taken just after my first world title win [against Roman Martinez] and I have my hands out to the sides like I couldn’t believe what was happening. But I always said, even after I won the Commonwealth title, that I wouldn’t let moments like that get the better of me.

“When I first started out, I never set any goals for myself. My attitude from the time I was an amateur was that I just enjoyed fighting. I was with [former coach] Rab (Bannan) at the Barn (amateur boxing club), and he would take me to every single show. Whether I was fighting or not, I would take my bag in case someone pulled out because I’d want to step in. I just enjoyed fighting, and it was the same when I turned pro. I never set any goals, I just always took it one fight at a time.”

The Martinez triumph was one of the best fights of 2010 and a huge upset. Burns thrived on proving the naysayers wrong and did so again when he faced Michael Katsidis, in his lightweight debut, and Kevin Mitchell in an eagerly anticipated Scotland versus England clash.

After benefitting from a contentious draw against Raymundo Beltran and suffering defeats at the hands of Terence Crawford, Dejan Zlaticanin and Omar Figueroa, the super-tough Scot continued to ignore the doubters. Burns stayed the course, claiming the WBA 140-pound title with an eighth-round stoppage of Michele Di Rocco, a victory that saw him become only the third British fighter in boxing history (behind Bob Fitzsimmons and Duke McKenzie) to win titles in three weight classes.

Now 37, Burns is coming off a close points loss to Lee Selby and he’s going nowhere.

“For the last couple of years, all people want to ask me about is my retirement,” said Burns with a touch of resentment. “When I retire, I want it to be on my terms. I’ll know myself when it’s time to call a day. When I lose a fight, the first thing people say is, ‘He should pack it in!’ Why should I? I enjoy the training, I enjoy the fight nights, I enjoy a good scrap. If I’m at the point where I’m taking one-sided beatings, or if I’m taking too many shots, I just wouldn’t do it. I’ve lost fights in the last couple of years, but I’ve always been competitive.

“I miss being in a boxing gym. I’ve spoken to [trainer] Tony [Sims] a couple of times since lockdown, but everyone’s in the same position. We’re going through all these various stages to ease things, so I’ve only done three or four punching sessions since lockdown started. I’ve been doing loads of running and I’ve been out on the bike but it’s not the same. If they start announcing dates, I’d probably need 10 or 12 weeks to get ready.”

Burns (43-8-1, 16 knockouts) has a terrific resume and he’s mixed with some of the finest fighters in the world. However, when asked what one opponent he wished he’s shared the ring with, the answer came as a surprise until the reasons for it were fully explained.

“The only one I regret not fighting is Mzonke Fana,” acknowledged Burns. “Ever since I was young, I wanted The Ring Magazine belt, the Rocky belt, and Fana was the IBF [130-pound] champion when I was WBO champion. They were trying to push that fight through when he was No. 1 and I was No. 2 [in the Ring rankings]. The vacant title would have been on the line, but it fell through and I was absolutely gutted.”

Overall, however, Burns has had a glittering career and he’s unquestionably one of the best fighters his country has ever produced. The former three-weight world titleholder now looks back at six of his top wins.

Scotland’s Ricky Burns and Puerto Rico’s Roman Martinez. Photo by Lynne Cameron/PA Images via Getty Images

Roman Martinez
Date/ Location: September 4, 2010/ Kelvin Hall, Glasgow
Titles: WBO junior lightweight

“There was actually talk that the Martinez fight would happen in Puerto Rico and before it was moved to Glasgow, we were more than happy to go out there. We knew it was going to be hard because he was a big puncher. I said afterward that technically he wasn’t very good, but he always had that equalizer. But when you look at it now, you can see that he was shocked between rounds. The only people who thought I was going to win were me and my camp, everyone else had me written off from the start. This was one of the really good nights in Glasgow. I came home afterward and watched the fight on TV and I knew so many people in the crowd. They were all there with their t-shirts off, going crazy [laughs].”

Result: Burns UD 12

Burns (left) takes Michael Katsidis to school. Photo courtesy of the WBO

Michael Katsidis
Date/ Location: November 5, 2011/ Wembley Arena, London
Titles: Interim WBO lightweight

“Again, we knew it was going to be a hard fight, so everyone we had in for sparring was putting it on me from the first round to the last. I was with [trainer] Billy [Nelson] at the time and he would have two sparring partners in, one in for six rounds and the other one in fresh for another six. I knew coming in that I was fit enough to get up on my toes and box Katsidis for the full 12 rounds, and I think he was shocked because he expected to blow me away. But I was so happy up at lightweight because in the fight before, against Nicky Cook, I absolutely killed myself making 130 pounds. I said I’d never drop that low again and I was a better fighter at 135.”

Result: Burns UD 12

Burns (right) boxed brilliantly against Paulus Moses. Photo by Rob Casey/Getty Images

Paulus Moses
Date/ Location: March 10, 2012/ Braehead Arena, Glasgow
Titles: WBO lightweight

“I’d say that was one of my best nights because he was a really good fighter. We went out, we had a good game plan, all the preparation went well, and we did a job on him. We worked on a long-range game. Moses liked to draw you in because he was a good technical boxer with a big, long reach. For sparring, we brought in [former British junior welterweight champion] Tyrone Nurse, who was a really good fighter and ideal for preparation because he was long and tall. All the preparation went well for that one, and it was a really good fight.”

Result: Burns UD 12

Friendly rivals. Burns (left) and Kevin Mitchell after their shootout in Glasgow. Photo courtesy of Sky Sports

Kevin Mitchell
Date/ Location: September 22, 2012/ Braehead Arena, Glasgow
Titles: WBO lightweight

“I get on well with Kevin and there was always talk of us fighting at (130 pounds). A lot of people felt that Kevin would knock me out at (junior lightweight) and when it was made at lightweight people were still saying that. But I had it in my head, ‘No chance! I’m going out there to set right about him!’ I was 100 miles per hour in training with bags, pads, sparring, and whoever I was in there with, I was all over the top of them. He went down [in Round 4] and managed to get up, but I put it right on him again. When the ref jumped in and stopped it, he was pinned on the ropes, and although some of my shots weren’t landing clean, there was nothing coming back. It was good to prove people wrong.”

Result: Burns TKO 4

Burns (right) cracks Michele Di Rocco on his way to a dominant eighth-round stoppage. Photo by Shabba Shafiq

Michele Di Rocco
Date/ Location: May 28, 2016/ SSE Hydro, Glasgow
Titles: WBA junior welterweight

“We moved up to 140 pounds to fight Omar Figueroa out in Texas and afterward, just with the size difference, I said, ‘No, I’m a lightweight!’ But a couple of fights later, I get offered a [WBA 140-pound] world title fight and I need to take it. I remember looking at Di Rocco on tape and he looked really good. Anyway, we worked on a few thing in camp, and when I came back to the corner after Round 1, [trainer] Tony [Sims] said, ‘Don’t change a thing!’ Round after round, I couldn’t believe how easy it was in there. There was no need for a second phase of attack and I got him in trouble against the ropes and fired in those big hooks to put him down. That was a great night for me because even then people were telling me to pack it in. It was good to prove them wrong.”

Result: Burns TKO 8

Burns (right) tags Relikh. Photo courtesy of Sky Sports

Kiryl Relikh
Date/ Location: May 28, 2016/ SSE Hydro, Glasgow
Titles: WBA junior welterweight

“That was a really good win. He’s up there with the biggest punchers I’ve ever shared a ring with, particularly the body punches. Early on he caught me with a couple but nothing too serious. It was in the 10th or the 11th rounds, he got me again and I couldn’t hide it. I’ve usually got a good poker face in there, but that was bad and he just pounced on me. I was glad to hear the bell at the end of that round. This was another fight that proved I wasn’t a (junior welterweight]. I was sure that he’d burst my eardrum, but the doctors checked me and said I was fine. But the next day, I’m out for dinner and [wife] Amanda seen all the blood pouring out of my ear, down the side of my face. I went to the hospital, got scans done and was given the all clear. Two days later I’m in the house, just myself, and I was getting pain around my kidneys and my back, so I was off to hospital again. They couldn’t find anything wrong, but it must have been from getting battered around the ribs in that fight.”

Result: Burns UD 12


Tom Gray is Associate Editor for Ring Magazine. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Gray_Boxing



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