By Tom Gray: The WBO Super Featherweight Champion, Ricky Burns, is immersed in hard training for his third title defence against London’s Nicky Cook. The Scots star will meet the experienced challenger at Liverpool’s Echo Arena on July 16th in what will mark his first venture away from home as world champion.
Cook defeated Alex Arthur to win this very same title three years ago but he was destroyed by the huge punching Puerto Rican, Roman Martinez, in his first defence. Burns, by comparison, was given his long sought after title shot last September and produced a sparking performance to dethrone Martinez in a fight of the year candidate.
This contest is Scotland vs. England, which makes it an easy sell, but will the quick punching champion have too much for the 31 year old veteran? Cook has fought once since April 2009 and that was a six round warm up contest against a journeyman last month. Should inactivity catch up with the challenger then Burns has the fitness and strength to expose that ruthlessly.
The following is a transcript of a recent interview with Ricky Burns, who spoke to this reporter, prior to a workout at The Fighting Scot’s Gym:
TG: Ricky, less than one month until you third title defence, how is training going to this point?
RB: Training is going really good at the minute. We’re into full sparring and I’ve been working with Paul Appleby, who has recently started training. Paul is coming forward a lot and that’s what we need right now. I also hope to be sparring with John Simpson in the next couple of weeks.
TG: After your impressive win over Joseph Laryea the attention switched to a possible unification fight with Mzonke Fana, which fell through. Do you still have the ambition to unify at super featherweight and do you think fights with rival champions can be made?
RB: I was disappointed when the Fana fight didn’t happen. I’m willing to fight anyone but I can only take on what is put in front of me and that’s Nicky Cook. I know that Fana has been stripped of the IBF title but he is still number one in The Ring ratings and that is the belt that I would like to go for. Fingers crossed that I come through in July and we can speak to Frank Warren about getting that fight on again.
TG: Your next opponent is former world champion, Nicky Cook. Are you familiar with Nicky?
RB: I’ve met Nicky a couple of times and he’s a nice guy. I can remember when he beat Alex Arthur and then of course Roman Martinez knocked him out. Regardless, styles make fights, and I can’t take much from that so I’m expecting a tough fight. I’m training for twelve hard rounds, as I always do, and there is no way he is taking that belt away from me.
TG: The concern about this contest is that Cook has been severely inactive. You have fought five fights, three of those world title fights, while Nicky was on ice. We know he had a six rounder recently but is a world title shot too much too soon?
RB: I don’t look at it that way because he boxed Youssef Al Hamidi in London a few weeks ago which, ironically, was my warm up fight before I fought for the world title. Nicky has been inactive and I know that when Martinez stopped him he complained about making the weight. Almost two years down the line, will it be easier? I like to think it will be a lot harder but we’ll find out on the 16th July.
TG: You’ve hinted that you relish the challenge of fighting away from home in Liverpool. Is fighting outside of Scotland something that you see becoming frequent?
RB It’s good to have home support but a boxing ring is a boxing ring. Frank Warren is looking to enhance my profile because everyone in Scotland knows me now. I would like to fight down south which would keep my name out there but I do want to keep big fights at home.
TG: Cook had mentioned that he took the title from a Scotsman and plans to regain it from another one. Is that likely to stoke your fires?
RB: Well, if you look at the poster behind us (country flags behind the respective fighters) this is what we’ve got - Scotland vs. England. I met Nicky and as I said he’s a nice guy but in the ring it’s time to work.