Ricky Burns’ life in and out of the ring reads like the script of a Hollywood boxing film. His 45-fight, 14-year career has seen more than his fair share of downs, with controversial decisions, potentially career threatening injuries, bankruptcy and lawsuits.
What shouldn’t be forgotten in all of that, however, is he also had many triumphs and a lot of glorious nights. Another thing that should also never be forgotten was he was a very, very good fighter. Maybe a great fighter. We will see on the 28th May at Glasgow’s SSE Hydro when he takes on Italian warhorse Michele Di Rocco for the vacant WBA Super Lightweight title if he still is.
Last Chance Saloon
When the bell goes on the 28th May, Burns will be fighting more than just Di Rocco. He will be taking on all those who claimed he was finished, his career over; those in the media, and particularly those keyboard warriors on social media who have been quick to put the boot into Burns. That’s the beauty of boxing however, he can lay all that to rest in the best way possible, and the only way he knows how – with his fists and his boxing brain.
The fight, which the bookies are finding as hard to predict as the pundits will see him take on the Italian veteran, winner of 40 of his 42 fights, and someone who has long felt he has deserved a tilt at the belt. If Burns wins, he will not only make history, winning his third world title at three different weights, it will also pave the way for a mega fight against Adrien Broner. If he loses, it is hard to see where he goes from here. It really is all or nothing for Ricky Burns. Another defeat and no one could blame him for calling it a day and turning his back on the sport that has been kind and unkind to him in unequal measure. A victory of any kind however, and it will be his chance to set himself up financially (again) and create a new legacy.
The Journey Here
When 22 year old Burns stepped into the ring for just the 13th time in his professional career to fight for the British, European and Commonwealth Featherweight titles, it was clear that here was a man going places in the boxing world. Coatbridge born “Rickster” lost – narrowly – on points that night, but won only praise and friends from those at ringside as well as Alex Arthur who he fought. A year later, he fought for the British title again, once more losing on points, prompting a change of trainers and gyms.
Success followed, and he earnt his next shot at a belt, the vacant Commonwealth title taking a fight at very short notice. This time he was on the right side of the judges’ decision beating Ghanaian Osumana Akaba on points. Though things were going well in the gym and the ring, these were frustrating times for the orthodox fighter. Several fights were pulled for various reasons, and at a time of his career when he should have been fighting regularly, making the most of his growing reputation he spent almost a year without a fight. Eventually he got his world title fight, and took his chance with both gloved hands, getting up from the canvas in the first to beat the previously undefeated Roman Martinez on all three judges’ scorecards after the full 12 rounds to become Scotland’s 12th world champion.
Burns would defend his WBO Super Featherweight 3 times and was ironically due to face Broner before relinquishing his belt and moving up a division to lightweight. After winning his first bout at that weight against fancied Australian Katsidis, Burns was subsequently awarded the vacant WBO Lightweight belt after the holder, Juan Manuel Márquez, moved up in weight to welterweight.
Burns was right in the middle of the most successful and rewarding period of his career. He retained his title 3 times including his devastating defeat of Kevin Mitchell at a packed SECC Arena in Glasgow, before things would start to take a turn for the worse.
Frustrations piled upon frustrations as fights were cancelled for a variety of reasons, and once again, at a time when Burns should have been cashing in on his success, he was left with no one to fight. It was announced that Burns would be leaving Frank Warren’s stable to join Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Promotions. His next fight was to end in controversy and pain. Mexican Raymundo Beltran had Burns down in the 8th, but the Scotsman got up and made it through to the end of the 12th, the fight ending in a split decision draw, despite most, if not all observers believing Beltran had done more than enough to win. It transpired that Burns had broken his jaw in the second round, and subsequently underwent surgery, though even afterwards, it was touch and go whether he would ever fight again.
Burns did fight again, but was to taste defeat, losing on points to American Terence Crawford, the first of a string of 3 defeats in 4 fights. Two successive wins, both inside the distance has seen Burns attempt to turn his life and career back onto the right road, a road that sees the next stop his fight, live on Sky against Di Rocco. Where he goes from there is anybody’s guess, but if anyone deserves a rub of the green, it is Ricky Burns, and I for one hope he gets it.