IN DEPTH WITH RICKY BURNS
Ricky Burns: ‘I’m Fed Up With Training and Waiting. Let’s Get the Fight On!’
With two world titles already on his CV, Coatbridge quiet man Ricky Burns is now primely placed to reap the material rewards of his labours.
But with a lucrative summer showdown against London rival Kevin Mitchell beckoning, and possible unification openings thereafter, this most unassuming of champions stresses to boxing writer Glynn Evans that there can be no room for complacency when he faces off with top grade Namibian Paulus Moses at Braehead Arena next Saturday.
The Scot makes the opening defence of his World Boxing Organization (WBO) World Lightweight crown live and exclusive on BoxNation (Sky Ch. 456/Virgin Ch. 546) from 7.30pm. Join at www.boxnation.tv
How do you reflect on your great win over Michael Katsidis for the WBO interim lightweight crown at Wembley last November? Do you agree it was the finest performance of your career?
It was definitely a good performance. Again, everybody had me wrote off beforehand and, again, I proved everybody wrong. It was definitely a tougher fight than when I won my (WBO) superfeather belt against Roman Martinez. Michael was exactly what we trained for; a tough, tough man and you could see at the end when I was interviewed how swollen my jaw was.
That said, it appeared a lot tougher when I watched the tape back than it had actually appeared when I was fighting the fight. I pretty much knew from the first round that I had the beating of him. The tactics were to stay on the jab and, when inevitably there were times when he managed to close the distance, to keep my hands up, counter, then use my legs to get me out of bother. It all worked perfectly. Again, I promise, there’s a lot more still to come.
It was your first championship start up at 135lbs. What difference did the added weight make during camp and on fight night?
I’d not have weighed much more inside the ring than I did when I boiled down to super-feather but it allowed training to go far more comfortably. I could train for tactics and technique not just to shed pounds. Straining to make weight definitely takes something out of you in the ring. I still looked massive for a lightweight.
Lightweight has been my natural weight for a lot longer than you’d realise. To be honest, I was surprised how long I continued at superfeather when I was fighting at Commonwealth level. We discussed lightweight a year before I won the super-feather world title. Every time it was ‘just one more fight’. However, the struggle I had making 130 for the Nicky Cook fight was absolutely ridiculous. Of course, it’s hard to walk away when you hold a world title but I knew after that it was definitely time to move up. When the opportunity to contest the ‘interim’ title at lightweight was offered, I jumped at it. A lifeline!
Your first defence against Paulus Moses on Saturday (10th) will be your first start in Scotland for 12 months. Given your last two showings at home were comparatively flat title defences over Andreas Evensen and Joseph Laryea, do you feel you owe Scottish fans a spectacular performance?
Obviously I’ll be hoping to look good for the home fans but you know I don’t ever like to talk myself up and put added pressure on myself. Getting the win is the be all and end all, for me. I understand there’s under 400 tickets left so we’re expecting a sell out. What I can say is that if I perform as well as I have been in sparring, I guarantee the fans will have a good night.
The South African is a former WBA champion who has only lost once in 29 pro fights and has 19 knockout wins on his slate. Yet you’ve accepted him as a voluntary challenger. Weren’t you tempted to take something a little less taxing?
No, I’ve always said since I started boxing at 12 that I’ll fight anyone at all. The only way to be the best, and to be considered the best by others, is to fight and beat the best around. This is a proper world title fight.
How has your preparation gone?
I’ll have had 10 or 11 weeks and six of that will have been hard sparring. There’s been a really good vibe in the gym. I’ve done a lot of rounds with Paul Appleby who’s got a big fight himself the same night (against Ireland’s Stephen Ormond) and I’ve also had Tommy Coyle, Tyrone Nurse, Patrick Liam Walsh up here before finishing off with Bradley Saunders last week. You get to a stage were you’re just fed up with training and waiting. You just want to get the fight on. That’s where I’m at.
What do you know of the 33 year old challenger?
I’m never one for studying tapes of my opponent. What happens on the night, happens. A fight’s a fight and I’ve always been good at sussing things out once we get started.
But Paulus’s record speaks for itself so I know he’s likely to give me a very good fight. He’s a former world champion, proven at very top class for quite a while and his only defeat (a sixth round knockout in the second defence of his WBA crown) was to Venezuela’s Miguel Acosta who is also a great fighter.
I’ve heard Moses is a good boxer who has a good jab but so have I. Obviously, from his record, he can bang – we’ve heard with the right hand – but I’ve been in with bangers before. Martinez and Katsidis were said to be bangers but I’ve always shown I can take a shot.
I think the first few rounds could be the key but I’m ready for anything and I’ll take each round as it comes.
Your very best performances have come as an underdog against Martinez and Katsidis yet you enter this as a 5-1 on favourite. Any chance you could be overlooking Moses in favour of the mooted mandatory summer showdown with Kevin Mitchell?
None at all. If I don’t win here, the Kevin Mitchell fight definitely isn’t going to happen. I’ve trained extremely hard for 12 rounds and I’m expecting a very tough fight. I have to get this one out of the way.
People need to realise, I just love fighting and the better the opponent, the more I love it. Most true, diehard boxing fans are aware exactly how big a challenge Paulus Moses represents. I’ve always maintained that only the very top opponents will bring out the very best in me and this is a perfect fight for me to prove that.
Ricky Burns wins a great fight; points if need be, knockout’s a bonus!
This is your first fight of 2012. What do you hope to have achieved by the end of the year?
I’m looking no further than this fight but obviously if I do get through it, the Kevin Mitchell fight should be straightforward to make as we’re both with Frank Warren. Kevin boxed very well last month so that could be a very tough fight in the summer. We’re the two best lightweights in the country and it’s the one most want to see.
You’ve been world champion for 18 months now. How are you growing into that status? You’re naturally shy. Are the commitments a bonus or a distraction?
I’m still doing my shift at the local sports store on the weekend. It breaks up my training nicely and all the staff and customers are ‘brand new’. That keeps me grounded.
I do whatever’s needed publicity wise then, a fortnight before a fight I completely lock myself away and I think people appreciate the need for that.
Otherwise, I try to go to as many functions and charity bashes as I can. It’s no big deal to me but often means a lot to others. My attitude’s the same it always was. I sort of enjoy the attention but I get embarrassed, really don’t see what all the fuss is about. After a fight, I do try to lock myself away for a couple of weeks to let the commotion die down.
You’re still only 28 but have been a pro for nearly 11 years now. How long do you intend continuing for and what are your remaining ambitions? Breaking America? Unification?
A boxing ring is a boxing ring and, if I keep winning, sure, I’d go to the States, particularly for unification. That would be exciting, an adventure.
I really, really love fighting so much. I’ve a good defence and, as long as I’m not getting hurt, I tell (trainer) Billy Nelson I’m going to continue until I’ve had 100 fights! Others think I’m nuts but, really, it’s all I want to do.
THE WBO LIGHTWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP OF THE WORLD
RICKY BURNS v PAULUS MOSES
SATURDAY 10th MARCH, 2012
BRAEHEAD ARENA, GLASGOW
***LIVE ON BOXNATION (SKY CH. 456/VIRGIN CH. 546)***