For what seems like forever, the names of Ricky Burns and Kevin Mitchell have been interlinked. As super-featherweights they were earmarked as youngsters with success up ahead, but their paths somehow refused to cross. Last night they finally tangled as experienced, world-rated lightweights at the Glasgow SECC Arena. It was a raucous night, one yours truly was fortunate enough to attend, and an experience I will not forget.
Saturday night actually saw two important British boxing bills as, in addition to Scottish lightweight champion Ricky Burns defending against talented Englishman, Kevin Mitchell, young Northern Irish prospect Carl Frampton tested his metal against seasoned former world title-holder, Steve Molitor. The end result was happiness on both sides of the North Channel. This week I round up all the action from both cards as the sport enjoyed its time in the British spotlight and shone for all the right reasons.
Glasgow: Ricky Burns rips through Kevin Mitchell, wants Ring belt
Both men weighed in on the 135 lb mark, looking as ready as could be for a suspected classic. Mitchell flexed his muscles and snarled, Burns came in lean and stared deep into Mitchell’s eyes at the head to head. A firm handshake showed the respect of two peers who had enjoyed each others company in the past, but hinted at the promised warfare that was to come the following night.
As the undercard progressed, the crowd swelled with chants of Ricky Burns’ name gradually increasing in volume. Once chief support Scott Harrison had done his bit, the waiting became hard for some to contain as fans began to jump and sing. The slightly surreal sight of esteemed MC Michael Buffer stepping into the ring, however, confirmed that the waiting was now over. It was time for battle to commence.
Mitchell, who normally wears the union jack on his shorts but had changed on this night to the cross of St. George, entered to the sound of “Made in England”. It was a sure fire statement of intention, one that did not go down so well with the predominantly Scottish crowd. Burns came in relaxed, taking his time and soaking up the noise of his biggest night yet. Buffer primed the crowd one last time, making mention of Jim Watt and Ken Buchanan’s all-Scottish lightweight clash before exiting the ring.
The first round was as expected, more of a feeling out process. Mitchell used the ring, attempting to calculate the distance and get his timing right. Burns, who immediately appeared physically stronger, seemed to throw more and miss more, nonetheless setting a high tempo. The two came together at rounds end, putting the crowd into a frenzy, with Mitchell landing a clean right hand to punctuate the round and perhaps give him the edge.
Come the second and if anyone questioned Burns tactics, they were answered in the form of straight right hands delivered with accuracy and conviction. Burns also worked Mitchell to the ropes, imposing his greater size on his foe from south of the border.
Burns, traditionally a stand up boxer, went back to his roots early in the third, working his jab and using his feet to step in and out of range. Consequently, Mitchell found it hard to get into a rhythm, missing widely with a left hook. Burns took control again, forcing Mitchell to the ropes with an overhand right and ripping through with a right uppercut. Mitchell pounded his chest and beckoned Burns on, a tell-tale sign that his Scottish counterpart was getting to him.
Burns’ terrific engine was proving to be a serious issue for Mitchell. If Mitchell managed to slip one punch, it was a certainty another was coming his way shortly. Between rounds, Mitchell had been told to mix up his punches and stop telegraphing his left hook. It was perhaps then ironic that as Burns missed with a right hand and Mitchell opened up for a left hook, Burns came back with one of his own that exploded on the right hand side of Mitchell’s jaw.
Mitchell, hurt but clearly with senses intact, took the full count before getting up. He was immediately covering up however, as Burns once again landed right hands over the top of the Londoner’s guard, forcing him to the canvas head first. Mitchell gamely got up but the bell had been tolled as Burns launched one last assault. Friends outside the ropes, all joviality had been thoroughly quashed as Burns saw the openings, crashing right hooks round Mitchell’s defenses before the referee waved the right off with seconds left in the round.
Burns jumped on to the ropes and saluted his adoring crowd, many of whom were rightly too busy celebrating wildly to stop and consider exactly what their man had just done. Many saw Burns as a non-puncher, though having warded off the advances of warriors such as Roman Martinez and Michael Katsidis and now adding an early stoppage of a quality rival such as Mitchell, no-one will make the mistake of thinking they can simply walk through the Coatbridge man in future. And it is the future to which Burns now dreams.
After the sharing of hugs and compliments, the beaten challenger planted a kiss on Burns’ cheek before the champion stated his aim of winning the Ring magazine lightweight title. He is fully aware of the presence of those above him, namely Antonio DeMarco and Miguel Vazquez, and who is to say those fights cannot be made in the future. With a crowd nearly into the five figure mark, Burns is swiftly becoming a prize draw at the weight-class, and as such could perhaps look to lure one of the aforementioned fellow champions to Glasgow sometime next year.
For now though the modest Burns, who still spends time working his shift at JD Sports, can enjoy himself, content to have established himself as the best lightweight in Britain and, just possibly, the best in the world.