Ricky Burns did more than just demonstrate he is a force to be reckoned with in the lightweight division, he proved a whole array of so-called boxing experts wrong. Very wrong, indeed.
That was the message from the 28-year-old Scottish star after securing a one-sided unanimous decision against Australian Michael Katsidis at Wembley Arena, London, Saturday to take the WBO interim lightweight title.
Burns, who gave up his junior lightweight belt two months ago to step up to the 135-pound limit, had been written off by almost everybody in the build-up to the clash. The general consensus among the critics was that Katsidis, the renowned brawler from Queensland, was too powerful, and his relentless pressure-cooker style too much to handle.
How wide of the mark the tipsters were. Burns, 28, dominated the contest from the first bell, his lethal jab, superior ring skills and an ability to unload when forced back against the ropes nullifying the commendable, albeit rather obvious tactics of one-track pony Katsidis.
And following the eye-catching display, Burns, from Coatbridge, Glasgow, could scarcely conceal his delight, understandibly; he had announced himself as a genuine lightweight contender, and he had trashed all those pre-fight predictions.
“Everybody doubted me going into that fight, they all had Michael walking all over me. But I’ve always said that I am at my best when I have to fight the best. I have proved a lot of people wrong,” said Burns (33-2, 9 knockouts). “The better the person in front of me, the better I am going to be. I hope the fans enjoyed that because I certainly did.
“I keep telling people that I treat boxing as my job and, when I say I would fight anybody, I honestly mean anybody at all in the world. I am not afraid of getting beat, either. I think that’s the right attitude to have. No matter who I fight, I believe that I will win. One hundred per cent.
“I give my life to boxing and this just shows that if you put in the all hard work, with the right attitude, it pays off in the end. “
The judges scorecards of 117-112, 117-111, 117-111 suggested Burns’ lightweight debut was a 12-round stroll in the park. Do not be fooled, though, because many observers had the fight considerably closer until Burns regained control to take the last three rounds against a visibly tiring opponent. Former titleholder Katsidis (28-5, 23 KOs) is not called ‘the warrior’ for nothing.
“My jab was the key to the fight – although it was hard to keep him off in some of the rounds because he was rushing in so much,” Burns said. “At times I did have to stand my ground. Michael is a banger and you can see why he causes people a lot of trouble. He just kept coming and that is hard. He was giving me trouble but, again, I am good at hiding it. I don’t show it when I’m hurting. I just grit my teeth and go on.
“I always say the preparation and the dieting is the worst bit of a fight – but when you get the weigh-in over that’s when you can concentrate on the fight. For me that’s the best part of it. I love boxing. Making the move up to lightweight has definitely been the right thing to do. I was really struggling to boil down before fights whereas now I can relax and do more upper-body work.”
As for the immediate future, Burns, who will take a couple of weeks off, is looking to get back into action in the spring of 2012 against whoever is willing to face him – and that includes THE RING, WBA and WBO lightweight holder, Juan Manuel Marquez (53-5-1, 35 KOs), who meets Manny Pacquiao this Saturday for the pound-for-pound number one’s WBO welterweight title.
“Now, I am the WBO interim champion, so we will need to see what Marquez does. Obviously he is fighting Pacquiao – but to step in the ring with a legend like him would be a dream come true,” he said. “I would fight anybody at all. The fact that I am not afraid to lose makes me dangerous. No matter who I am fighting, I am going to give it my all.”
If a shot against Mexican Marquez, fifth in the pound-for-pound list, sounds a step too far at this stage, be careful what you assume. Burns, after all, has a habit of proving people wrong.