A week ago, Dejan Zlaticanin stepped into the ring at the Braehead Arena in Glasgow, Scotland, as Ricky Burns' comeback opponent.
Someone forgot to tell the marauding Montenegrin, who promptly dropped Burns in the opening seconds of the bout.
“I surprised even myself with that left hook,” Zlaticanin told RingTV.com through matchmaker Luka Popovic on Tuesday.
Burns gathered himself and bravely fought on, but Zlaticanin hurt the hometown favorite several more times over the course of the contest. The Scotsman staged a late rally but, buoyed by the birth of his daughter hours earlier, the visitor dug deep and fought back.
When all was told the 30-year-old southpaw moved to 19-0, with 13 knockouts, winning a deserved split decision 115-113 twice in his favor and 115-113 for Burns.
For now, Zlaticanin will enjoy a well-earned rest with his family but intends to parlay a career-best win into something even bigger.
“For my next fight I want WBC champ Omar Figueroa.” said Zlaticanin “He is not so good like Burns – I am sure that I will beat him. I am sure that I will knock him out.”
After last week's impressive win, who would bet against him?
Anson Wainwright – You traveled to Scotland and upset hometown favorite Ricky Burns last Friday. Tell us about that fight.
Dejan Zlaticanin – I came to Scotland with the idea that I have to bring back home my belt. I knew that it will be hard to do but not impossible. I knew that I could put Ricky down on the floor and I promised that at the press conference. People in Scotland are brave and hard to beat, like people in Montenegro. I knew that I needed to show my best and I did it.
AW – When you got the early knockdown, did you feel as though you may get the stoppage?
DZ – I surprised even myself with that left hook. I wished and I thought that he would not get up. But Ricky showed that he is a really brave and strong man.
AW – You seemed in command of the fight for the first half of the bout but he came into it a little later in the fight. Was that a concern? Were you worried when it went to the scorecards?
DZ – No, I didn't worry about the decision. I knew that I won the fight. First part of the fight I won clearly, he came too late, but he won only four rounds, maximum. I had the fight at all times under control. When I won Round 11 I knew I won the fight. Mr. John Keane from England gave the win to Ricky but everybody saw who was the better man.
AW – The Burns fight was your first outside of your home region?
DZ – Yes, that was the first fight outside my region against a boxing star like Ricky Burns. That didn't break me, I got more power in my mind to show the world how good I am, even if I come from a small country. Everybody thought that Ricky was the favorite except me and my team. We came to Scotland to win.
AW – What sort of reaction did you receive when you returned home?
DZ – Many people were at the airport, my family, friends, fans. I want to thank them for all their support. After the fight against Burns my popularity is much bigger than it was before.
AW – It's early days and I’m sure you'll enjoy a good rest but who are you targeting next?
DZ – Now, I will spend a little time with my family. A few hours before the fight I became the father of a beautiful girl, Sofia. She gave me the power to break Ricky. When it was hard during the fight I was thinking about Sofia. For my next fight I want WBC champ Omar Figueroa. He is not so good like Burns – I am sure that I will beat him. I am sure that I will knock him out.
AW – Montenegro has gone through many changes in your lifetime. How was this for your growing up with all that going on?
DZ – I was too young at the time. Political problems didn't have influence on me and my childhood. I grew up in healthy, normal and happy family
AW – Boxing isn't the first thing you think of when you think of Montenegro. How did you become interested in the sport?
DZ – I started to fight when I was 14, my father took me in boxing gym.
Boxing was very popular in ex-Yugoslavia and Montenegro until 1990. Our boxers brought many medals from European, world championships and Olympics. Boxing is the second sport in Montenegro, after football (soccer) of course.
We didn't have professional boxing at the time but now my colleges and me are trying to bring back old glory for boxing in Montenegro. My good friend Nikola Sjekloca fought Arthur Abraham last month and lost in a very close fight for WBO (super middleweight) championship in Germany. If he had the opportunity to fight at home, he would beat Abraham. We have Predrag Radosevic, who lost against Felix Sturm. Milorad Micko Zizic is in Las Vegas training with TMT (Floyd Mayweather's The Money Team) to try to fight for title. He is waiting for a work permit from the U.S. government.
AW – You were a pretty good amateur, fighting at the European and world championships at youth and senior level. Tell us about your amateur career.
DZ – From 1998 until 2006 I had 115 amateur fights, 94 wins, 70 percent KO wins … I fought in European and world championships, and Mediterranean games.
AW – What is your life like away from boxing?
DZ – Boxing is my life, as well as my family.
AW – Finally, do you have a message for the lightweight division?
DZ – My message to other boxers: Beware, dynamite is coming and you have a big problem.