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20 APRIL 2018

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Ricky Burns Exclusive - I Will Retain My Title

By Tom Gray: The middle of training camp is a difficult time for any fighter. Already, the body is tested to the maximum with physical resources depleting under a grind which no ordinary mortal can imagine. Worst still is the reality that weeks of arduous preparation remain before the real fight begins.


Train, eat, sleep, run, eat, sleep and repeat.


It’s the final day of a long week of training and Ricky Burns’ easy smile and polite nature are replaced by a scowl and a touch of the abrupt. Everyone in attendance at the Fighting Scot’s Gym, including this reporter, sympathise as the Coatbridge star is gloved up for his fifth gruelling gym session of the week.


“Physically we’re ahead of schedule,” states Burns. “I started sparring at the beginning of a twelve week camp but Billy (Nelson) was worried that I was going to peak too soon, so we’ve eased off a bit. I’ve been working with Bradley Saunders, Michael Roberts and John Simpson is due up next week.”


“I’ve also sparred David Brophy who is a middleweight contender.”


Across the ring from Burns is Saunders, a former amateur stand out, who is now trained by Billy Nelson. The novice pro is given a lesson in counter punching over six frustrating rounds but is appreciative of the work. The champ then hits the pads for a further six rounds and finishes off the session with some skipping.


“Ricky is performing excellently as you have just seen,” confirms a jubilant Nelson. “He is looking extremely sharp and sparring is going well. Ricky is bigger, stronger, punching harder and there has been real emphasis placed on increasing his speed.”


Kevin Mitchell is the challenger on September 22nd at Glasgow’s SECC. The talented twenty seven year old is 33-1 (24KO’s) and his formidable reputation has made this fight the most eagerly anticipated event on the British boxing calendar for 2012.


“It’s a big fight for the fans because we’re two of the best lightweights in the world,” acknowledges Burns. “There’s also some history because we were meant to fight at super featherweight but that fell through when Kevin moved up. Now we’re both at lightweight, the fight is on and everyone knows it’s going to be a cracker.”


“Many experts are sitting on the fence and this is widely considered a 50/50 fight.”


Burns has been tactically excellent on the big occasion. He was a prohibitive underdog against Roman Martinez and Michael Katsidis but defeated both men handily, so what can Mitchell expect when he ventures up North from Dagenham?


“I don’t want to give too much away,” states Burns when quizzed about his game plan. “Kevin showed against Breidis Prescott and John Murray that he’s effective off the back foot but he is also a very good puncher.”


Surprisingly, Nelson disagrees with that assessment and when this reporter brings up Mitchell’s impressive knockout percentage (73%) the statistic is immediately dismissed.

“In your opinion Kevin Mitchell is a puncher,” barks the acclaimed trainer.  “He’s only a puncher against opponents who are there to be hit.  John Murray, by his own admission, isn’t the hardest guy to catch and he was ideal foil for Mitchell."


"Someone with Ricky’s brains and intelligence is a different proposition altogether.  Katsidis and Martinez hit a lot harder than Mitchell, so we’ve seen it all before.  I acknowledge that when Kevin is allowed, his offence can be effective."


“But that is when he’s allowed,” repeats the trainer with purpose.


Changing tact this reporter asked the twenty nine year old Burns to address the rumour that American sensation, Adrien Broner, could be installed as his mandatory challenger.


“Broner is a good fighter,” shrugs the champion.  “He didn’t even attempt to make weight in his last fight but everyone knew he was huge for 130lbs.  I was meant to fight Adrien last year but I had my own issues with making weight and that was the only reason that fight didn’t come off.  I outgrew super feather, just as he has now, but if he’s my mandatory at lightweight then it would be a great fight to watch.”


“We need to see what happens on September 22nd first.”


Domestically there have been rumblings of Scott Harrison meeting Burns in an all Scottish world title fight.  It must be said, however, that such speculation has been fuelled by reporters who don’t list boxing as their chosen specialised subject.


The word “premature” in relation to a Burns vs. Harrison match-up is a gross understatement.


“I like Scott and hope he does well for himself,” states Burns in earnest.  “He had his first fight in seven years but the opponent wasn’t up to much so you can’t take anything from that.  We’ll find out a lot more once he’s stepped up and I heard a rumour that he could be going in with John Murray on the undercard at the SECC.”


“That would be a test and then some.”


Ricky Burns faces a real challenge himself on September 22nd and by all accounts he is relishing the prospect.  These are exciting times for the Scot who is slowly gaining the respect he deserves and for the first time, in a big fight, he has been installed as favourite.


“I think he is slowly getting the credit he deserves,” states Billy Nelson with a smile. “By any reasonable person’s admission Ricky Burns is an improving fighter.  Could the same be said about every top fighter in Britain?  I don’t think so!”


“Ricky is the best all-rounder in the UK right now.  I have no doubt whatsoever that he’ll win but he is also more than capable of stopping Mitchell!”


The last words were from the champion who kept it short and sweet on his prediction.


“I see a hard fought fight but Ricky Burns will retain – And Still!”


Burns v Mitchell will be Live and Exclusive on BoxNation (Sky Ch. 437/Virgin Ch. 546) on Saturday 22nd September.  Join at


Tickets, priced at £50, £75, £100, £150 and £200, are available from Eventim on 0844 249 1000 or online at and Ticket Soup on 0844 295 4000 or


Follow Tom Gray on Twitter @tgraysecondsout


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