Mr Nice turning Naz-ty!
I’LL have nearly 10,000 screaming Scots cheering for me on the biggest night of my boxing career.
But do you know what? When I defend my WBO lightweight title against England’s Kevin Mitchell at Glasgow’s SECC a week on Saturday I won’t hear a thing.
I’ll be locked away in my own little bubble with only one thought in mind — beating Mitchell to keep my crown.
The boxing ring is a lonely place and the only two people I’ll be sharing it with are Mitchell and the referee. It has to be that way.
My fans mean the world to me, but this is business and my focus has to be completely on the job.
I remember as a kid watching Naseem Hamed KO Said Lawal after just 35 seconds at the SECC and it was the Prince more than anyone who inspired me to box.
I loved that guy and I’ve had the privilege of meeting him. Sometimes I have to pinch myself to believe all the hype is around me these days.
But it never crossed my mind way back in March 1996 that one day I would also be appearing at the SECC where other great world champions like Chris Eubank and Nigel Benn defended their titles.
That trio virtually sold the place out and it’s looking increasingly likely I’ll do the same, so it’s going to be a very special night.
I know I’ll get a huge buzz when I walk straight into a wall of noise. I can only imagine what that will feel like, but I should think the atmosphere will raise the hairs on the back of my neck.
It will be the biggest crowd I’ve ever fought in front of and when it comes to raising a din we Scots are unrivalled.
So Kevin better watch out. He says he isn’t bothered about coming to fight in my backyard and insists he won’t be intimidated by the crowd.
But we’ll see. He’ll have his own fans, but they’ll be outnumbered by boxing’s Tartan Army and English voices will be drowned out.
On Saturday I had a public work-out in the Scottish Sun-sponsored ring at the St Enoch Centre and the fans were brilliant.
I can feel the anticipation beginning to build, but while I’m looking forward to making the second defence of this belt, there are no nerves yet.
I just want to get down to business and September 22 can’t come quick enough. The waiting is the worst aspect and the last ten days or so before a fight drag in.
When you’ve been training for 12 weeks solid you get sick of the sight of the gym. I feel bigger and stronger since moving up from super-featherweight and the extra five pounds has made things a little easier.
This is the first time I’ve sparred continuously right from the outset of my training camp and my preparations have been excellent.
There has been one notable change in my life since I last fought, in March at Braehead where I out-pointed Paulus Moses. Amanda and I got married in Mexico the following month and I came back from a fortnight all inclusive carrying a few extra pounds!
Married life hasn’t changed either of us as people. We’d been together for years before we tied the knot, so we both knew what we were letting ourselves in for.
A lot has been made of my friendship with Kevin. We first met in our amateur days and we get on well, but you don’t have any friends in a boxing ring.
Until a few weeks ago we were sharing each others’ games on Xbox and having a bit of friendly banter, but that had to stop. Yet it’s no more difficult fighting someone I’m friendly with than it would be fighting a complete stranger.
I don’t have to psyche myself up to dislike the other guy. When I step through the ropes I’m at my work, no matter if the guy at the other side of the ring is a pal or not.
My trainer Billy Nelson and I had spoken about the possibility of going to Las Vegas to train, but why change a winning formula?
I’m preparing for a good, hard fight, one that sells itself. And I’ll get myself fired up watching my favourite movie, Rocky IV, the night before.
I never tired of watching it when I was growing up — as far as I’m concerned Rocky is a real person!
The soundtrack and the storyline always gets me going, the way Rocky soaks up terrible punishment before he overcomes giant Russian Ivan Drago through sheer guts. Love it!
Burns v Mitchell will be live on BoxNation (Sky Ch. 437/Virgin Ch. 546). Tickets are also available from Eventim on 0844 249 1000 and Ticket Soup on 0844 295 4000.
By: Ricky Burns