Former WBO 130-pound titleholder Ricky Burns (left) holds the WBO 135-pound belt, which he will attempt to defend against British contender Kevin Mitchell (right) on Saturday, but the belt the Scottish star really wants is the vacant RING title.
Ricky Burns may have stepped up from junior lightweight to lightweight this time last year but the long-term ambition of the Scottish star never changed.
The two-weight titleholder from Coatbridge, who defends his WBO lightweight belt against English contender Kevin Mitchell this Saturday at the SECC in Glasgow, is still as determined as ever to clean up his division en route to securing his boxing holy grail – THE RING championship.
Burns, 29, is moving in the right direction and at pace. He has been THE RING’s top 10 lightweights for 43 weeks and currently sits at No. 3. Only the Mexican pair of Antonio DeMarco and Miguel Vazquez, No 1 and 2, respectively, stand between him and the vacant RING title.
Yet Burns has been in this position before. A long-standing 130-pound holder, he appeared destined to scale that summit before increasing problems making the limit forced him to start all over again at 135 pounds.
“The only thing that I’d really like to fight for is THE RING magazine title,” said Burns on STV. “I always said I’d have loved to have fought for that title at super featherweight. I’m think I’m rated No. 3 in THE RING’s lightweight rankings – so, as long as I keep on winning, I’ll be on my manager and promoter to try and push for a fight like that.”
Seeing off the challenge of 27-year-old Essex rival Mitchell (33-1, 24 knockouts), rated four by THE RING, will certainly do the cause no harm. Yet Burns (34-2, 9 KOs) is expecting his good pal from south off the border to pose some serious questions.
However, having made a habit of dismantling quality opposition while notching up 19 victories on the bounce, Burns is understandably confident he will once again possess all the necessary answers.
“To me it’s just another fight, but I know it’s going to be a very hard fight,” he said. “Obviously, the things we’ve been working on for the fight we are not going to give too much away about now. But I think we’ve got all bases covered. Whatever Kevin brings to the table on Saturday, we are going to be ready for it.
“I hope he’s prepared for 12 rounds of war. I know I am. It’s going to be a cracking fight and I just can’t wait to get in there and get on with it.”
As for climbing into the ring with someone he both respects and likes, Burns dismisses the notion that could have a detrimental affect on the way he performs at the weekend in front of 20,000 partisan home fans.
“I always say, ‘when the mouth guard goes in, you don’t have any friends.’ We have known each other for a long time but that won’t make any difference in the ring,” he said. “Then it’s down to business. We can shake hands afterwards.”
Photo / Mike Hewitt-Getty Images